Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Health and safety update

The last few months have been busy for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The conclusion of the case of the outbreak of legionella in Barrow in Furness - where the council and the architect supervising the Sports Centre were fined £125,000 and £15,000 respectively, reminds us that responsibilities may be brought home to individuals in charge as well as to employers.

Members responsible for health and safety may wish to check the HSE's helpful pamphlet Five Steps to Risk Assessment, recently republished and downloadable from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf

On the other hand, a settlement has been reached over the issue of working at heights, which at one time seemed likely to put an end to adventurous activities involving climbing.

The noise regulations have been updated. This will be of limited relevance to schools but it does state that, if every time you go into a music room or workshop, you cannot hear someone two metres away, people should be wearing ear protection.

Smokers are definitely out in the cold with the introduction of the new regulations on smoking, or rather not smoking, in the workplace. To add to the discomfort of not being able to smoke in a workplace in an enclosed space, in law a patch of ground covered by a retractable awning is an enclosed space.

As we go into winter, heat in workplaces may not seem to be an issue and in any case there are no upper limits for heat in a workplace. There are for cold, though: 16°C for sedentary activities; 13°C for active ones.

Finally the European Court of Justice has rebuked the UK government for its approach to the provision of rest breaks under the Working Time Directive. The court held that there is a duty on employers to see that workers take their break; not merely that they have the opportunity to do so. We will eagerly await a test case on the right of senior leaders to a lunch break...

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