On becoming an academy school, governing owner-operators take on legal responsibility for the Health & Safety of staff and students.

If you govern an academy or are thinking of doing so you may not realise just how heavy this legal responsibility is. As governors you must by law appoint someone to help you with Health & Safety. This person must be “competent” which means they must have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to give sensible advice about managing your school’s risks and keeping up with the law.

As governors you must by law appoint a person(s) to help you with Health & Safety. These persons must be “competent”. If the law is broken then you as the owner-operators will be the prime-target for proceedings by the police, HSE or claimants.

Substantial Fines

The operators of Birmingham’s Aston Manor Academy, Equitas Academies Trust, know only too well how easy it is to fall foul of the law.

They were fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £3.000 in costs for failing to properly manage refurbishment works and exposing workers to asbestos. The trust carelessly overlooked the law and committed an offence under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Thompson said the incident “would have been avoided had the academy put procedures in place to ensure that relevant parties understood their duties around minimising the risk of asbestos exposure in the school”. He added “Although the school had not been under local authority control since 2011, it failed to ensure employees and management received adequate training to make up for the loss of local authority support and ensure that a suitable asbestos management plan was in place.”

Talk to Professionals

The Equitas case shows the importance of making sure your academy has effective and compliant Health & Safety systems. It is critical to make sure your Competent Person(s) is suitably qualified to advise you on safe working and constantly changing Health & Safety law.

Nick Wilson, Director of Health & Safety Services at Ellis Whittam, has produced a Competent Person guide which answers many frequently asked questions. You can read the FAQ here.

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