ITA Health & Safety Report March 2015

In the last year there have been a number of developments.

Accidents and Committees
A serious accident in a DT classroom in one of the Secondary Schools in which a student lost the end of his finger led to an HSE investigation which revealed that appropriate procedures/risk assessments had not been carried out. The teacher concerned was not an NUT member. The senior management of the school was found culpable. There is now a new Head teacher. The knock on effect across the borough has meant that 

i) All community schools now buy into the Islington Health and Safety Service 

ii) An audit of DT has taken place, currently being supplemented by a specific look at dust extractors

iii) There is now an Education Health and Safety Working Group with serious input from representatives of school managements across the borough as well as the Health and Safety officers and Union Reps from ourselves UNISON and GMB. NASUWT and the Heads unions are not yet represented. The idea is to make sure that, as far as it is humanly possible, similar accidents do not recur.

One issue of common concern in the BSF schools is the sometimes slow pace and low standard of repair carried out by Cofley (the private contractors responsible for maintenance) and the tendency for responsibility to be buck passed. whenever problems require significant funding to put right.

Alongside this, we are now on the Corporate Health and Safety Committee, which oversees H&S across all borough departments and also has representation from UCATT and the Council itself.

 

Tighter health and Safety organisation in schools and the union role

Part of this overhaul of H&S structures in the borough is making sure that all schools are up to date with procedures and having a responsible person from the management to look after health and safety matters. Issues will vary from school to school.

 

It is important to be clear that if there is a union health and safety rep that is not the same as the school having "someone for health and safety". Managements often make this mistake but the role is different.

 

The school management has a legal responsibility to follow health and safety procedures. Union health and safety reps (or general reps who might have to deal with H&S issues) do not have legal responsibility.

 

Our job is to know who the management person is and make sure they run H&S issues by us. The union favours formalising this as a school health and safety committee which meets regularly to make sure that issues are addressed as a matter of habit and routine and members concerns can be focussed.  

Stress
The stress survey we carried out last year has helped us make the case for pro-active stress surveys carried out by schools on an annual basis. Proposals to this effect are being put by the borough H&S manager to the next H&S Working Group. The devil will be in the details but this is very promising. 

At the same meeting we will be using the government's recent concession that schools should adopt a work life balance policy to push the NUT model.

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