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Working at Height at school. Risk and consequence.

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Working at Height at school is not uncommon. Wall displays, shelving, hard-to-get-at equipment, drama performances – all require teachers and school staff to work in a position where there is the danger of a fall.

School caretakers generally have Working at Height training and certification but teachers and support staff often don’t. It’s a fair bet that most schools’ health & safety policies require only trained staff to perform work at height using steps, ladders and stepladders. It’s an even better bet that very often this is ignored. Teachers and staff are consistently under time pressure to get things done. Waiting for a trained member of staff or the site manager to come and help put up a display is frustrating. So what do you do? You do it yourself. Even if it means standing on that chair or a desk.

This may be understandable but poses a significant risk to both the member of staff and the school itself.

Unfortunately there are many examples.

Working at height in schools

When things go wrong.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 9 May 2016 a teacher was conducting rigging and adjustments to spotlights and cabling in the school drama studio when he fell from a stepladder. The fall from that height onto the drama studio floor caused multiple fractures to his skull, wrist and elbow.

The court heard that the defendant, Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School of Barnet, North London had failed to provide the teachers conducting the work with sufficient training for work at height, despite these matters being requirements in its own health and safety policy.

Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, the legal entity controlling the Academy converter school, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £2000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs.

The view of the HSE

Speaking afterwards HSE Inspector John Spence said: “If the school had conducted a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the light rigging task and ensured that employees undertook the appropriate information, training and instruction available this incident could have been prevented.”

Correct ‘Sufficient’ Training

An accredited Working at Height course needn’t take much time not cost the earth. The days of staff having to go off site for half a day are over. With a Shout Out Safety course, accredited by the CPD Certification Service, any member of staff can be trained and back to work within 30 minutes.

If the worst were to happen then the school would have a stronger defence than the school in our example. But then the whole point of this sort of Working at Height training is that it reduces the chances of the ‘worst’ ever happening in the first place.

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