Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Not a safe assumption

Q The school is undergoing some significant building repair work. The local authority has appointed contractors to carry out this work which involves erecting scaffolding. As head, can I assume that because the LA has instructed competent contractors to carry out the work, I need not concern myself with any health and safety issues?

A By and large it will be the contractors who are responsible if there are any breaches of health and safety, provided the contractors are competent and it can be shown that relevant enquiries were made by the LA to establish this prior to them being awarded the contract.

Unfortunately, however, this is not the complete picture. The head or principal bears ultimate responsibility for health and safety, even where someone else, such as the LA, appoints the contractors or where the decision making and day-to-day running have been handed to a business manager or a deputy.

Therefore, if you, as the head, knew or ought to have known that the contractors were carrying out their work in a dangerous manner, you could still bear some responsibility for breaches of health and safety. It would be prudent to keep an overview of the building work and to raise concerns immediately about any activity you think could cause injury to pupils, staff or visitors.  

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