Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Being safe at work and at school and ECE is important. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 comes into effect on 4 April 2016 and supports what many schools and ECE services already do.

Managing health and safety at school and ECEs is not new - schools and ECEs are doing it every day. There are lots of activities, like woodwork and metalwork classes, school camps and sports trips, chemistry labs, stored chemicals that the caretaker uses, even students’ use of the internet, that already require schools to have robust health and safety practices in place.

The new Health and Safety at Work Act is about shifting the focus from monitoring and recording incidents to creating a culture of proactively identifying and managing health and safety risks, taking steps that are reasonable for a workplace. It also clarifies who at school or ECE is responsible for health and safety and what happens if they fail to do their job.

In short, everyone from the board of trustees to parents and visitors has a general responsibility to take reasonable care for their own and others’ health and safety – at school and on trips and camps.

However, the primary duty of care is the responsibility of the board of trustees as the legal entity.

Individual board members, including the principal, have the duty of exercising due diligence to make sure the school is doing all that is “reasonably practicable” to ensure the health and safety of workers and others.

School boards should already have clear policies and practices for health and safety for all its activities and for all affected people – it’s already a Ministry of Education requirement under National Administration Guideline 5, as well as the previous Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 – so for many schools there shouldn’t be much change day to day.

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