Health and Safety Report Division October 2017
Grenfell Fire Disaster Ramifications
The National Education Union (NEU), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL) have published joint guidance on fire risk assessments in schools which can be found here https://neu.org.uk/sites/neu.org.uk/files/leaders-guidance-on-fire-safety-post-grenfell-v4_0.pdf
The NEU, NAHT and ASCL are also urging the Government to introduce a legal requirement that all new and refurbished school buildings are fitted with a sprinkler system.
The publication of Building Bulletin 100: Design for Fire Safety in Schools in 2007 was a landmark in improving fire safety in schools, setting out what school design teams should do to protect lives as well as the fabric of buildings. In 2016 the Dfe made available a consultation document which suggested the weakening of regulations and the 2007 document. This has now been withdrawn.
On 23 June 2017 the DfE, through the Education and Skills Funding Agency, contacted all ‘responsible bodies’ for fire safety in schools, attaching a survey, for return by 30 June. The survey asked whether schools were over 18 metres high, if cladding was used externally and if so what materials were they comprised of. Where, according to survey responses, cladding on school buildings was suspected to contain this material, affected schools were asked enter the ‘testing and inspection’ process, but only if the school building was 18 metres or higher. The DfE has advised that two schools failed these tests and both have been inspected by the Fire and Rescue Service who confirmed that appropriate measures were in place to mitigate the risks and that the buildings were safe for continued use. Further details about this can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-on-school-cladding-safety-checks
The unions have raised concerns with the DfE that only schools 18 metres or higher, with ACM cladding, were included in the testing process. Even in buildings where other fire precautions are well-maintained and which are not used for overnight accommodation, understanding the type of the cladding on a particular building and the extent of its combustibility will help inform the risk assessment and property protection process.
The NEU, NAHT and ASCL are calling upon the Government to survey all school buildings to determine whether any inappropriate cladding has been used in their construction. Given that nearly 90% of schools also contain asbestos, the DfE should also use this survey to establish the location and condition of all asbestos in our schools to prevent any exposure to this deadly material.
Schools Health Safety and Welfare meeting 6th July 2017
We looked at the possibility of implications from the Grenfell Tower fire, Essex have sent a letter to schools to remind them to enact termly fire drills and to check fire risk assessments. Further investigations are being carried out and Essex was waiting for Government advice.
However it was noted that some fire testing cladding assumes that the cladding is the only fire protection for the whole wall, so if a school’s cladding fails the test to what extent is this an indicator of the risk of a Grenfell type scenario?
It was reiterated that schools are at a much lower risk that high rise residential buildings such as Grenfell because most schools are not residential, if a fire broke out it would be quickly identified and there are systems in place for the quick evacuation of pupils and staff. As far as is known there has not been a fire related fatality of a child in a school since WW2.
This item will be further discussed at the next meeting on the 17th October.
Accident statistics were discussed for the period from 1st January to 31st March.
ECC SCHOOLS – Employees only – Slips, Trips and falls
There is a decrease of 12 (39 – 27) since the last quarter showing a decrease of incidents associated with slipping on either food or wet floors during dinner time. It is too early to say whether or not this is a trend.
ECC SCHOOLS – Employees Only Violence
There were 87 reported incidents of violence. 26 incidents took place at one non mainstream school a decrease of 7 from last quarter and 26 incidents at one special school. This compares to 60 other accidents to employees in this period.
Outdoor Play Equipment
The inspection and maintenance of outdoor play equipment was discussed. It was noted that such facilities should be checked on installation and then inspected annually. Most schools use Universal Services for this and it is up to each school to set up a service contract. There is also guidance about how to check the equipment between visits on the Infolink. Schools who haven’t got a service contract can phone the H&S line for advice.
Asbestos Removal Project
An update on the project to remove asbestos from school boilers was given. Three different contractors were employed to carry out remedial removal works. The subsequent remedial and removal works have been completed over the summer. The project was completed more quickly and at less cost than expected. A fuller report identifying what has been learnt will be written soon. The project successfully raised profile of asbestos management in schools.
We considered the possibility of a terrorist attack on schools. We were reminded that information on bomb threats etc. is available via the critical incidents section of Infolink, although a more direct link is to be placed in the Health and Section, in order to aid quick access. When non-familiar people are hanging around schools members shouldn’t hesitate to call the police, where they suspect a security issue and the police won’t hesitate to attend. The procedures regarding when a school needs to be locked down and the management of critical incidents are to be revisited and reissued as necessary.
This is an alert issued from the 24th August about the Freeway Easy Fit hoists with a swivel trolley. Apparently the pin on the swivelling trolley can become loose and incorrectly fitted.
HSE use of ladders
Following a recent fatal accident investigation, HSE is strongly advising all duty holders and users of combination ladders to ensure that they:
- carry out pre-use checks;
- use them in accordance with instructions;
- check the locking mechanism(s).
Failure to do so could result in serious accidents.
The use of telescopic ladders is growing more popular due to their ease of storage and convenience; however, there are numerous issues with many of these products due to the number of components involved and their construction. For instance
- the stiles are prone to greater bending;
- they are prone to greater bending of the frame.
The issues are likely to increase with the height of the ladder.
The situation is compounded by significant numbers of substandard products that are being made available on the UK market. These are often low cost products that are attractive and are imported from outside the EU. Some of these have been implicated in serious accidents, including fatalities. The relevant European Standard – BS EN 131-6:2015 – provides more information on the design requirements.
Duty holders and users should ensure that:
- pre-use checks on the ladders are thorough, checking the components and operation of each and every locking mechanism (often one or two per rung) and the associated release mechanism(s);
- the ladders are stored well, transported carefully and maintained (including cleaning) as dirt and grit etc. can affect locking mechanisms;
- they understand the limitations and likely performance of their ladder, e.g. strength, bending etc.
Fuller advice can be found at