Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Heath and Safety: Dispelling the Myths about legal action

Tackling myths about legal action

We know that some schools and teachers worry about being prosecuted if an accident occurs. The HSE policy statement School trips and outdoor learning activities: Tackling the health and safety myths explains that HSE’s main interest is in real risks arising from serious breaches of the law, such as a trip leader taking pupils canoeing but not ensuring they were all wearing
buoyancy equipment. The HSE case study on the tragic events at Glenridding Beck, where a ten year old boy drowned in 2002, highlights some of the issues (

The Statement makes clear that HSE wants to encourage all schools and local authorities to remove wasteful bureaucracy – so that they focus only on real risks and not on paperwork. It also explains what HSE takes into account when deciding whether to prosecute following an accident. This might include the severity of the injury, how far good practice was followed, the seriousness of the breach of the law and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.
More details can be found at

Criminal cases relating to accidents in schools are very rare.

Sometimes civil proceedings in negligence can be taken against an employer or an individual member of staff. However, legal action for negligence against schools is only likely to be successful if:

• the school has not taken care of a child in a way that a prudent parent would have done;

• as a result, the child has been injured; and

• the injury was a foreseeable consequence.

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