Amid shocking recent statistics around the very real safety risks presented in UK schools, Bureau Veritas is urging all education institutions to add a more diligent approach to safety and compliance as a priority focus this year.
According to a recent investigation, 13% of schools in the UK have not carried out a fire risk assessment and one in ten do not have an appropriate electrical test certificate. This follows a previous report which estimated that as many as 700 schools in the UK were failing to safely manage asbestos in their buildings, potentially putting thousands of staff and pupils at risk.2
The consensus is that this is part consequence of an increasingly turbulent time for the educational sector with many teachers left overstretched, classes bigger than ever and many buildings in need of major repair work.
In response, Bureau Veritas is keen to assert that, irrespective of the current difficult climate, safety should and must come first.
Shane Grace, Business Unit Director for the Health, Safety & Inspection Division at Bureau Veritas, comments:
“While we recognise the increased pressure that educational providers are operating under, the reality is that safety must remain paramount. They have a duty of care and an absolute responsibility to ensure that their incumbents; pupils and staff alike, are able to teach and learn in a safe and comfortable environment – and that’s not just in terms of schools but the higher education sector like universities and student accommodation.
“From our experience, many facilities will wait to conduct their maintenance programmes over the school holidays. However, it is important to note that when it comes to compliance management, whether it be asbestos, fire risk assessment, legionella and electrical safety, it doesn’t just boil down to a standard periodic check, but also regular, diligent monitoring to ensure best practice standards are maintained and, in turn, compliance.”
Legally, all schools with asbestos in their buildings must ensure they manage it effectively to protect staff and students, and, in common with any other business or employer, they have a statutory duty to control the risk of Legionella on their premises.
In terms of electrical safety, schools are required to carry out routine checks on fixed electrical installations every six months and formal fixed electrical testing every five years.
If there is a swimming pool on site, formal inspection and testing must be done every 12 months.
While under the Fire Safety Order 2005 any responsible person operating in an educational arena must carry out a fire risk assessment to ensure adequate safety measures are place to negate risk, with particular onus on the less able, those with special needs and children.
Shane adds: “For any education establishments that haven’t already, we would urge them to prioritise safety compliance, particularly in relations to health and safety, asbestos, legionella control, fire safety risk and electrical safety, this year. The reality is that, in failing to do so, providers could be leaving themselves open to a disaster just waiting to happen.”