With fewer pupils on school grounds due to distance learning, the New Year is a prime opportunity to carry out necessary compliance reviews. Bring your H&S programme back up to speed – and get set for the return of all students – with our rundown of best practice checks across COVID-19 and other key areas. 

Current COVID-19 guidance 

With COVID-19 guidelines constantly evolving, it’s essential to regularly access current advice. Resources from the UK Government and industry bodies, such as CLEAPSS and the AfPE, share the latest guidance for educational settings, as well as ideas for adapting activities and classroom spaces to maintain COVID safety. 

Risk assessments, reviews and staff training  

Kick off the year with a comprehensive review of safety policies and risk assessments, undertaking reviews as necessary. Take steps to renew staff training, ensuring all employees are competent in infection control, first aid (including defibrillator use), food safety, fire risks and H&S essentials such as manual handling, slips and trips and COSHH. If you’ve fallen behind on training requirements during the pandemic, initiate refresher sessions for existing staff and build detailed safety demos in your new starter onboarding process. 

Minibus safety 

Confirm that all employees authorised to drive school minibuses have undertaken appropriate minibus driver training (including staff granted a driving license before 31 January 1997, who automatically received D1 entitlement to drive minibuses). 

Equipment inspections  

Revisit work equipment checks across your campus to ensure facilities are in full working order. Your tick list could include passenger lifts, hoists, fire safety kit, machinery servicing and local exhaust ventilation (LEV). 

Legionella checks 

Building closures of as little as 2-3 weeks can increase the risk of hazardous bacterial build-up within your water systems. It’s vital to keep Legionella risk assessments up to date and conduct regular surveys of changing room taps and shower heads, air conditioning units and water fountains. Ensure correct actions are taken during and after shutdowns, including the routine cleaning and flushing of water outlets and dead legs to prevent harmful growth in stagnant pipe water. 

Grounds and building audits 

Work closely with your custodial team to head off facilities hazards before you’re back to full capacity. Take a complete site tour, inspecting not only structures and green spaces, but also the condition of equipment within them – from maintenance machinery to bulbs on external escape lighting and gritting and snow clearing kit. Assess the security of tools and harmful substances (such as lawn treatments and lab chemicals), making sure they’re inaccessible to pupils, trespassers or unauthorised personnel.

Tree surveys and maintenance

Safeguard against falling trees or branches by maintaining regular checks for disease, decay, parasites and structural weaknesses. While your grounds team can be trained in day-to-day pruning, schools should enlist qualified specialists for larger-scale removal work and the evaluation of tree health and hazards.