Chemical Safety for Schools in the UK
Updated: Sep 22
Hey, Dale here again.
Today I'm going to cover chemical safety in schools.
The safety of our kids is paramount to us all, so I want to go over the requirements that your children's schools should be following when it comes to chemical safety.
Every school in the UK is required to provide proper chemical safety measures to protect their employees, and most importantly, their students - your children.
The requirement is called for under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. The COSHH regulations call for the governing body for each school to put in place arrangements for the proper assessment of possible exposure to employees and students when using or handling hazardous substances in the classroom, and their storage. The school's safety people (I'll get to them in a minute) must then go through the proper steps to prevent that exposure. Where complete prevention is impossible, the school must put into place control measures to protect your children against exposure and reduce the risk of injury.
This is likely to include stuff like ventilation of fumes and dust, and equipping your kids with proper protective equipment; goggles, gloves and aprons for example. These chemical safety requirements do not only cover the use of substances like cleaning chemicals, or other in-class teaching chemicals. Because, like I mentioned above, it's also required that steps are taken to eliminate or reduce exposure to dust, fumes, and biological hazards that could arise due to certain activities.
Inhaling dust and fumes is bad for anyone, but our children are especially susceptible to the illnesses that it can cause.
While everyone is obviously responsible for the safety of the children in school (including you, the parent), Chemical safety and the COSHH regulations will only have an impact on certain departments. Departments that will never use, handle, store or perform any activity that could create hazardous substances will feel little to no impact, apart from proper cleaning. Any science, residence, estates, reprographics or catering department in any school are required to undertake the proper chemical safety assessments, since they're using substances that pose a risk to your children's health. Those departments must then, following the assessments of their safety personnel, put into place the proper control measures.
Earlier I mentioned the school safety people. Every school is required to have on their staff a group of members trained in the proper health and safety measures. Those persons nominated by a school to become health and safety coordinators will be required to attend the proper training in COSHH regulations and assessments. The schools new safety people must be taught how to ascertain which chemicals will be used by any department, and also which activities all departments will undertake that would create exposure to other hazardous substances; dust, for instance. The schools chosen safety people are also required to obtain any and all safety data sheets for those chemicals that will be used or stored on the premises.
This includes contacting manufacturers and suppliers of hazardous substances, when necessary.
Safety data sheets are made by manufacturers of chemicals to instruct users how to properly handle and store chemicals and what to do if a spillage occurs. Those safety data sheets must then be used by the safety people to perform the proper COSHH safety assessments. Where it is not possible to eliminate exposure, the school control measures must attempt to control the risk at its source. For example, an activity that requires a cleaning chemical to be used; If an improved, less hazardous formula is available, then that new substance must be used.
Another example would be personal protective equipment (PPE) with an improved design or material. The COSHH risk assessments will determine whether a safe working procedure can be put into place, and when and how hazardous substances will be used or stored if the procedure is deemed safe. Most importantly, the risk assessment also dictates which control methods must be used to control exposure and keep your children as safe as possible. Those work procedures must also contain instructions on the proper actions to take should an accident occur. This is especially important in schools.
Accidents could be anything from a spillage, to accidental exposure due to splashes, digestion or inhalations of airborne dust.
The safety people must ensure that everyone is using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be used for the activity. PPE must also be regularly inspected and stored correctly. All created work procedures should also include instructions on the proper disposal of unwanted or waste substances, under the school’s environmental policy.
How seriously do your children's school take the safety of your children when it comes to COSHH?
Is the training the Safety coordinators receive enough?
Current COSHH training is outdated and doesn't actually test whether the safety people are capable of assessing a risk and then creating a proper risk assessment and implementing the correct control measures.
This doesn't only go for schools, but everyone.
Ensure the safety of your children, yourself and the school by sharing this article with them and urging them to take the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™.
I created this new training course specifically to fill the huge gap in the currently inadequate chemical safety training.
It can be taken by anyone and is completely free.
Really want to ensure the safety of you and your kids?
I urge you to take the course too!