School safety questions raised in parliament

Questions about school safety inspections and enforcement were raised in the SA parliament following a number of injuries and fatalities.

School safety incidents include a pit toilet fatality, a water tank collapse injury, a lawnmower injury, removal of asbestos by non-registered contractors, defective electrical wiring, and lack of health and safety committees.

MP Mrs AT Lovemore (DA) asked the Minister of Labour whether her department actively enforces the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations in schools, including inspections and actions taken.

The minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, replied that “a great deal of preventative work is being done in provinces with the removal of asbestos during renovation of schools. This is done in the planning stages of the renovation process so that the asbestos removal exercise is done under controlled circumstances and by a registered asbestos remover.”

Major incidents and inspection findings at schools related to;
• Electrical certificate of compliance (including one electrocution fatality)
• First Aid Box
• Housekeeping
• Servicing of fire-fighting equipment
• Asbestos removed by a non-authorized person (not AIA)
• Absence of Health and Safety committee and competent First Aider
• Inadequate suitable firefighting equipment.

The Department of Labour responded by way of;
• Asbestos removal work stopped
• Compliance Orders (125)
• Contravention Notices (72)
• Improvement Notices (12)
• Prohibition Notices (17)

Most of these inspections were in KZN (183) and Gauteng (31), only 12 in North West, one in the Eastern Cape and one in the Western Cape.

The Limpopo Department of Education did not inform the DOL of the death of pupil Michael Komape after he fell into a pit toilet.

The Mpumalanga Department of Education did not report the injury of pupil of Mjembeni Primary School in Nkomazi last year, caused by a water tank falling on him. However the Department of Labour is investigating.

A number of investigations continue at schools where injuries or fatalities occurred, including Laerskool Kwaggasrand and Botlhehadi Primary School. A child was run over by a lawnmower at Dikgabane Primary School.

Revamping Work at a primary School in Athlone was stopped when an inspector of the Department of Labour issued a prohibition notice. The revamping work includes inter alia the removal of asbestos. All work relating to the removal of asbestos has been stopped.

The primary reason is that he contractor is not registered as an asbestos remover by the Department. The department awaits the contractor’s response and proof of appointment, or will take the matter further.

Schools playground safety checklist

Surfacing Under and Around Equipment;
Protective surfacing is a soft surface that helps to cushion falls.
Grass and soil are not protective surfaces.
Loose fill surfacing (e.g., pea gravel, sand, rubber crumb) OR rubber surfacing is used under and around all pieces of equipment.

If loose-fill surfacing is used, it is at least 25cm deep. There is one exception to this rule: if rubber crumb is used, it is at least 5 in (15.2 cm) deep.

Equipment that does not move, like a slide, is surrounded by protective surfacing at least 6 ft (1.8 m) in all directions.
Swings require protective surfacing that is twice the height of the swing beam in the front and back.

As a parent or caregiver, you can use these tips to help promote playground safety:

Actively supervise, stay nearby, pay close attention, and anticipate risks.
Encourage children to use playground equipment that fits their age and stage of development. Pre-school age children and elementary school-age children need different types of equipment.

Ensure that kids are dressed for safe play – with footwear, and without helmets, clothes with drawstrings, scarves, or loose hair or clothing.
Teach children to play safely.

Play park area safety; There are no trip hazards in the play area, like tree stumps, rocks, or exposed concrete footings.
There are no dangerous objects in the play area, like litter, broken glass, or needles.

Play park equipment safety; There are no open gaps that could catch loose clothing and lead to strangulation. For example, s-hooks, often used to connect swing seats to chains, should only allow a dime to pass through the gaps.

There are no openings greater than 3.5 in (8.9 cm) and less than 9 in (22.5 cm). Spaces of this size are entrapment hazards because the y allow a child’s body to go through but trap the head, like improperly adjusted guard rails or ladder rungs.
There are no ropes of any kind tied to equipment. Ropes can cause strangulation.

Raised surfaces like platforms and ramps greater than 20 in (50.8 cm) have handrails, barriers, and/or railings to prevent falls.

There are no sharp edges or points on the equipment that could cut or scrape, like sharp bolt ends.
The equipment is in good working order, does not have broken or missing parts, and is well anchored to the ground.

* See also more detailed posts on school risk and safety management on

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2 thoughts on “School safety questions raised in parliament

  1. I enjoy your articles immensely and learn all the time, but disappointed that this one was copy pasted from USA article. Dime? Rubber crump? The latter maybe … can you get this here? But dime? Sorry Mate, that’s not pukka.

  2. I have always wondered if Inspectors do visit schools and crèches proactively, if that is happening , the better ! I have visited crèches and I discovered that all of them have play grounds covered with sand. Children play with this sand then I remembered that Silica is originally from sand. One would say the particle might not be big enough to actually be respirable. Then I would say what if when this children playing on a daily bases, they actually grind the big sand particles to the micrones that can be inhaled and eventually and settle in the alveoli of the child’s lung? It would mean that the child will with time develop silicosis in his/her teenage. This is a challenge to Occupational Hygienists to research on this matter by taking dust measurement and medical surveillance be done to the children/toddlers who are exposed.

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