I appreciate that for many of you, you will probably be fed up to the back teeth about safeguarding audits and risk assessments.
They are however, still, a really important part of the work that you do in your organisation.
Your risk assessments are really, really important. And they are important because in the current climate, they will help you understand your weaknesses in terms of your business, your classroom settings, your corridor and your open spaces etc.
They can really help you to, to use a legal phrase, mitigate the issues that you are going to face.
We are currently in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.
Tonight, I want to look at why your risk assessments are so important to help you keep teaching, keep sharing and to keep your business running.
Risk assessments are one of those things that can be really, really cumbersome, can feel like you do absolutely all of the time. And they can also be something that you can be really really tempted to shortcut. If you do a lot of the same thing over and over and over again. It can be really, really tempting to just cut and paste your assessments from one document to the next.
Please, do not do that.
You will put yourself in an enormously difficult situation.
And the reason for that is this: your risk assessments form a huge part of your ability to manage what is happening your organisation, it is a way to control the dangers, they have the risks that can happen during school activities, sports activities, outings, those kinds of things.
They are an absolute must under health and safety legislation.
So why is that important? Well, it’s important because if you do not comply with health and safety legislation, the reality is the person responsible, potentially somebody in the senior leadership team, if not your head teacher, or your CEO, could go to prison.
And your organisation can face an enormous fine. Also the organisation could potentially be sued by the family, for whose child this issue has arisen.
The potential implications are absolutely enormous here.
In terms of your risk assessment, what does it need to have in it?
Well, according to Health and Safety Executive, there are five things you need to be considering.
The Health and Safety Executive suggest you do these five steps.
- Identify the hazards
- Decide who might be harmed,
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
- Record your findings and implement them.
- Review your assessment as and when an update if necessary.
What are the hazards?
These could be anything at the moment and global pandemic, we’re talking about the risk of coronavirus, we’re talking about the risk of spreading it.
But it could be that you are talking about going on a school activity where there is lots of physical activity, there could be a potential injury, you could have it so that there is a decorator coming into the school or into your office space. And so there are students milling about around the place. That could be the hazard painter paint ladders. There’s a hazard to keep it relatively simple.
Who could be harmed by this?
If we think about the the decorator on his ladder that turns up in the middle of the day and wants to do work in a particular place which has got lots and lots of traffic for students and for staff.
Who are the people who may be harmed?
There are students and staff, that is relatively straightforward and simple.
How might they be harmed?
What could be the harm that befalls them?
Well, again, let’s use this example. It could be that the decorator is up his ladder, the ladder slips, and takes out a lot of students. Maybe staff and students inhale toxic parent fumes as the decorator has been using toxic paint which they hadn’t told you about. But maybe that hasn’t been checked it in terms of what material a decorator is using.
Maybe they are up a ladder, and they dropped, the parent can, maybe there’s somebody else gets up.
You’ve got to think about the how and that gets more complicated, depending on the activity that’s being undertaken.
You need to think about how the risks could be managed. For example, if you have an activity where students are regularly going into town, you might have a situation where every week, you’ve got traffic issues.
If we think about the current climate, and thinking about some of the particular hotspot areas in this country, you might have a regular trip into town for those students. And we’ll put Coronavirus to one side for the moment. You may have a situation whereby there is a large political protest taking place.
You would need to factor that into your risk assessment, because the how of ‘how students may be harmed’ is not by traffic necessarily on the main road, but it could be as a result of seeing this protest, being caught up in it. Maybe you have to take diversions and if you’ve got students who are neuro-diverse, maybe they will need additional support in order to do a different route or to take a different route.
Then have to evaluate the risks
So is it really a risk? Is it not a risk? Is it being overly cautious? Is it being? And are there other ways that you can mitigate that?
When we talk about evaluating something, you’re weighing up the pros and cons; you’re weighing up the different risks that there are for these young people, and making sure that you are happy with the conclusion that you come to.
It may be that is part of that risk assessment. And I know lots of you are doing that in terms of what’s currently happening.
Sometimes the risk is just too great that sometimes you may want to have a certain thing happen, but it’s just too great a risk, given everything else that is going on.
Whatever your decision, you must record the reasoning behind it.
Make a thorough written note of why you and how you have come to that conclusion. Make sure that is kept somewhere that is accessible by those who need to know it and need to have access to it. It is really important that these assessments are done, and that they are recorded.
Review your assessment
And finally, and a huge issue that is occurring right now, is that a risk assessment isn’t done once and then finished.
Your risk assessment has to be re assessed.
There will be a change in circumstance. There will be a change in things that are happening.
There may be a change in staff, there may be a change in students that you need to factor in, in terms of risk assessments that you’ve done.
There are lots of schools and organisations now having to implement the precautions that they put in place several weeks ago, in order to allow them to reopen, there are others who are having to reevaluate because of the rule of six.
There are others who are now having to double check that the processes and procedures that they put in place as part of their precautionary measures as a result of their risk assessment, that they actually work and they operate, and that they make sure that if there’s anything that needs to be changed, that they do so and update that risk assessment, because that is absolutely something that often is going to be looking at.
Risk assessments are really important.
And they are utterly necessary right now.
And they must be updated.
They must be kept securely.
And they must be reviewed on a regular basis.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.