4 School Safety Risks You May Not Have Thought Of (And Who to Ask About Them)

In November last year, 40 children fainted simultaneously at a school in Yorkshire. Why did this happen? Experts say it was a ‘ripple effect’ of collapsing that started because the school was too warm. Sure, this is a uniquely bizarre event, but schools are home to a surprisingly large number of health and safety risks that you may not have thought of. Here are 5 of them, and the 5 people you can ask to make sure your child is safe.

Risk 1: Electrical Equipment 

New technology plays an important part in your child’s education. Children learn how to type up documents, make graphs and even write computer code. Because of these developments, classrooms are becoming full of electrical equipment. Laptops and tablets sit beside pencils and paper. SMART boards have taken the place of white boards (and chalk boards before them). This increase in technology brings danger with it. A guide to school planning by the National Science Teachers Association says many schools do not have enough outlets for this new technology, leading to overuse of extension cords, a major hazard.

Who to Ask: School Technician 

The local education authority has legal responsibility for the safety of electrical equipment in schools, but if you have any concerns about the equipment your child is using, the school technician should be able to put you at ease, or look into any potential problems. 

What You Can Do as a Parent 

Make sure you educate your child on proper electrical usage. There is no need to scare them. Just let them know not to touch plug sockets with wet hands, and not to play with wires. This simple website from Electrical Safety First is a fun way to help your child learn these things: http://www.switchedonkids.org.uk/

Risk 2: Temperature 

It’s not every day that 40 children collapse at once due to a stuffy assembly hall. But without proper ventilation or heating, your child could be at risk. There are very strict guidelines in place to ensure pupils don’t overheat or freeze, but as we have seen this week, they aren’t always enough. 

Who to Ask: Headteachers 

It’s down to the local authorities to ensure functional heating systems in schools, but it is up to the headteachers to decide if a school’s temperature is too hot or too cold for the students. If the headteacher decides the temperature is wrong, they can shut the school down without notice. This means headteachers are the ones to ask if you have school temperature concerns. 

What You Can Do as a Parent 

Make sure your child is dressed appropriately and keep an eye on the weather. If your child doesn’t have a fever and they still complain about the school’s temperature, you can be sure the school is doing something wrong. 

Risk 3: Asbestos 

If your child’s school was built between 1950 and 1980, chances are it contains asbestos. Building with asbestos became illegal in 1999 but according to asbestos experts at OCS Environmental Services, it is still one of the biggest risks facing the public. Just a few months ago, the Guardian warned that schools are facing an ‘asbestos timebomb’ because so little asbestos has been removed since it was outlawed. Legally, asbestos can remain in a school if it is undisturbed, but when simply slamming a door can increase asbestos levels by 660%, it’s clear that it can still be dangerous. A helpful infographic from the asbestos advice helpline illustrates just how dangerous asbestos can be to your children. 

Who to Ask: Governors or Local Authorities 

In most schools the duty to maintain and repair the building is shared between the school’s own management and the local education authority. It might be easiest to ask a governor if they have an asbestos management plan to make sure any asbestos in the school is undisturbed, and to ask local authorities if they have any plans to remove asbestos from your child’s school soon. 

What You Can Do as a Parent 

Check the school for any asbestos warning labels and tell your child to take extra care in these areas. Make sure you have no asbestos problems in your home, as that will only make things worse. 

Risk 4: Bullying 

It may not be a conventional safety hazard, but your child’s physical and emotional health may be at risk from bullying. The NSPCC compiled statistics that show that bullying is increasingly a problem for school pupils. For instance, 16,000 children miss school per year due to bullying. Bullying has been linked to very serious mental health problems, and even suicide, in recent studies

Who to Ask: Teachers 

You could ask your child directly, but a lot of the time they won’t want to talk about it, or they won’t understand what’s truly going on. It’s best to ask their teacher if they have seen anything, or to keep an eye on your child if you think they are being bullied. 

What You Can Do as a Parent 

Try to create the kind of relationship where your child can be open with you. Let them know there’s nothing wrong with being upset and nothing wrong with being bullied. It’s also worth making sure your child is not the one doing the bullying. If you think this is the case, make sure they think about their actions and how they would want to be treated by others. 

More information on safety in schools can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/

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1 comment

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