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Health & Safety on school trips

Colleagues regularly talk about the burdensome paperwork required before a school trip.  It isn’t uncommon to hear talk of ‘health and safety gone mad’.  In an effort to ensure a proportionate response to risk and to prevent the promulgation of paperwork systems which become the focus rather than a tool, the Health and Safety Executive recently published a paper ‘School trips and outdoor learning activities: Tackling the health and safety myths’.  The paper does what it says on the tin. 


Here are a few quotes as a summary of the key messages:


“HSE fully supports schools arranging a wide range of out of school activities, which can include museums, trips to the countryside or taking part in challenging and adventurous activities.  HSE wants to make sure that mistaken and unfounded health and safety concerns do not create obstacles that prevent these from happening.”


“HSE wants to encourage all schools and local authorities to remove wasteful bureaucracy imposed on those organising trips and activities – so that the focus is on how the real risks are managed and not on the paperwork.”


“Well-managed school trips and outdoor activities are great for children.  Children won’t learn about risk if they’re wrapped in cotton wool.”


“Risk assessment should focus attention on real risks – not risks that are trivial and fanciful.”


“Proportionate systems should be in place – so that trips presenting lower risk activities are quick and easy to organise, and higher risk activities (such as those involving climbing, caving or water based activities) are properly planned and assessed.”


“HSE has [reported some offences to the Procurator Fiscal] in rare cases where there was evidence of recklessness or a clear failure to follow sensible precautions…Schools and their staff are expected to deal with risk responsibly and sensibly.  If things do go wrong during  a trip, provided sensible and proportionate steps have been taken, it is highly unlikely that there would be any breach of health and safety law involved, or that it would be in the public interest for HSE to [take action].”


The full paper can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/school-trips.pdf.  The HSE website is also a useful source of advice on conducting risk assessments www.hse.gov.uk


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