Daily archives: Thursday,

Health and safety issues when putting up displays. 6

No display this time, just a word of warning:

There have been over 3000 staff injuries from falls in schools in the last 5 years in the UK. Classroom assistants and teachers are both at risk from falls especially in older buildings with high ceilings. At this time of year they are more likely to be stripping boards and possibly re-backing them rather than actually putting up displays. Putting in that extra effort to yank out a staple, straining to reach something just beyond your grasp puts you at risk. Even quite low falls from desks and/or chairs while putting up displays can be damaging.

Be aware of your school’s health and safety policy and risk assessment, which should cover the possibility of falls. You need to not just know it but follow it! In some schools the policy is carefully displayed, perhaps in the staffroom, and then totally ignored. I’ve found myself precariously perched, even standing on a wall mounted computer bench, or balanced on a sink trying to just reach a tricky bit. If I’d fallen I would have been in clear breach of the Staff Health and Safety policy and I’d have had no claim against the school for any injuries I sustained. The policy clearly states that you have to use step ladders but from a step ladder there is no way to reach the top of the display board. I could/should have refused to do it, but then my teacher would have done it herself and she’s shorter than me! So you probably need to get some agreement as a whole staff that none of you will take risks. Might be something to take up with your union rep and/or your Well-being facilitator (if you have one).

Here’s some advice from the HSE

  • Always ask yourself if you can avoid or minimise work at height if possible, eg use lightly weighted strings to pull display items up over beams, prepare displays as far as possible before putting them up.(I totally disagree with this bit – heavy displays are much harder to put up!) Avoid becoming another statistic
  • Always use suitable equipment for working at height, eg kick-step type stools, properly designed and maintained low steps, poles for opening high windows etc. Your school should have this sort of equipment. If you still can’t reach without overstretching, ask for help from a premises manager. (This may lead to you watching her do exactly what you were about to!) — Be aware of your school’s health and safety policy and risk assessment, which should cover the possibility of falls from height.
  • Always think of your personal safety and assess the risk from what you propose to do.
  •  Remember that school furniture was not designed for you to stand on.
  • Be aware of obstructions at all times.
  •  Wear suitable footwear.
  • Report poor maintenance, such as damaged window mechanisms, which could create hazards.
  •  Be aware of slippery surfaces, particularly stairs.
  • Reduce accidents on stairs by encouraging people not to run or push.
  • If you are worried about the lack of equipment or its poor quality, inform your head teacher or safety representative.

Are you safe when you are putting up displays? There are some excellent, free resources & e-learning course from the HSE