Note : This chapter of the Guide is only intended as a guide to better understanding of your policy and of the actions that you must take in various situations. You must refer to your Policy wording and Schedule for precise details of your cover and all terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions applicable to it.
An insurance policy is like a safety net – it is there to help when things go wrong. However, the two adages “prevention is better than cure” and “better safe than sorry”, are a sensible approach to take in attempting to ensure that things do not go wrong.
The insurance policy requires that the Board shall take all reasonable precautions to keep and maintain the building(s), the equipment and the playing area in such a condition that they do not create a hazard likely to cause injury to pupils, teachers or other persons.
Breaches by the Board of the duty to take all reasonable care could result in claims. All claims successfully made under the Policy by or against the Board must be paid - and insurance premiums are directly related to claims.
There are financial constraints on Boards, but by spending money today on maintenance and improvement of the school, its environs and equipment, money could be saved by a reduction in accidents (and consequently claims and premiums) which might occur tomorrow.
Emphasis on safety, therefore, is the way in which the Board can directly influence the avoidance of claims. As stated above, the insurance policy is the safety net which protects the Board in the event of claims. However, the policy does not make impositions in relation to what you can and cannot do in the advancement of the education process.
In its pursuance of safety the Board is encouraged to seek the advice and services of Allianz – a service that is provided free of charge to Boards.
Advice and services are also available from other professional advisors and public agencies. In most cases the advice given will be free of charge.
What can Boards do?
Implement a Safety Management Strategy (SMS). Each member of the Board, teachers, students and all Employees should be encouraged to think about their Safety, Health and Welfare within the School. Accidents cost money and time which could be more profitably spent in other areas of School activities. A legal action against the Board or a teacher is a traumatic experience best avoided where possible.
It is easy to see insurance as the total solution but consider the uninsured cost in respect of time taken in:
(a) the investigation and preparation of reports, statements and completion of forms,
(b) the interruption in work or schooling,
(c) clearing up and repairing damage,
(d) treatment and lost teaching time costs,
(e) finding / training suitable / qualified replacement(s),
(f) attending court with all its related trauma and distress.
Remember also the costs in terms of lower staff morale, the costs to the injured person or their family and the negative publicity (local media, newspapers, HSA etc.) Whilst there is good sound economic reasoning for implementing a safety programme, the emphasis on safety also makes sense from a day to day operational point of view.
But improvements cost money, don’t they?
Significant improvements can often be made in accident prevention without incurring any cost. It is a question of constantly examining current practices.
(a) review procedures on a regular basis,
(b) increase supervision awareness.
Accident prevention is cost effective as well as having legal, moral and humanitarian advantages.
The focus of a Safety Management Strategy (SMS) is to:
(a) identify all potential hazards within the School,
(b) assess the risk of injury,
(c) consider the possible severity of the risks identified and the number of people who are exposed to them,
(d) identify the measures that must be put in place to minimise the identified risks
What do you mean by a Safety Management Strategy (SMS)?
A SMS is an established arrangement of components that work together to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace and must:
(a) have a clear purpose and agreed objectives,
(b) have performance and expectations (in terms of what is expected from everybody),
(c) be appropriate to the nature and scale of the School’s health and safety risks,
(d) include a commitment for continual improvement,
(e) be measurable,
(f) be documented, implemented and maintained,
(g) be communicated to all staff (and pupils where appropriate),
(h) be available to all interested parties,
(i) be renewed periodically.
Any corrective action to SMS should be based on feedback.
Should we do anything else?
Keep an accident book and record all incidents, however trivial. Record the details, including - date, time and location of the accident, who witnessed the accident and what action was taken afterwards. (see Chapter 11. - Claims Procedure for more details in this regard).
Implementing such a practice will be of considerable assistance in the defence of claims which may be made against the Board.
Furthermore, if you analyse from your Accident Book the type of accident(s) or the locations where incidents occur, you may discover a particular area of the premises which is creating a disproportionate number of incidents. In such circumstances you should take appropriate action to try to eliminate that particular source of danger
To whom does the Board owe a Duty of Care?
The Board owes a Duty of Care to:
(a) Employees, and
(b) other persons (including pupils).
|1. Duty of Care to Employees:
Employers (in this case the Board) have a responsibility to their Employees in:
(a) Common Law (judicial decisions and precedents),
(b) Statute Law (law made by Dáil).
Common Law is based upon judicial decisions and precedents in previous cases and applies to all areas of employment. Over the years the courts have laid down a number of duties on Employers to ensure Employees are protected and the courts tend to define that duty under four general headings.
The Employer must provide:
(a) A safe place of work, including areas of access and egress,
(b) Safe systems of work,
(c) Proper plant and equipment,
(d) Competent / safe Employees.
As a result Common Law rules play an important part as far as Safety, Health and Welfare at work is concerned. Where a person is injured at work, and they bring compensation claim to the courts, their case will be based (in part) on Common Law rules.
What about statutory obligations?
The most important of the statutory obligations of the Board is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 which imposes obligations not only on all Employers (including Schools) but also on Employees. The obligations of the Board, Employees and others arising under the 2005 Act are detailed in Chapter 5 Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
|2. Duty of Care to other persons (including pupils)
The Board has a Common Law duty to keep and maintain the building, the equipment and the playing area in such a condition that it does not create a hazard likely to cause injury or damage.
Obligations are also owed under the terms of the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 which recognises three categories to whom a duty of care is owed. The categories recognise a reduction in the duty of care by category. The categories are:
(a) Visitors - who are persons invited directly or indirectly on to the premises. This is the highest duty of care. Visitors include staff, pupils, parents and others who legitimately come on to the school premises.
(b) Recreational Users - who are persons with or without permission or with implied permission who are on the property for a recreational activity. This is a lesser duty of care than for visitors and was intended to allay the fears of farmers, in particular, who had national monuments on their lands.
In relation to schools, however, [young] members of the community do use the school grounds for recreational activities and often the Board “turn a blind eye” to such use. In doing so the Board are effectively giving implied permission.
(c) Trespassers - who are other persons who have no permission of access to school property but, for example, climb over fences to get in. This is the lowest duty of care but the Board does have a duty of care to trespassers not to act with reckless disregard for their safety.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that Boards must manage and conduct their business, so far as is reasonably practicable, so that other persons present in the place of work are not exposed to risks to their safety, health or welfare (Section 12 of 2005 Act). This covers pupils, members of the public or other visitors to the school.
It has particular significance when contractors are brought into a school. This incorporates a variety of situations varying from contract cleaners to specialised maintenance services (such as lift maintenance). The Board has to make an appropriate assessment of the competence of a contractor to undertake a particular task where there is the potential for exposure to risk. Also it may be necessary for the Board to provide appropriate information, instruction and training on specific risks within the school to contractors coming on site.
What about the duties of Employees?
The duties of an Employee (Section 13 of 2005 Act) include a requirement to comply with relevant Safety Law, both in the 2005 Act and elsewhere, and to take reasonable care to protect their safety and that of others affected by their acts or omissions.
The range of such duties are addressed in more detail in Chapter 5 - Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
Are we required to prepare a Safety Statement?
It is a legal requirement for every employer to prepare a Safety Statement (Section 20 of 2005 Act) and failure to have a Safety Statement is a criminal offence. However, Employers with 3 or less employees (a small Employer) do not necessarily need a safety statement. Section 20(8) gives the HSA the power to issue a code of practice and provided a small Employer complies with this he will be held to have complied with his obligations under the 2005 Act.
What should a Safety Statement contain?
A Safety Statement will not prevent accidents but in drawing it up there is a commitment to the concept of safety by both the Employer and the Employees. It is a public record of what the Board intends to do to provide a safe working environment for staff, pupils and visitors.
Refer to Chapter 5 - Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 for more details in this regard.
What are the most common types of accidents?
(a) people falling, slipping, tripping due to poor housekeeping and general untidiness,
(b) manual handling (heavy, awkward or hard to reach loads etc.), (c) falling from a height. Special hazards arise in connection with maintenance of school (roofs, windows, gutters, etc.),
(d) getting caught or cut by machinery(lawnmower),
(e) poorly maintained equipment – a regular inspection of all equipment must be carried out to ensure that equipment is in good working order. Record all inspections,
(f) ejection of material (wood, plastics, metal etc.),
(g) injury by another person,
(h) electricity, broken plugs and sockets, overloading, trailing cables and incorrect wiring, hot surfaces or substances (kitchens, canteens, workshops etc.).
Have you any practical advice on dealing with hazards?
The following should be of assistance:
1. Manual Handling
Claims occur every year because weights are either too heavy for the individual or he / she incorrectly lifts weights which are within their capacity. All employees, from time to time, are obliged to lift and carry equipment or materials.
Manual handling is defined as anything which involves the application of bodily force to an object. This includes: lifting, carrying, putting down, pushing, pulling, moving and supporting. It is covered by the following legislation: Factories Act 1955 – Manual Handling Regulations 1972; Safety, Health and Welfare atWork Act 2005 and General Application Regulations 2007 – Part V1 Manual Handling of Loads.
To avoid manual handling accidents employees should be reminded to:
(a) plan the work in advance,
(b) obtain assistance if an object is too heavy - or see if it can be made lighter,
(c) remove obstructions before lifting and to clear a space where the load is to be set down,
(d) make sure the path is clear and to look for obstructions, spills, steps, etc,
(e) think about the best way to lift the load,
(f) not carry a load that obstructs your view,
(g) keep loads close to body when lifting,
(h) bend the knees to a crouching position with the back straight but not necessarily vertical,
(i) avoid twisting of the upper body,
(j) use a firm grip with the palm of the hand and the roots of the fingers - using the finger tips means more effort and more chance of dropping the object,
(k) keep the arms close to the body so that the body takes the weight rather than the fingers wrist and the arm,
(l) use gloves when handling sharp or slippery objects,
(m) use mechanical aids if they are available and suitable.
Staff should be trained in correct lifting procedures.
2. Woodworking Machinery
Such machinery causes a number of accidents each year, very often because the equipment has been used for purposes other than that for which it was designed. Appropriate guards should always be fitted to all woodworking machinery and must be correctly attached, properly adjusted and maintained prior to commencing any work. If a guard has to be removed from a machine to do a particular job, the wrong machine is being used! Faults should be recorded in a logbook.
Many accidents relate to a failure to wear goggles or to properly secure loose clothing. Goggles must always be available and used as should hearing protection and all personal protective equipment must be in good condition. Appropriate signage should also be in place within all work areas.
All equipment must have a CE Certificate of conformity. The equipment should be CE marked and appropriate for the task for which it was intended.
The design, specification, construction and installation of all equipment must include protection from moving parts.
All equipment must be used in line with manufacturer’s instructions and machinery must only be used by trained and authorised staff. Instructions for the use of machinery should be clearly visible.
Equipment should be serviced in line with manufacturer’s instructions and details of all servicing should be retained.
3. Slips, Trips and Falls
These cause many accidents in or about schools and there are a number of things that Boards can do to reduce the risk.
(a)Use emulsion polishes
Cleaning staff have tended to use the traditional method of washing, followed by polish
application and buffing. There have been many cases where slips were caused by overapplication
(layer upon layer) of wax polish. It has been shown scientifically by means of practical tests that build up of wax polish causes people to slip. This is because the polish constituents contain a high level of wax which ‘gives’ under horizontal forces exerted by a person’s foot.
The same tests were carried out on emulsion polishes and the results showed that slip resistance underfoot was enhanced when applied. Many floor manufacturers recommend more widespread use of emulsion polishes - even to increase the slip resistance of the traditionally smooth and dangerous marble and terrazzo floors. It is recommended that schools use emulsion polishes intermittently on the advice of the polish supplier.
(b)Consider floor types
Smooth hard surfaces such as marble, terrazzo, non-glazed ceramic, linoleum and vinyl provide
reasonably satisfactory resistance in dry conditions. These surfaces, however, are not
satisfactory when wet because the coefficient of friction decreases. Most slipping accidents
occur during initial contact of the heel with the floor.
In wet conditions, the heel is separated from the floor by a film of water and ‘aquaplaning’ results. Textured and profiled floor surface types are more suitable in areas likely to become wet because the projections penetrate the film of water and grip the foot, thus reducing the possibility of a slip. Wet areas in schools are toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, reception areas, entry and exit areas, canteens, art rooms, shower and changing rooms.
There are a number of safety measures that can be taken in order to prevent or reduce slips, trips or falls including:
(i) Pedestrian routes should be clearly marked, illuminated and inspected regularly.
(ii) All doors, access routes and stairways should be maintained in good condition and should be kept clear from obstruction and be clearly visible.
(iii) All floor surfaces should be kept in a clean undamaged condition, free from tripping or slipping hazards.
(iv) In the event of a wet or dangerous floor a staff member should immediately screen off the area until the floor can be cleaned, dried or the problem rectified.
(v) Floor washing should not be carried out while students or other visitors are on the school premises but if this is unavoidable it is good standard cleaning practice to erect ‘Wet Floor’ cones and signs as the work progresses. Special warning is needed outside doorways and corridors because those working inside do not know that the floor is wet until too late. A single cone positioned outside each doorway in the middle of the corridor, should provide sufficient warning.
(vi) Appropriate non-slip mats should be provided.
(vii) All changes in floor level should be identified and clearly marked out in yellow paint.
(viii) Adequate signage should be in place i.e. yellow caution signs, in the process of cleaning, spillages etc. (ix) Lighting should be adequate to ensure that people are not at risk of tripping and falling.
(x) All stair nosings should be fitted with antislip materials and maintained in good condition.
(xi) Schoolbags should not be left in corridors or under stairways.
(xii) Snow removal and de-icing is essential in winter particularly on steps, stairways and ramps.
(xiii) Pupils using stairways should do so in single file, going up on the railing side and down by the wall.
4. Working at Height
Working at height is covered by regulation and includes working on a scaffold or mobile platform, working on the back of a lorry, a ladder, or any other environment where injury could result from a person’s fall or a falling object.
The regulations require Boards to ensure that:
(a) the area where the work at height is done is safe
(b) all work at height is properly planned, organised and supervised
(c) workers are instructed and trained
(d) equipment is inspected before use
(e) work at height is avoided where possible.
5. Defects in School Buildings and Grounds
The school and school grounds should be safe. Consideration should be given to the elimination of any perceived hazard which could be the source of a potential accident to students, visitors and trespassers. Consider the following:
(a) The location and use of glass partitions, low level windows and glass doors. Are they
fitted with safety glass?
(b) Window frames and opening devices - are they safe? Some sash windows can act as a guillotine in injuring a pupil’s fingers in the opening or closing of windows. Make sure that opening and retaining devices are safe and secure. Back injuries can result from awkward latch positioning, stiff hinges and poorly maintained sashes.
(c) Are doors safe? Pupils often catch fingers in door jams. Are the doors fitted with “anti-slam” devices?
(d) Are coat hooks necessary. If yes are they fitted above the eye level of the tallest pupil?
(e) Accessible low roofs (sheds, prefabs etc.) and fire escapes are often seen as play areas by pupils. Make sure that access is restricted and if you see pupils (or others) on the roof or fire escape make sure that they are removed. Serious claims can arise as a result of a pupil falling from the roof whilst playing. It does not matter that he / she may be a trespasser.
(f) The law does not allow you to create any undue hazards or traps in your security measures. If you do incorporate items such as barbed wire, broken glass on walls etc then liability will attach to the Board in the event of any resulting injury. Remember also that if you use a CCTV system to have appropriate signage informing people of the existence of such a system. It is also advisable to have a CCTV policy in place.
(g) Shores, drains, culverts, man-holes and fire hydrants. Make sure that they do not project above the level of the surrounding ground and that they are securely covered and protected
(h) Condensation (particularly in the gymnasium or sports hall) is the cause of many accidents. Any manifestation of condensation must be cleared effectively as soon as possible.
(i) Playground, sports fields and other accessible areas should be of sound and level construction, without potholes or other hazards.
The installation by Schools of specialised play / outdoor activity areas (Playgrounds) has increased noticeably in recent times. Playgrounds can provide children with fun, fresh air and exercise, but they can also pose significantly increased safety hazards. For example unsuitable or damaged surfaces, faulty equipment and inadequate supervision are just a few of the exposures which can result in accidents on Playgrounds.
What should we do?
A risk assessment and documented procedures in relation to the area and equipment should form part of the School’s Safety Statement. The most important factors in evaluating the safety of a Playground are surface, design and spacing, supervision, equipment inspection and maintenance. The following steps should be implemented as a minimum to ensure that the risk of injury to children is reduced.
(a) Location & Design
(i) Professional advice should be obtained with regard to the layout and design of the Playground, ensuring it is suitable for its purpose and can be accessed safely. Any adjacent hazards, such as vehicle access to the school grounds, should be identified and reviewed
(ii) The surface should be free of standing water, rocks, loose stones, tree stumps, tree roots and debris of any kind which could cause children to trip and fall. School procedures should include provisions for the presence of ice, snow and other adverse weather related conditions.
(iii) Accidents in Playgrounds arise mainly due to the way children move about – running, jumping etc - within the area. Equipment should be positioned so that there is no cause for pupils to run across moving equipment, thus running the risk of being struck by moving equipment.
(iv) Any access gate should normally open outwards, except where it opens directly onto traffic or is likely to cause a hazard. The gate should preferably not close quicker than within five seconds to facilitate wheelchair access and additionally to prevent it striking a child walking through. Ideally, a suitable 2m high fence should be provided around the Playground equipment to prevent pupils from wandering into a hazardous area.
(v) The Playground should be adequately secured outside of school hours when the area is unsupervised and to minimise the risk of vandalism.
(vi) The Disability Discrimination Act applies to play areas. Reasonable provision should be made for inclusion of pupils and staff with a disability, including the visually impaired. The design of the Playground should comply with normal Safety Standards and should, in general, be appropriate to the anticipated age ranges and abilities of the pupils.
(b) Play Equipment / Activity Areas
(i) Play equipment and surfacing should be in accordance with Safety Standards ISEN1176 and ISEN1177. Where any new equipment is installed this should always
conform to ISEN1176. Schools should request that the manufacturer or supplier provide written confirmation of the Standard compliance where relevant.
Where existing equipment does not conform to an appropriate Standard, then risk assessment and testing of the equipment should be carried out by ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) or any other recognised body or organisation. All risk improvements resulting from such assessment/testing should be implemented immediately.
(ii) It is recommended that Impact Attenuating Surfacing (IAS) should be installed under any play equipment. ISEN1177 requires that a surface with some impact attenuation should be installed under all items of play equipment. For potential falls above 600mm ISEN1177 defines the nature and extent of impact attenuation the surface must have. Boards must ensure that such surfacing is maintained and replaced when required in line with Manufacturers recommendations and guidelines.
(iii) Boards should ensure that all equipment and surfacing is installed by a competent contractor in accordance with ISEN1176 and ISEN1177. It is recommended that a post-installation inspection is carried out by an independent body, such as ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) or other appropriate association.
The Playground area should be inspected weekly by a competent person, preferably with some appropriate basic training. The inspection should include a general review of the equipment and area to ensure it is clean and well maintained.
In particular the following should be considered:
(i) All wooden equipment should be checked for splinters, cracking, build up of vegetation or rusting screws. Metal equipment should not be rusted. Checks should be carried out
1. to identify any signs of weakening on equipment which is fixed to the ground
2. to ensure that bolts are secure and not loose.
(ii) Where equipment is identified as defective it should be immediately taken out of use and either repaired or replaced as appropriate.
(iii) The surface material should be checked to identify any
1. loose matting fitting,
2. surface water build up or
3. wear and tear by weathering (UV rays as well as rain/snow/ice).
(iv) Check equipment, fences and gates for objects such as hooks, bolts, sharp or unfinished edges that stick out of equipment and which could injure a pupil or catch clothing causing entanglement or fall. Immediate arrangements must be made to remove or repair such items.
An effective maintenance programme should be put in place to ensure that defects / faults are repaired immediately and that any equipment which cannot be suitably repaired is replaced immediately.
Records should be kept of when the defect was noted and repairs took place.
An annual inspection by an independent specialist should be undertaken.
Finally, an on going maintenance and risk management programme for improving and up-dating the Playground should be implemented.
Remember, taking the appropriate time in planning the layout, nature and extent of any Playground and taking into account the above safety recommendations will save effort in the long run and will ensure that the Playground is as safe as possible.
What about defects in the contents and equipment?
(a) Desks, chairs, fittings, furniture and other equipment should be regularly checked to ensure that they are safe. If any defect is noticed the item must be removed and repaired immediately or replaced.
(b) Gymnastic and sports equipment should be regularly checked to ensure that it is safe. If any defect is noticed, the item must be removed and repaired immediately or replaced. Equipment should be adequate for the purpose for which it was intended and there should be sufficient equipment that the sport may be played safely by all participants (e.g. protective headgear for all students when playing hurling)
Temporary goalposts have resulted in the deaths of a number of young people due to the fact that they are improperly designed, manufactured, or installed (unstable and are either unanchored or incorrectly anchored or counterbalanced). Advice posters have been issued by the GAA and the FAI on goal post safety and the State Claims Agency have also published a very comprehensive document Goalpost Safety in Schools that provides detailed advice for schools.
All goals should have labels bearing appropriate safety information (see specifications for details). Goalposts should also show the standard to which it was manufactured (where applicable), its size, the name of the manufacturer, and the year of manufacture. Ideally equipment should be initially installed (particularly in the case of fixed goalposts requiring ground socket set in concrete) by the supplier/manufacturer. This is an opportunity for the relevant persons in the school to be instructed as to how to assemble/ disassemble, inspect and maintain the goalpost.
Goalposts should only be used for their intended purpose. Goalposts for indoor use should not be used out door and vice versa. All pupils in the school should be warned of the dangers associated with goalposts. Swinging or climbing on the goalposts or nets should be strictly prohibited and pupils should be supervised at all times by an adult when using games equipment.
It is essential to check that the anchors for securing freestanding goalposts are in place, intact and in good working order prior to use.
(c) Audio visual, laboratory, computer and other equipment should be regularly checked to ensure that it is safe. If any defect is noticed the item must be removed and repaired immediately or replaced.
Maintenance should be carried out by competent persons and records of all maintenance should be retained by the Board.
What about disclaimer notices?
Disclaimer notices invariably state that any person using the property or grounds does so at their own risk. In a school situation, they are a desirable deterrent against claims being made against the Board, but it is doubtful if they have the desired protection in law. In general terms, however, we would recommend their usage.
What about pupils undertaking messages for teachers?
This practice is not recommended. Each year claims arise from pupils being injured while undertaking messages outside the school grounds or while being asked to do something beyond their ability in the school e.g. carrying boiling water.
What about the statutory charge for emergency medical treatment?
This charge is imposed by statutory authority and must be paid. Our recommendation is that if you are asked to pay this amount you should do so. By making the payment you may avoid a liability claim against you. The payment will not impose any legal obligation on the Board and cannot be deemed an admission of liability.
What about cars parked in the school grounds?
It is not uncommon for teachers and other staff to park their cars in the school grounds. If injury or damage occurs resulting from the use of the car this will be covered by the owner’s motor insurance policy (Own Damage claims will only be covered where the Teacher has Comprehensive Motor cover). In respect of loss of or damage to the vehicle it should be remembered that the Board makes spaces available as a concession. The Board is not making a charge and does not undertake to safeguard the vehicle. Cars parked on school grounds, therefore, are at the risk of the owner.
The Board should not undertake or assume responsibility for such loss or damage. A disclaimer notice to the effect that the Board accepts no liability for loss of or damage to car(s) parked on school grounds is advisable
Should guard dogs be used in schools?
Definitely not! Guard dogs have dubious value in ensuring the security of the property and offer a very real danger to persons whether visitors or trespassers.
What about grass cutting equipment?
Tractors and ‘sit-on’ lawn mowers should be insured by a motor policy. While they may never be used on public roads, the Road Traffic Act deems them to be mechanically propelled vehicles within the terms of the Act and as such a motor insurance policy is necessary. The driver must have a driving license. Pupils should never be asked to cut grass.
Is there anything else we should do?
The need for Boards to give on going and detailed consideration to the issues of procedures and record keeping has, particularly in more recent times, been a feature in relation to the settlement of a number of legal liability claims under the following covers:
(i) Employer’s Liability
(ii) Public Liability
(iii) Professional Indemnity
(iv) Employment Practices Liability
Allianz have successfully defended claims where appropriate records were maintained and procedures were prepared and actively pursued. Unfortunately we have also experienced situations where the absence of such records and procedures contributed adversely to claim settlements, for example:
(a) Absence of a Safety Statement (as required by the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005).
(b) Absence or inappropriateness of policies and procedures in relation to issues such as
Admissions, Bullying, Discipline (pupils and staff), Equality, Staff Appointments etc
(c) Absence of written confirmation from the Department of Education & Science (DES) in relation to:
(i) Temporary Teachers
(ii) Additional Teachers
(iii) Approval & Withdrawal of Approval for
Special Needs Assistants
(d) Lack of clarity in relation to Arrival & Departure of Pupils, After School Activities (games etc), School Trips & Supervision.
We appreciate that changes in legislation, largely driven by the necessity to comply with EU directives, and compliance with procedures established by the D.E.S., increase demands on Schools. It is essential to bear in mind however, that compliance with such legislation is not optional – it is a legal requirement. Non-compliance can expose the School to the possibility of the incurrence of fines or penalties. Furthermore, such noncompliance can impact adversely on the settlement of claims.
The adoption and utilisation of sets of appropriate procedures, including record keeping, will result in benefits to Schools in a number of ways, such as:
(i) Assist in ensuring the protection of School assets.
(ii) Consistency of approach to addressing issues and problems
(iii) Improved quality of record keeping
(iv) Reduction in the number of delays / queries
(v) Reduction in costs / expenses
(vi) Improved level of defence in claim situations.
Appropriate records of all discussions, meetings, agreements, etc should be maintained by Boards. Approvals from the D.E.S. should always be recorded in writing. The implementation of such an approach by Boards will be of considerable benefit in avoiding any subsequent confusion or mis-understanding in relation to what should or should not be done or what was agreed or approved.
Furthermore, as we have said earlier, in the event of any claims occurring under the policy, the availability of such records can be crucial to the success or otherwise of any defence.
With regard to the issue of insurance in relation to procedures and record keeping, The Custodian School Protection Policy provides cover for the legal liability of the Board in respect of:
(a) Bodily Injury to Employees – (Employers Liability Insurance)
(b) Accidental Bodily Injury to third parties and accidental damage to third party property –
(Public Liability Insurance).
(c) Breach of duty arising from any negligent act error or omission, breach of warranty of trust or confidentiality, libel or slander committed in good faith - (Professional Indemnity Insurance).
(d) Claims arising out of Wrongful Employment Practices (Employment Practices Liability Insurance) all arising out of or in connection with a School Related Activity which is defined in the policy as:
“any activity usual to a school which is carried out with the full knowledge and authority of and under the control of the board of management/ governors of the School or of any other person specifically authorised by them”
The policy cover is not dependent on or subject to the implementation of procedures, therefore resulting legal liability attaching to the Board is covered, subject as always to the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions of the Policy.
However the existence of appropriate procedures and written records will enhance the possibilities of successfully defending claims, thus reducing the cost of claims which, in turn, will have a positive impact on premiums. It is therefore in all our interests that Boards should give serious attention to the issues of procedures and record keeping.
Can you give us some examples of areas which need to be addressed?
The following are some of the main areas that need to be addressed and are dealt with in more detail in Chapter 5 Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005, Chapter 8 Liability of the Board of
Management, Chapter 9 Fire Safety in the School and Chapter 10 Security in the School .
(i) Employment Procedures
(ii) Health & Safety Procedures
(iii) Emergency Procedures
(iv) Code of Conduct - Pupils
(v) Schools Admission Policy
(vi) Child Protection Policy
(vii) Internet Usage Policy
(viii) Data Protection Policy
What about the administration of medicines to pupils?
As a general rule, teachers should not be involved in the administration of medication to children. However, many schools will have pupils who at some time need to take medication during school hours. Often this will merely entail a pupil who is finishing a short course of treatment, however some pupils may have a need for a different type of medication. This would include pupils with conditions such as asthma, epilepsy, diabetes or pupils who have an anaphylactic reaction to food or other natural antigens.
In these situations, some medication will be preventative whereas some will be more in the form of emergency treatment. The pupil may require an injection or, in the case of epilepsy, rectal diazepam. Some pupils, particularly those with special needs, may require regular medication.
Boards should have a clear policy on medicines, backed up by procedures for managing medication. These should be shared with and agreed by staff and parents.
The policy should confirm that any member of staff who agrees to take responsibility for medicines is adequately instructed and trained and that no member of staff takes on a responsibility that he / she is not competent to carry out. A second staff member should also be trained as back-up in case the original staff member is out sick or unavailable.
There should be a regular review and monitoring of the policy and procedures, including how they are working in practice.
Have you any recommendations?
The following general principles should be noted and observed.
(a) A pupil who is sick and clearly unwell should not be in school. In such circumstances the Principal is within his / her rights to ask the parents to keep the pupil at home.
(b) The overriding concern must always be the pupils’ health and welfare.
(c) As professional educators, teachers implement and maintain professional standards of care for their pupils, but teachers are not medics. A teacher has no contractual duty to administer medication and cannot be required to do so. Administering medication is a voluntary act by teachers.
(d) Where a teacher agrees to be responsible for medication, he / she must be given whatever information and training is needed. This is not just a matter of good practice. It is a matter of necessity. No teacher should be given tasks which he / she cannot carry out safely because of a lack of information or a lack of appropriate training.
(e) A teacher may have a pupil in class with epilepsy or diabetes or with an allergy which could be potentially fatal. In all such cases, irrespective of whether the teacher has been trained in the administration of medication, he / she should be advised exactly what to do or how to get help and from whom. Furthermore the teacher should, as a minimum, receive the following information in writing:
(i) the nature of the pupil’s condition;
(ii) the symptoms;
(iii) what medication is required, the prescribed dose, at what times or under what circumstances;
(iv) where the medication is kept and how to get access;
(v) whether the medication is self administered or has to be administered;
(vi) where the record card is kept of the dates and times of administration;
(vii)what action, if any, apart from administering medication, may be needed, and if so, at what times or in what circumstances.
Managing Medicines in Schools
The Principal should be responsible for carrying out the policy on medicines in schools.
Where there is no feasible alternative to the School administering the medicine, the Principal should be satisfied that:
(a) appropriate training has been provided for the teacher;
(b) full instructions are available to the School for administering the medicine. This is best done either by the parent producing a doctor’s note confirming that it is necessary for the child to have medicine during school hours, and giving clear instructions on how and when it is given and what the dosage is, or by way of a standard letter of instruction from the parents. In either case, a reliable record keeping system should be implemented in this regard.
(c) the medicine will be delivered personally to the Principal or a nominated person by the parent, not by the child;
(d) the medicines are clearly labeled with the child’s name, date, contents, dosage and instructions regarding storage. The original container supplied by the GP or pharmacist must be delivered to the School;
(e) the medicines are either kept in a locked cupboard, preferably in the staff room or the Principal’s office or kept in a sealed container which is clearly marked. They must not be kept in the First Aid Box. When they are needed, the medicines shall be reasonably accessible.
Security and accessibility are equally important when medicines are taken on school trips. Some medicines, such as insulin, may need to be kept in a refrigerator;
(f) a written record is kept of the dates and times of administration and a note of any side effects. Any guidelines as outlined and agreed with the Schools Management Association or Staff Union should be followed.
What about Passenger Lifts and Boilers?
Under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 as amended all Passenger Lifts, Service Lifts, Patient Hoists, Steam Boilers and other similar engineering equipment require statutory inspection. The existence of a maintenance agreement with the equipment suppliers or installers does not necessarily meet your statutory requirements.
Where you have such equipment you should contact the Allianz Engineering Dept who will be more than happy to provide guidance/assistance and, where appropriate, an inspection contract as required under the Regulations. A more detailed note of the implications of the new Regulations is contained in Appendix 1 along with a more comprehensive list of engineering items which require statutory inspection.