This section gives you basic information about what you need to know as an employer and an employee. Activity leaders should understand their responsibilities when on-site, as well as off-site.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), health, safety and welfare responsibilities lie with the employer. This might be a Local Authority (LA) or governing body or a management panel. An employer has the legal responsibility to carry out the duties imposed by the Act. However, employers can delegate the tasks necessary to discharge these duties, even though the overall responsibility for health and safety rests with the employer.
“Who is my employer”?
This may not be quite as simple as it seems …
- The local authority is the employer for community schools, community special schools, voluntary controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units.
- The employer is usually the governing body for trust schools, city technology colleges, foundation schools, foundation special schools and voluntary aided schools. However, it may be the case that these establishments have chosen to opt into their local authority visit guidance and its supporting systems as if the local authority were the employer.
- The employer is usually the governing body or proprietor for independent schools.
- The local authority is the employer for Children’s Services settings such as PRUs, statutory youth groups, Music Service, Social Services, Looked After Children, LA outdoor centres etc. There may be other examples.
- The increasing use by local authorities of commissioned services should be on the basis that those commissioned should be tied by legal agreements to follow local authority guidance, as if the local authority were the employer.
Employers are also under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of anyone else who may be affected by their activities. This includes participants in off-site activities. In the case of schools, and other educational establishments, this includes learners and parents taking parts in visits.
Remember that Category 1 activities should be assessed beforehand to confirm there is no significant chance of harm – these activities should then be covered by policy and practice, without the need for a separate written risk assessment.
These are often those activities organised within your own grounds or local environment, but they can be further afield. Should some of these be required by an employer to be risk assessed, then routine activities can be covered by Generic Risk Assessments and included in policy. However, their use should be included in any staff training and regularly reviewed. Should this complexity increase the chance of harm, then the activity may need to move to a Category 2.
For schools, parental consent is not needed for these activities, if they fall within the normal school day. You should however, include information in your school prospectus. It is good practice to inform parents where there is a specific reason for doing so, e.g. to ensure appropriate clothing is made available.
Category 1 Activities
The responsibility for planning, organisation and management, should normally rest with the teacher/leader following the practices in operation when planning any classroom lesson or project-based activity.
Category 2 Activities
As above but approval should be obtained from the appropriate person in your LOtC team / organisation and your employer should be informed.
Category 3 Activities
these should be defined and approved by your employer, following approval processes at Category 2.
Headteachers and heads of other establishments should satisfy themselves that persons conducting risk assessments have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to do so.
In all cases governing bodies should ensure:
- that general information about routine activities is included in the prospectus and guidance and that where needed, Generic Risk Assessments1 are in place for Category 2 activities.
- there is a process for the approval of Category 2 and 3 activities
- there is a specific and stated objective for the activities
- good practice in group leadership is applied to activities.
Where the LOtC activity is Category 3 (on or off-site) ensure:
- that plans comply with the school’s/ organisation’s own policies, the employer’s health and safety policy, regulations and guidelines
- that an effective system is in place for the approval of plans — by the LOtC team /the employer, Local Authority or organisation
- that Category 3 activities have been assessed and approved by the senior management and by the employer
- the teacher/group leader reports back after the visit
- that you are informed about non-routine visits well in advance.
The governing body need not assess and approve directly. However, they should ensure that a system is in place for the approval of plans. This would normally be via the Headteacher, LOtC or EVC co-ordinator, the Local Authority, or the appropriate person in your organisation.