outlook • May 2007   groundnotes                                                                                          ...
groundnotes •                                                                                       Common design issues  ...
Management and                                                                                                       groun...
groundnotes •                                Ponds Ideally ponds should be located               All available to members ...
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Health and Safety in the School Grounds


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Health and Safety in the School Grounds

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Health and Safety in the School Grounds

  1. 1. outlook • May 2007 groundnotes Schoolgrounds-UK July 2010 already. However, in most cases, the ultimate responsibility lies with the local authority, even where they have delegated some duties to the school. In addition, every local authority publishes their own health and safety policy, which schools in their area will be expected to follow. There is therefore no standard policy for health and safety for all schools in the UK, although schools as workplaces are subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. You can discuss your plans for physical change with your local authority health and safety advisor who will be able to offer advice on legal and local regulations and requirements. If, during your school grounds project, you work with a landscape architect or other professional, they will assess risk during the design process – but the school should also carry out their own risk assessment of the new design, and also look again at the implications to their management practices. This is an essential stage in the development process, and need not be overwhelming. Forms to help will be available from your local authority. Risk assessment and risk-benefit Health and safety in analysis Schools will be familiar with carrying out risk assessments of their schools and the school grounds these principles should be applied to how the grounds are designed, how they are used and the way any changes are made. Risk assessments should assess both the Life is full of hazards and risks and it is difficult or impossible for children to hazards and risks – the potential danger important that children learn what they assess for themselves, and that have no and the likelihood of this happening. A are and how to deal with them. A hazard obvious benefits.’ While this guidance risk-benefit analysis provides you with an can be defined as a potential source of specifically refers to play provision (both opportunity to look at features or activities harm; a risk is the probability, likelihood or outside and in schools) its principles can that might have a raised level of risk but chance of an adverse outcome. So when easily be transferred to other activities you think about safety in your school within the school grounds. grounds you need to combine the two It’s important to note, too, that – what might happen and what is the well-designed and challenging school likelihood of it happening? grounds, graduated to cater for Why are risks and challenge appropriate levels of ability, can in fact important? offer a safer environment than a boring, Learning to manage risk and challenge flat, unstimulating site. In a challenging is vital for a child’s development. A degree environment, with opportunities to try out of risk can be very positive, and allowing new activities, children will be able to test children to recognise and take acceptable themselves, learn from their mistakes, and risks is an essential part of growing up. stretch themselves further to develop their In Managing Risk in Play Provision; physical and mental skills. implementation guide from Play England Who is responsible for health and (see ‘Further resources’) the differences safety in school grounds? between good risks and hazards is Each school has a member of staff – usually described as ‘Those that engage and the headteacher or deputy head – with challenge children, and support their responsibility for managing day-to-day growth, learning and development’ while health and safety. It’s very likely that the bad risks and hazards are ‘Those that are school has a health and safety policy learning through landscapes
  2. 2. groundnotes • Common design issues Here are the most common design issues. Breaktime rules These are an essential part of well-managed school grounds. When new designs or equipment are being installed, new rules will need to be agreed. Access to small games equipment and play props A suitable shed or cupboard should be provided within, or close to, the play area. Store equipment and materials in trolleys, bags, and baskets that are an appropriate size and weight for the age of children managing them. Pupils should be taught correct carrying and lifting techniques, and new small play equipment should be good quality to cope with regular use, and should be regularly checked and replaced. Dens and supervision Children love hidey holes and will create them out ofthat are of benefit in some way to your investigation. If this information is tabulated next to nothing. Visual permeability canpupils. It enables the provider – in this it will be vital for comparison when the be achieved by careful design and the usecase the school – to give equal weight to changes have been implemented and are of scale. This will ensure the children feeltheir duty to protect children from serious being evaluated. ‘enclosed’ but remain visible.harm and their duty to provide them The pupils’ point of view is essential atwith stimulating play and learning all stages, including on walkabouts. Children Soft landscaping Take care to ensureopportunities. can point out hazards for themselves, and that maintenance practices do not cause It is vitally important that, should they often see issues that adults are unaware hazards, such as sharp, protruding stemsan unacceptable hazard and/or risk be of because they don’t use the site in the at eye height. Some plants may not beidentified, this is managed – so that no same way. Observe and record how children suitable for use in school grounds. Bechild is exposed to unnecessary danger. are using the site – they will always find vigilant for poisonous plants. WillowHowever, generally speaking, school grounds different ways of using things! Community tunnels and shelters are very popular,are very safe environments and most hazards safety issues, such as the area around the but be aware that the willow aphid cancan be easily managed while retaining school entrance, may also arise during the attract wasps towards the end of thetheir educational and play value. consultation and the local authority can summer term. A soapy spray can be used A risk-benefit analysis should be based be involved to take action. The following to remove the aphids, or cordon off theon your school’s policies, including its play checklist is a good starting point to help structure just for this short period. Seepolicy. Further guidance on how to carry you assess your grounds at survey stage. also ‘Further resources’.out a risk-benefit analysis is provided in PlayEngland’s Managing Risk in Play Provision;implementation guide – which can bedownloaded free from their website(see ‘Further resources’).Developing your grounds– site assessmentHealth and safety issues will play animportant part in site surveying. Duringa physical improvements project, the sitemanager and governors will need to carryout regular health and safety assessments,and relevant problems should be plottedon the site plan. It would be useful for theschool’s health and safety officer to doa ‘walkabout’ with the local authorityhealth and safety officer in order to drawattention to problem areas or issues thatcould actually be dealt with by carefuldesign of the new scheme. Pupils shouldalso be involved in this walkabout. Teaching and non-teaching staff shouldbe questioned about their thoughts on theissues, and a look at the accident recordsmay identify patterns that merit furtherhealth and saFetY in the school grounds
  3. 3. Management and groundnotes •maintenancePlan for long-term maintenance rightfrom the start of any project. Letting thisslip can lead to lack of interest, lack ofrespect and vandalism, with associatedhealth and safety issues. The sitemanager, taking any new features intoaccount, should draw up a regularinspection and maintenance schedule.Some play equipment may also needtechnical inspections at regular intervals– check with your health and safetyofficer. Much of the simple maintenancecan be carried out by pupils; plan thisinto the curriculum or start a GroundsClub. Include training in using tools andequipment, recording and monitoringtechniques and invite maintenance teamsfrom your grounds contractor to talk tothe group about their work.Rubbish bins and compost areas Traffic management Cars should be summer. You can, however, reinforce grassWell-designed, secure bin areas will reduce parked off site wherever possible. Where it to make it more resistant to wear.the incidence of fox or pigeon problems, is unavoidable they should not be moved Tanalised timber The use of tanalisedand well-managed compost areas will during the school day, and they should be (CCA treated) timbers is still widespreadavoid rat infestation. Separating your located in a place that does not interfere and standard in the industry and thewaste into different containers will help with play. Deliveries should take place EU is currently assessing the risk. Takecut contamination and allow children to before or after school hours, or be current advice on this issue from yoursafely take part in waste surveys. See also arranged beforehand so that children are local authority health and safety officer‘Further resources’. not using the grounds at the same time. who may have information about Pollution Check site history in case of alternatives available locally. contaminated land. For growing areas Accessibility Accessibility for all potential it may be necessary to skim and replace users is important so a range of features topsoil. Check also emissions from nearby to cater for all degrees of ability should be traffic. Barrier planting may be needed. designed into any physical improvement Boundaries Check adjacent public scheme. Ensure all the grounds can be footpaths for discarded needles, bottles/ accessed by emergency vehicles. dog mess/litter. Climbing walls Anything above 600mm – the ‘critical fall height’ – does need an school ground features impact absorbing surface. However, with New features in your school grounds will climbing walls, supervision and training in need to be risk assessed. Here are the key basic techniques are more important and health and safety issues to consider. For more effective than safety surfaces, which more detailed information, see ‘Further can actually encourage falling off the wall. resources’. Loose logs and tyres When choosing Play equipment and surfacing tyres take care to avoid any with exposed Ideally, play equipment should be shared reinforcing mesh which can cause out into more than one area to avoid scratches. Clean tyres thoroughly beforeSurfacing Textured surfaces are a creating a ‘honeypot’ effect. It may be use. Logs can be slippery when wet but,favourite feature in school grounds, often necessary to agree a rota with the children if well supervised, should not posemade by artists and pupils (for example, for its use to avoid conflict and subsequentpebble mosaics, multisensory pathways). risk. While British and European standardsCare must be taken to avoid trip hazards for equipment design and the need forby ensuring adjacent surfaces are not at impact-absorbing surfaces, sometimesdifferent levels or angles. Think about called ‘safety surfaces’, are not legalhow the surface will be used, how often requirements, they are a key resource inand by who. Some surfaces will impede the process of risk management. This willwheelchair users, others may cause bottle- not eliminate accidents but will reducenecks. Textured surfacing should highlight the severity of head injuries. Grass can beareas of the grounds rather than be used considered a safety surface for equipmentin areas of high traffic. Day to day check with a critical fall height under 1.5m butfor trip hazards, icy patches, broken steps, a risk assessment should still be carrieduneven paving, drain covers etc. See out if it is to be used in this way. It canalso ‘Further resources’. get muddy in winter and very hard in health and saFetY in the school grounds
  4. 4. groundnotes • Ponds Ideally ponds should be located All available to members to download where children are not able to reach them from our website www.ltl.org.uk. without supervision – fenced off or in aWorking with volunteers courtyard. If children are able to access a • Managing Risk and play; implementation guide can be downloaded at pond without supervision, a hinged steeland pupils mesh cover is advised. The pond should www.playengland.org.uk.When volunteers and pupils areinvolved, health and safety should be be designed to be obvious (not blending • For health and safety information in to the surroundings). Edges should be www.teachernet.gov.uk/manage-as high a consideration as it would be gently sloping, and well defined, with ment/healthandsafety.with professional contractors, perhaps suitable surfacing such as a deck, whereeven more so. Generally anything you pond dipping can take place. Fencing • Standards www.bsi-global.com BSwouldn’t do at home as a DIY job should needs to be robust and secure to reduce EN 1176 (on fixed play equipment andnot be done at school by amateurs. If an the risk of unauthorized access and the surfacing) BS EN 1177 (surfacing)experienced project manager is available gate must be lockable. See also ‘Furtherto oversee volunteers, so much the resources’. • BTCV www.btcv.org.better – even if you have to pay them • Royal Society for Prevention offor their time. Organisations like BTCV Accidents (RoSPA) www.rospa.org.uk.(see ‘Further resources’) can help provide Contract managementpeople qualified to manage a volunteer Whenever a contractor works on a school • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site there are a number of factors to take www.hse.gov.uk.workforce for larger schemes. Key into consideration. Many will be addressedpoints to consider include: by the school’s existing health and safety • More than Swings and Roundabouts: planning for outdoor play by the• taking a skills audit policy but the following in particular Children’s Play Council (£16.50) and• ensuring volunteers wear appropriate should be agreed and written into the contract documentation: Too safe for their own good by Jennie clothing and footwear Lindon (£12) from the National• providing suitable equipment and • hours of work and type of tasks Children’s Bureau www.ncb.org.uk. suitable while children are working. demonstrating how to use it safely. Tool safety talks are essential, and good supervision will reduce the • measures to secure the site during and after school hours. risk of accidents • materials and equipment storage.• providing refreshments and taking regular breaks • longer term maintenance arrangements. Check that your contractors have a• planning a realistic timetable of tasks Health and Safety Certificate and current• if necessary, police checking public liability insurance. Landscape Architects should have professional volunteers indemnity cover (PII). Seating, enclosures• checking your insurance covers and imaginative features are often designed volunteers and work done out of in partnership with artists. The contract school hours. with the artist needs to be very clear, detailing in addition to the points above: • health and safety arrangements during workshop sessions. • expected outcomes (learning and products). • evidence of how their work meets all the relevant standards that are met by similar manufacturers. The CDM (Construction, Design and Management) regulations govern a number of important issues on construction sites. All reputable contractors will follow the CDM regulations, but they are not applicable to all situations (for examplean unacceptable risk and can be seen as most small schemes are exempt). Ask youra learning opportunity. See also ‘Further contractor if the regulations apply. RoSPAresources’. and www.healthandsafety.co.uk have © This resource was originally excellent information on contractors in created as part of the Schoolgrounds-UKClimbing equipment Climbing schools (see ‘Further resources’). membership scheme from theequipment is sometimes used out of national school grounds charityschool hours, in which case it should be Learning through Landscapesclearly marked with disclaimer notices. Further resources operating in Scotland as Grounds for LearningObtain advice on the appropriate wording • Advice sheets Planting (including (registered charity no. in England and Walesfrom your health and safety advisor, poisonous plants), Reducing waste, Shade 803270 and in Scotland SCO38890).and check also that lettings agreements and shelter, Surfaces, Using tyres in your To find out more aboutand insurance policies cover any outdoors; Groundnotes Ponds (March membership call 01962 845811out-of-school use. 2008); Out and about Risky? (July 2007). or visit www.ltl.org.ukhealth and saFetY in the school grounds