According to legislation, schools fall under the purview of ‘estates’ or ‘facilities’, rendering them governable by the same laws which apply to all facilities – requiring maintenance and management which is up to the highest standard. As schools are facilities which host a large number of minors daily, the health and safety requirements and procedures are of the utmost importance.
The Health and Safety Executive
As a facility, schools are beholden to the Health and Safety Executive’s standards and codes for good practice; the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA). The HSWA states that the responsibility for the health and safety of employees rests with the employer.
Employers are therefore required to ensure, as much as is reasonably possible, the health, safety and welfare of employees; as well as to conduct themselves in such a manner that they do not risk anyone’s health or safety.
Maintenance plays a large role here, as part of the employer’s duties are to ensure safety on the premises; provide information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure continued safety; and to maintain the premises in a manner which ensures continued safety.
In the case of a school, these responsibilities are usually delegated to specific members of the board and teaching staff. The designated person is required to ensure that statutory compliance is met by the school and that competent persons are engaged to assist with the various compliance areas.
What makes a ‘competent person’ in terms of delegation?
A competent person should have core knowledge of the subject, sufficient training to carry out tasks required and the expertise to do those tasks properly, as well as the necessary qualities to be considered competent. It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that this person is regularly trained, and the onus of responsibility in the case of liability will still rest with the employer.
Who is the employer?
This differs based on the type of school. For the sake of ease, however, here is the list:
The local authority is the employer for:
- Community and community special schools
- Voluntary-controlled schools
- Maintained nursery schools
- Pupil referral units
The governing body is the employer for:
- Foundation and foundation special schools
- Voluntary-aided schools
The school proprietor is the employer for:
- Free schools
- Other independent schools
Creating a safe learning environment
The general rule of thumb for safety in schools is termed as ‘leading sensible health and safety management in schools’. This essentially means that the focus should be on real risks with the potential to cause harm, avoiding the wasteful use of resources on trivialities and unnecessary paperwork. Leaders should follow a sensible and proportionate approach to health and safety management, which promotes risk awareness rather than risk avoidance.
This model favours a level-headed approach; rather than an overly cautious one. The latter can cause pupils to miss out on opportunities for growth and exploration. Sensibility must start at the top in a school, where every person in the management team can be relied upon to ensure that risks are correctly and sensibly managed.
The goal is to create a safe learning environment where pupils are cognisant and understand the risks around them, and can deal with them. It means doing what is reasonably practicable to reduce risks and to instil measures to manage risks. It is not about eliminating the risk at all.
What is a good strategy to adopt?
A proactive approach to upkeep and building maintenance is considered the best place to start. This is also known as planned preventative maintenance (PPM); a scheduled service carried out by a competent party or third-party to ensure that all equipment is working correctly. This reduces the chances of emergency calls for unexpected issues and enables the bursar to reasonably forecast the financial requirements ahead.
Enlisting the services of a PPM contractor, like Voltix Services, will also mean that you have a one-call solution for any problems, and can deal with them as and when they arise. The early legwork can save a lot of money over time, as corrective maintenance can cost up to five times as much as preventative maintenance.
Having a fully-trained team on the premises is also a very good idea, especially staff with extra skills in carpentry, plumbing and electrical; as this will prevent costly call-outs at unplanned times. A yearly service plan for predictive maintenance will go a long way to keeping costs down.
Plan and prepare
Of course, it almost goes without saying that a full audit of the school at appropriate times is critical. This audit should result in a full list of all systems, their current condition and a useable lifetime estimate. Everything in a facility will wear out over time – carpets, plumbing, HVAC systems and the roof – all of it has a life expectancy. Knowing this expectancy is an excellent practice to get into the habit of.
When you have established your audit and quantified the lifetime of each component of the facility, your next step is to reserve the appropriate funding through strategic financial planning. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking certain essentials like Legionella, fire prevention, key health and safety aspects, pump stations and portable appliance testing. This could result in serious fines.
Why Voltix Services?
As stated above, the best practice for a school is to have an effective, full-service Facilities Maintenance provider who can help on all fronts. In this, Voltix Services is the perfect partner to assist in running any type of school, as we are fully equipped and accredited to assist so that you can focus on what matters most – your students!
We provide schools with everything from planned preventative maintenance contracts, to emergency repairs, installations, statutory compliance services and comprehensive advice. As a maintenance partner, we bring with us an understanding of the organisational and regulatory needs of schools in order to provide an exceptional level of service.
Amongst our services, we offer:
- Statutory Compliance – ensuring that your site complies with current legislation throughout the year
- Mechanical and Electrical Maintenance
- Building Fabric and Systems
- Fire and Security
- Energy Services – we will advise on possible energy-saving methods of heating, cooling and lighting on your premises, and we can help you find the most competitive electricity, gas and water contracts in the market
In addition, you will receive a 24-hour call out service, 365 days a year with a maximum response time of 4 hours.
Voltix Services employs a specialist team of in-house engineers, who all undergo DBS-checks as part of their induction process. Your school will benefit from regular engineers, who build up the knowledge and experience of your individual site. This ensures your confidence in the service you receive.