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4 min read

Which primary school classes present common hazards?

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As you will be well aware, if you work in a primary school, a lot of effort goes into making these educational environments safe for pupils. Thorough risk assessments are carried out and actions are taken to minimise potential dangers to children and staff in these environments. And, of course, any incidents that do occur must be accurately recorded - and serious incidents have to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.

Of course, it’s impossible to eliminate the possibility that accidents will happen - and there are certain classes where the risk of incidents is higher. In this post, we highlight a few such classes, and suggest actions you can take to minimise the dangers.

 

Which classes present hazards in schools?

One key tool that can help your school to identify which classes and activities present the highest level of risk to students is health management online software. It allows you to create and filter school medical reports so that you can spot patterns in the types of accidents that are occurring and where they are taking place. This information may alert you to the fact that extra health and safety precautions are needed in certain settings and during particular activities.

Common sense can also tell you a lot about which classes present hazards in your school, as we outline below.

PE

PE classes are physical by nature, and when children are exerting themselves, there is a greater chance of injury. This may be heightened further if they are using certain types of equipment or playing contact sports like football.

Here are some hazards that pupils can face during PE lessons, along with measures you can take to control the risk of accidents.

 

Damaged equipment

  • Put arrangements in place to inspect all PE equipment at suitable intervals. Make sure these inspections are recorded.
  • Some specialist equipment may require inspection by a competent independent contractor.

 

Unsuitable footwear

  • Ensure staff and pupils wear appropriate footwear for the activities they are taking part in.
  • Have clear, documented procedures in place that staff can follow when students bring footwear that is unsuitable for the activity, or when students don't own the appropriate footwear.

 

Not enough suitably trained staff

  • Ensure there are always enough appropriately trained staff for the activity and type of pupils taking part. As part of this, make sure staff are provided with the necessary training and qualifications to teach the activities they will be involved with, and keep accurate records of this training.
  • Ensure trained first aid staff are always available and have access to first aid kits. Note that there should be a first aid kit within quick and easy reach of all areas within a school, including remote locations such as distant playgrounds and sports fields.
  • Have documented procedures in place to cover staff absences.

 

Bad weather conditions

  • Carry out risk assessments that focus on how to deal with challenging weather, such as heavy rain, ice or extreme heat.
  • Where there is a high risk of injury because of weather conditions, games should not be played.

 

Slip and trip hazards

  • Ensure all playing surfaces, indoor and out, are well maintained.
  • Conduct a visual sweep of surfaces before PE lessons and remove any litter or other objects that may pose a slip or trip danger.
  • Keep floors clean, ensuring that any cleaning or polishing does not leave the surface slippery.

 

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Science

Science classes may involve using potentially dangerous equipment or substances. Here are our suggestions for how to minimise some of the most significant risks in these lessons. Unsafe equipment

  • Ensure all science equipment purchased for the school is safe and suitable for the intended purpose.
  • Check equipment on a regular basis for signs of damage, and these checks should be recorded.
  • Provide pupils with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when carrying out practical experiments. For example, this may include goggles or face shields designed to chemical-splash standard.

 

Contact with chemicals

  • Ensure chemicals are safely and securely stored.
  • Consider using extra staff to supervise children during chemical usage to ensure accidents can be dealt with swiftly and responsibly.
  • Make sure that children are thoroughly educated on the safe use of chemicals before experiments commence.
  • Staff who handle hazardous chemicals should be suitably trained.
  • Make sure that staff are trained in the procedures they should follow in the event of a spill. This may involve calling the fire service.
  • Ensure spills are dealt with quickly and appropriately. Specialist spill kits should be available if necessary.

 

Electrical faults

  • Any portable electrical equipment used in science lessons must be inspected and tested regularly to check for faults.
  • Make sure staff carry out a visual inspection before using mains-powered equipment to see if there is any visible damage.

 

Breaks and lunchtimes

Break times and lunches may not be actual subjects, but they are a vital feature of children’s daily lives at school and they pose a variety of hazards. This can include everything from injuries suffered in physical play to bullying that can lead to physical and psychological harm.

 

Keep reading for tips on how to control some of the most significant risks associated with breaks and lunchtimes.

 

Dangerous play equipment

  • Make sure all play equipment is suitable for the age and abilities of students.
  • Carry out regular checks of equipment for damage.
  • Ensure close supervision of children in all play areas so that any misuse of play equipment is observed and recorded.
  • If necessary, educate students on how to use equipment safely.

 

Slips, trips and falls

  • Ensure play areas are regularly checked for litter, dangerous items and obstructions.
  • Choose play area surfaces that are designed to minimise the risk of slips.
  • Carry out risk assessments of play areas in different weathers, and have plans in place if they are made unsafe because of the conditions, for example, if they become slippery when very wet or in icy conditions.
  • Ensure trained first aid staff are always available to deal with incidents such as cuts, grazes and minor head injuries.

 

Food allergies

  • Ensure all food served in schools is correctly labelled and prepared to the necessary food hygiene standards to avoid contamination with potential allergens.
  • Educate children on the risks of food allergens and the dangers of food sharing.
  • Make sure staff know which pupils have food allergies, and the location of their prescribed Adrenaline Auto-Injectors (AAI) if they have them. Staff should also know the location of the school’s spare AAI pens.
  • Provide training to all staff on how and when to use an AAI during a severe allergic reaction.

 

Bullying

  • Have a behaviour policy in place that outlines the measures you are taking to prevent bullying among pupils.
  • Make sure your anti-bullying policy is kept up-to-date and that teachers, students, parents and carers know what this policy is.
  • Take opportunities in lessons to raise awareness of bullying behaviour and your anti-bullying policy.
  • Support children to speak out if they are being bullied, or if they know another pupil who is being bullied.
  • Ensure staff record the actions they take to address bullying behaviour.
  • Challenge any offensive or discriminatory language in your school.

Taking safety measures like these will help you to control risks within your school - and therefore promote a safe and happy learning environment.

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