Schools have sheq obligations

Schools, universities and nursery schools generally fall short of public health, safety and emergency legislation, best practice, and duty of care.

Department of Labour inspectors closed two schools near Kuruman in the Northern Cape province due to contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, 85 of 1993.

“The prohibitions were issued during inspections, after the two schools were found to be contaminated with asbestos and having bare electrical connections that posed health and safety risks to learners and educators,” said DOL provincial operations director, Monica Lepheane.

A meeting between the two departments agreed that conditions at the schools needed to be fixed within a specified time.DOL had assisted the Department of Education to comply with the OHS Act.

DOL called for health and safety assessment of all schools in the province, with the co-operation of DE.

School safety elements

Parents of learners and students could ask their school governing body for proof of learner safety and site safety. Does the school have a health and safety management system with at least these elements;

Policy
Legal register of relevant regulation and standards
H&S Committee structure
Risk assessment programme
Audit programme
External advisor or auditor
Incident insurance and insurer’s advice

Is the school safety management system integrated into governing body activities, and does it consider elements like access, security, vehicle traffic, water, sewage, first aid training, safety equipment, emergency planning and response, chain of command, public services like ambulances, fire equipment and drill, incident investigation?

Schools risks include folding equipment, classroom sharps like tacks, chair strain, slips, trips, window cracks or splinters if not safety glass or safety film covered, waste, loose fittings like light fittings, building maintenance, laboratories like chemicals stores, displays, housekeeping like nails or tacks in grass, horseplay, electrical work, piping damage, stairs railing, machinery like lawnmowers, edge trimmers, tractor, compactor, contractors on site, food supply quality.

Sports and events risks

Among the relevant legislation is the new Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act, 2 of 2010, that entered into force in August 2010 (Government Gazette 33438, Proc 40, 3 Aug 2010).

The Act sets risk categories for different match events, and will ll lead to regulations that affect all bodies that stage events, including local government, controlling sports bodies or private sponsors, or schools.

The Act lays down a regime covering how organisers should deal with, and be responsible for, major sports and recreational events, and provides for an authority to register and allow any event to take place. It also deals with issues like security, crowd control, communication, access, traffic, control centres, insurance.

Incident reporting

Injured or ill workers, if due to occupational (workplace) causes, must receive appropriate medical treatment, rehabilitation, re-training, and re-integration at work.

Injury and major incidents, as described in the OHS Act section 24 and s25, must also be reported to the Provincial Executive Manager. These exclude physical violence incidents.

Playground equipment incident

D wrote to Sheqafrica.com; I am trying to find SA legislation on playground safety. A seven year old child slipped and fell off a ‘jungle gym’ at a nursery school built on a concrete paved area, instead of the usual lawn or sand.

The child broke a femur, where some of the highest concentration of bone marrow is located, which could have leaked into the blood stream. I believe the school should be held liable for the injury.

Indemnity waiver v duty of care

Sheqafrica.com editor Edmond Furter responds; This incident is civil suit territory, and the case could pivot on the school’s indemnity waiver and warning signage, versus public protection in legislation, the school’s duty of care, and the level of safety management practiced at the school.

The nursery school may have failed in several respects, like risk assessment, equipment used according to manufacturer’s recommendations, HSE committee, HSE programme, proactive care.

The education authority may have failed in circulating best practice information, or in not responding or communicating with schools about similar injury incidents.

For relevant legislation, approach the Child Safety Association, and manufacturers of Jungle Jim. There may be directly relevant Education Department legislation, provincial legislation, and municipal bylaws, mostly outside the usual ambit of occupational risk management.

• A USA schools emergency plan format is posted on Sheqafrica.com under the heading ‘School or campus emergency plan model’.

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Edmond Furter

Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.
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