Schools Too Cool On Duty Of Care

Secondary schools are being targeted to ensure they discharge a proper duty of care in relation to the health & safety of students on work placements.

A campaign is being launched that involves targeting all 7,500 secondary schools and local education authorities across the UK with an information pack on the issue.

The Education (Work Experience) Act 1996 requires that every student undertake at least one week of curriculum-based workplace activity before leaving school.

In doing so, each secondary school working with year-10 and year-11 students have a legal ‘duty of care’ for their welfare when seconded to a work placement.

Already, most schools will be requesting to see the health & safety documentation of an organisation before allowing their student to begin a work experience placement there.

Schools often believe that a talk in assembly on health & safety is due diligence when it comes to preparing their students. It’s not, and in the event of an accident the liability lies with the senior members of staff at the school, not the student.

Schools are required to have in place legally enforceable control measures to ensure that all students have sufficient health & safety awareness prior to entering the workplace.

Examples of areas of health & safety awareness would include fire safety, manual handling and workstation setup and posture.

Safety Breaches Being Ignored By Most Employees

Less than a third of people would blow the whistle on their employer if they broke health & safety laws.

A recent poll commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that only 28% of people would report their company or organisation to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) if it was in breach of health & safety legislation.

The survey, of 1,332 employed people from across Britain, found that:

  • 35% would report their line manager or supervisor to their boss if they felt there was a risk they or a colleague could get hurt at work
  • 74% would tell their line manager or supervisor if they felt there was a risk they or a colleague could get hurt at work
  • 50% would tell their colleagues if they felt there was a risk they or a colleague could get hurt at work.
  • Worryingly, 5% said they wouldn’t do any one of these.

The poll revealed that few people know the true picture of workplace accidents in the UK. In 2006 – 2007, 247 people were killed and 274,000 were injured at work. However, two-thirds of a parallel survey of 1,291 people significantly underestimated the number injured at work in a single year. The majority believed the figure was below 100,000, with the largest group opting for between 1,000 and 50,000 injuries.

he fact that more than two-thirds of people said they wouldn’t blow the whistle on their employer for doing something illegal suggests a few things. It could be that people are very loyal to their employers or, more likely, that they’re scared of the consequences if they get found out having told. It’s also quite possible that people don’t know how to report to the HSE.

It does seem fairly clear though, that most people trust their line manager or supervisor to sort out health & safety problems for them. That’s why it’s imperative managers understand health & safety and have the authority to deal with potential hazards. We must also do more to educate young workers, as the poll showed that almost a third of 18 – 24 year olds didn’t know who to go to for health & safety advice at work.

Blowing the whistle on employers isn’t something to be done lightly, but if your employer won’t act and you’re genuinely concerned for your own or others’ safety, it’s certainly not something you should be afraid of doing.