Health and Safety

Air Pollution – toxic air poisoning our children

Please read and share with members and reps our new practical guidance for schools which is available here https://neu.org.uk/blf-air-pollution-guidance. 40,000 deaths per year in the UK are linked to breathing polluted air and it can stunt the growth of children’s lungs.  There are practical steps that schools can take to protect children and these are set out in the guidance which also explains how air pollution affects children and includes links to resources which teachers will find useful.

See TES press coverage here. https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/exclusive-toxic-air-poisoning-our-children-new-guidance-issued

How to notify your Head Teacher of the appointment of a Health & Safety Rep

Under  under Regulation 3 of the Brown Book employers need to be notified in writing by the trade union when reps are appointed and told who they represent.

The letter focuses on the functions of the safety rep and the rights to time off, in case head teachers may be unfamiliar with the legal entitlements.

The model letter is available from the health and safety adviser resources section of the website at – https://www.teachers.org.uk/officers-resources/health-safety-advisers

Remember you need to be logged in to access this part of the website. 

 

NUT, FBU and ATL Call on Government to Strengthen Fire Safety In Schools

Following the terrible events at Grenfell Tower, the NUT and the FBU have worked together to demand the government reverse its proposals to weaken the fire regulations for schools. You can read the press release here.

Last week, the government announced it would not be pressing ahead with these proposals.

Although this was welcome news, if true, it was grossly irresponsible of the Government to have brought forward proposals which would allow schools to be built without fire sprinklers, with combustible material used for cladding and large school compartments to be without sprinklers.  Without the appalling Grenfell Tower tragedy, the NUT, FBU and ATL are certain the revised and watered-down Building Bulletin would have become the Department’s official advice, with potential dire consequences for health and safety in our schools.

Simply announcing the retention of the current Building Bulletin 100 guidance does not, however, go far enough.  There is now much more which needs to be done to address all the issues which have come to the fore since the Grenfell Tower fire.

It is clear that current guidance is being ignored in the rush to build new schools as cheaply as possible.  Building Bulletin 100 is clear that all new schools should have sprinklers fitted, except in a few low risk schools.  Despite this, since 2010 only 35 per cent of new schools have been fitted with sprinklers.

The issue of flammable cladding on school buildings also needs to be urgently examined.  Building Bulletin 100 discourages its use, but we have little confidence that its provisions have been adhered to since 2010, given the poor record on sprinkler installation.

The NUT, ATL and FBU have since written to Justine Greening to demand the following

In a letter to Justine Greening, sent today (and attached), we are calling upon the Government to:

  • Confirm that it has in fact abandoned attempts to weaken fire safety advice for schools and will not be proceeding with the revised Building Bulletin;
  • Bring forward legislation to require sprinklers to be fitted to all new schools as the current system based on an ‘expectation’ that this will happen has clearly failed;
  • Review all schools built since 2010 without sprinklers to determine whether they should have been built without sprinklers on the basis of risk, and provide us with the supporting evidence for each decision;
  • Ensure that all decisions about sprinkler installation are centrally monitored;
  • Instigate urgent checks by qualified and competent assessors on all required and recommended fire safety measures including the suitability of the cladding used on school buildings, set out a timetable for the removal of all combustible cladding and ensure that combustible cladding is never again used on school buildings.

     

    Matt Wrack, Fire Brigade Union general secretary, said: “The safety of the public and firefighters is a concern for us all, but nothing can be more important than protecting children from harm. Fire safety standards and wider building and other safety measures in all schools must be improved with urgency. I urge the government to announce an early commitment to take action on these matters.”

    Dr Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said: “The Government needs to listen to the advice of fire safety experts, prioritise the health and safety of pupils and school staff and ensure that all schools are as safe as possible from fires. Keeping pupils and staff safe is far more important than penny-pinching.”

     

Being a Health and Safety Rep

The role of the Health & Safety rep is extremely important and one which can have a very powerful impact on the working and learning conditions of staff and students. Now more than ever we need reps in school to ask questions and ensure management are doing what they should to keep everyone safe.

Health & Safety reps is able to undertake a range of actions on behalf of members but carries no legal duty or responsibility for health and safety in the school.

It is a good idea for every school to elect a H&S Rep as well as a Rep.  Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the H&S Rep has no additional duties beyond those of all employees.  But the employer has a duty to ‘ensure as far as reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees’.

The H&S Rep is entitled to investigate hazards and carry out safety inspections, make representations to the Head on health and safety matters and inspect documents such as risk assessments.

The legal framework for Health and Safety Reps in the workplace is contained in a TUC booklet called the Brown Book, which gives guidance relating to the Safety representatives and safety committees regulations 1977.  The Brown Book is on the NUT website at www.teachers.org.uk/members-reps/health-and-safety-reps

It includes information on the role, functions and rights of a health and safety rep.

Further information can be found in an A to Z guide to all H&S issues at https://www.teachers.org.uk/help-and-advice/health-and-safety

NUT Online H&S Forum

This is an online forum for H&S advisers and Reps, launched in 2016.  Reps can email each other for support, advice and information sharing. To sign up to it, contact Sophie Ward at s.ward@nut.org.uk.

H&S Bulletins

These are termly bulletins produced by the Union for H&S advisers and reps, emailed termly.  To receive it, you need to inform NUT membership department that you are the H&S rep and ensure you have provided an up to date email address.  You can also access the bulletin on the website at www.teachers.org.uk/members-reps/health-and-safety-reps/bulletin

NUT Health and Safety Reps’ Guide

You can find out more about what is involved in being a Health and Safety rep here

This guide details the wide-ranging powers which health and safety reps enjoy.  It describes how to get started in the role, suggests ways of communicating with members and highlights the importance of taking a collective approach to concerns raised wherever possible.

Asbestos

The NUT is a member of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee and works with the Asbestos in Schools Group.  Both campaign to make schools safe from the dangers of asbestos.

An estimated 86% of schools in England contain asbestos and 305 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980, caused by long term low level exposure to asbestos.  As a H&S Rep you can ask to see the asbestos survey and management plan for your school.  (It is a legal duty of schools to publish this.) Make sure colleagues are aware of where asbestos is located in the school and check correct procedures are followed if asbestos is disturbed.  More information is available here: https://www.teachers.org.uk/sites/default/files2014/asbestos-in-schools_0.doc

The ELTA Health & Safety reps are: Amanda Bentham and Paul McGarr

Please contact us with any questions or concerns you have regarding health and safety issues in your workplace or relating to your work.

Training

For information on the courses available to Health & Safety reps click here