Upon becoming an academy school, governing owner-operators take on legal responsibility for the Health & Safety of staff and students as well as other Environmental and Business requirements.
If you govern an academy or are thinking of doing so, you may not realise just how serious this legal responsibility is. By law, Governors must appoint someone to help them with health and safety matters. This person must be “competent” which means they must have the necessary skills, knowledge, qualification and experience to give sensible advice about managing a school’s risks and keeping up with the law.
However, appointing a “Competent Person” will not discharge Governors of responsibility. If the law is broken, as the owner-operators Governors will be the prime-target for proceedings by the police, HSE or claimants. Here are some examples of recent incidents:
School and glass contractor fined for asbestos failings
A Birmingham academy and a glass company have been fined for failing to properly manage refurbishment works and exposing workers to asbestos.
School fined, teacher knocked unconscious after fall
A girls’ school has been fined for breaching work at height regulations after a teacher fell from a stepladder and was left unconscious.
Stonyhurst College fined £100,000
A fine of £100,000 was issued to Stonyhurst College, an historic private school in Clitheroe, Lancashire, after a stonemason developed silicosis. He could have been exposed to silica dust in excess of 80 times the workplace limit, the HSE said, during a 21-month project to repair the building.
Guidance for Schools
The guidance document “Guidance for Schools Converting to Academy Status” 2017 from Somerset County Council states:
“As the employer, the board of governors of an academy has overall accountability for health and safety for the school workforce and students, and must ensure that the academy complies with all health and safety legislation. The LA carries no civil liability for health, safety and wellbeing in academies”
In addition, The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Document, Compliance Monitoring for Schools Premises & Management 2018 section 3 states:
“Where an offence is committed under the HSWA 1974 by a body corporate with the “consent, connivance or neglect” of any director, manager, secretary or similar officer, that person may be prosecuted as well as the body corporate.”
This means that senior personnel have special responsibilities to ensure that health and safety is properly managed within their organisation and in areas under their remit. Enforcement inspectors tend to look closely at the role of school leaders and managers when carrying out inspections.
Section 4 of The Management of Health & Safety also states:
“In order to ensure that the health and safety arrangements within an organisation are effective there must be systems in place to ensure that the risks which arise from the organisation’s activities are identified and controlled. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to manage health and safety by assessing risk”
It is clear that becoming a Schools Academy brings with it the same legal duties and responsibilities that a Director of a commercial organisation must meet. Be that Health & Safety, Environmental or any other area of Statutory Compliance within the organisation.
The question is simply this – How Confident are you in your Academy’s Health & Safety, and Statutory Compliance?
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