Health & Safety in Schools

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll outline what your Health & Safety responsibilities are, common hazards in schools, and who should monitor them.

Schools are a busy environment to work in. From children running around and playing, to teenagers that don’t always listen - it can be difficult to monitor and maintain Health & Safety.

Failure to do so can mean an employee, or even a pupil, is injured. As a result, you might face legal proceedings and financial damages.

In this guide, we'll outline what your Health & Safety responsibilities are, common hazards in schools, and who should monitor them.

What is Health & Safety in schools?

Health & Safety in schools is the legal obligation schools have to follow relevant Health & Safety legislation. This helps to protect employees and students from harm, as well as reduce the risk of public health incidents occurring.

For example, if you fail to implement a Health & Safety policy, your staff won’t be aware of the steps they should take when an incident occurs. As a result, staff or pupils might be seriously injured.

What is the Health & Safety law in schools?

The Health & Safety law schools must comply with the Health & Safety At Work Act (1974). This piece of legislation sets out rules, regulations and approved guidance for employers.

The government Health & Safety advice for schools also outlines a common law duty school staff have - which is to take care of each child in the same way a parent would.

What are the responsibilities of schools under the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974)?

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974), education employers have a very particular duty (as far as reasonably practical) to protect the welfare of:

  • Teachers and other staff.
  • Pupils.
  • Visitors.
  • Volunteers.
  • Contractors.

This includes in-school activities and out-of-school activities, such as school trips.

Let’s explore some other legal responsibilities schools have in this Act.

Health & Safety policy

The safety law also requires schools to have a Health & Safety policy in place. This document determines the Health & Safety duties of your staff, as well as advises what to do following an accident.

For example, it highlights who a staff member should report to if someone is in serious and immediate danger.

Formal risk assessments

Under this law, employers (including those working in education) are also required to assess the risk of harm occurring in their school by using safety risk assessments. Which assessment you need to follow will depend on the environment you're evaluating.

For example, if you're hoping to assess risks within your science labs, you'll need to use a Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) risk assessment. But, when managing risk related to fire safety, you’ll need to follow a fire risk assessment.

Remember, you must update your risk assessments annually, or whenever public health advice changes.

What are some Health & Safety risks in a school setting?

There are several Health & Safety risks a classroom can pose. For example, those studying in science labs are more at risk of being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Let's take a look at some other risks in the classroom:


In school, children are at risk of hurting themselves from equipment and apparatus. For example, PE equipment could harm children. This includes:

  • Balls.
  • Rackets.
  • Cones.

To avoid equipment causing injury, ensure children wear the correct gear (such as knee pads) for the sport they’re playing. Remember to update your equipment as well to ensure it doesn’t become faulty.

Slips, trips and falls

One of the most common injuries in any workplace is slips, trips and falls. They can cause minor and major injuries, depending on the severity of the fall and the height at which the person fell.

Slips and trips at schools can be the result of pupil’s unsuitable footwear or poor lighting.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE)

DSE and poorly designed workstations are another common risk of injury in schools. This is because they can cause musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain, visual fatigue, and stress.

To avoid health effects arising from DSE use, ensure your workstations are supportive to avoid pain in the neck, back or wrist.


Asbestos might also be a risk within your school premises. Asbestos is a natural mineral found in old buildings, which might include your school - depending on when it was built. It can cause respiratory issues, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma (a rare type of chest cancer).

Asbestos is a natural mineral incorporated into building materials, known as Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs). Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, so any building dating from before then may be at risk.


Another common risk in schools is the risk of fire occurring and spreading. This can be the result of several factors, including:

  • Faulty electrics.
  • Neglecting upgrades.
  • Heating and cooking systems.

Remember to stay on top of your fire risk assessments to ensure the risk of fire is reduced or removed.

How is Health & Safety monitored and maintained in schools?

There are several ways school leaders monitor and maintain Health & Safety in schools. For example, they might use a Health & Safety checklist to ensure their compliance in a variety of areas, such as Health & Safety law.

Other ways to monitor school Health & Safety include:

Appoint a competent person

All employers are required to appoint a competent person to oversee risk management. This should be someone with the necessary skills, training and experience to constantly review your Health & Safety management systems.

For example, in a school, this could be a caretaker who has extensive knowledge of the school premises, or someone from your senior leadership team. Just ensure they can advise on effective risk reduction measures.

Control measures

Health & Safety in schools are also maintained by employers putting in place proportionate control measures. Control measures are any way you can reduce or remove a hazard from causing harm to others.

For example, a control measure might require all pupils and visitors of the science lab to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a lab coat, at all times. As a result, the risk of being exposed to hazardous chemicals is reduced.

Health & Safety training

Health & Safety training will also ensure your staff are equipped with the best safety practices. And, should an accident occur, they should already be aware of what steps they need to take and when. This training might include:

For example, if a pupil is unconscious and in need of immediate first aid, your staff members should be able to administer it effectively and safely.


Who is responsible for Health & Safety in schools?

Overall, the responsibility of managing Health & Safety in schools lies with the employer of school staff. This is usually the governing body or local authority of the area. However, the day-to-day running of Health & Safety management is typically monitored by the school management team.

However, all your employees must be aware of best Health & Safety practices. From your teaching assistants, to your department heads - everyone should be well-versed in keeping themselves and others safe.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a Health & Safety officer in schools?

The role and responsibilities of a school Health & Safety officer vary. But mostly, they develop, review, and implement safety procedures related to school security. This includes the school's:

  • Health & Safety policy.
  • Fire safety policy.
  • Transport safety policy.

They're also responsible for identifying hazards and risks on the school premises. This is so they can monitor them closely, and consider whether they need to make safety arrangements to reduce or remove the risk.

Does Ofsted look at Health & Safety?

Whilst Ofsted doesn’t specifically carry out Health & Safety checks, they will report schools that don't comply with statutory regulations.

For example, if your school doesn't display its fire evacuation procedures clearly, they might report you to the Health & Safety Executive - who could investigate the school to ensure you’re fulfilling your legal responsibility.

How Peninsula can help you with Health & Safety in schools

Our Health & Safety experts give you the help and advice you need to pass every school inspection. No matter your concerns, or risks present in your workplace, we can ensure your Health & Safety compliance.

You can speak to a consultant whenever you like, get professional support when performing risk assessments, and enjoy watertight documentation written by a team of experts.

Get expert advice on Health & Safety in schools from Peninsula

If you work in education, you must ensure your employees and pupils operate in a safe and healthy environment. This means outlining your Health & Safety policy, appointing a competent person, and implementing control measures.

Failure to ensure your own Health & Safety is managed effectively could result in staff and pupils suffering serious injury at school. As a result, you might face legal proceedings and financial costs.

Peninsula offers expert advice on Health & Safety matters in schools. Our teams provide 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our Health & Safety experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.


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