Thursday, 7 July 2011

Heath and Safety: Duties as an Employer and Employee

Duties as an employer

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the employer in a school must take reasonable steps to ensure that staff and pupils are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. This applies to activities on or off school premises.

Regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 set out in more detail what actions employers are required to take. For example, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to:

• assess the risks to staff and others affected by school activities in order to identify the health and safety measures that are necessary and, in certain circumstances, keep a record of the significant findings of that assessment;

• introduce measures to manage those risks (risk management);

• tell their employees about the risks and measures to be taken to manage the risks;

• ensure that adequate training is given to employees on health and safety matters.

Schools must set out health and safety arrangements in a written health and safety policy. The HSE’s website contains useful information and a simple two page template that any employer can use to create a health and safety policy– see

Although employers retain responsibility for the health and safety of pupils, they can delegate tasks to head teachers or other school staff. What a school employer will need to consider in its policy will vary depending on the size of the school and the risks associated with the school’s activities. For example, the policy for a small infant school may be very brief, whereas that for a large secondary school with a range of laboratories and workshops may be more
detailed. Annex A contains information on what may need to be included in health and safety policies for schools. This list should not be treated as a requirement.

Duties as an employee The law requires employees to:

• take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do at work;

• co-operate with their employers on health and safety matters;

• do their work in accordance with training and instructions;

• inform the employer of any work situation representing a serious and immediate danger, so that remedial action can be taken.

In addition, teachers and other staff in schools have a common law duty to act as any prudent parent would do when in charge of pupils. Employees should follow any health and safety procedures put in place by their employer. However if they feel that the procedure is inappropriate (e.g. it is too bureaucratic) they should discuss this with their employer and request that it is reviewed. Usually the head teacher will work with the employer to ensure that the procedures at the school are proportionate, effective and appropriate.

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