Health and safety advice
Guidance to support boards of trustees and school staff make safe, sensible and practical decisions for their own and others’ health and wellbeing.
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, boards must provide a safe and healthy workplace for staff, contractors and visitors; and staff must take responsibility for ensuring their own safety.
As schools reopen after the earthquake, everyone needs to be aware of the following points.
Reactions will vary
Boards and staff need to take a commonsense and practical approach to getting their school up and running again. This includes being aware that people will react differently in the aftermath of the earthquake. Some will need extra support, some will be very focused on caring for their family and some will be best supported by helping to get things up and running.
Communication is vital
Some of the issues that arise as schools reopen may not be covered by employment agreements. Both parties need to be willing to discuss issues in an open and constructive way. For example, staff who are concerned about their safety in returning to work need to raise their concerns with the board.
Special tasks need agreement from both sides
If a board wants to ask a staff member to do work they wouldn’t normally do, such as clean up work, both sides have to be comfortable with the arrangement. A staff member has the right to refuse to do work they consider to be unsafe.
Both parties must be confident that the staff member has the capability to do the work, that they have the right supervision if necessary and that they have the right protective gear if needed.
As a minimum, protective clothing includes heavy shoes or boots, a helmet and safety glasses and a protective jacket and trousers if needed.
Working with staff health and safety representatives and with union representatives, can be useful when having these discussions and in resolving issues as they arise.
Individual safety is always the top concern
The safety of the individual always comes before, for example, the need to have a classroom ready for students on day one that the school reopens. No clean up or other work should be undertaken that puts individual safety at risk. Both the board and the staff are responsible for ensuring this.
Standard emergency procedures apply
There may be unexpected incidents following the earthquake, such as the presence of chemicals or gas. Normal emergency procedures always apply: evacuate immediately and contact the relevant authorities.