• Georgina Cook

Four safety critical stages to start the school year

Updated: Mar 3

The start of the school year contains many pressures. From ensuring you have the right number of staff, to last minute enrolments and seemingly endless timetable amends, making a start on your OHS policies can seem like just another burden.


However, while the list of what you could do is almost endless, there are four tasks schools should prioritise to make sure they stay ahead.


Communication procedures

It can seem like ground hog day but every year a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) must be appointed. The HSR must be elected by staff and have the appropriate level of training. This is a one day annual refresher or the five-day induction course for every new HSR. Each school will also need to demonstrate that there is regular communication between leadership and staff on workplace safety. An easy way to demonstrate this is to ensure that OHS is a standing agenda item at staff meetings. Another easy win is a quick update to your OHS Notice Board, it is a legal requirement that this is up-to-date and a full list of what to include can be found here.


Staff Induction


Every new staff member when they commence employment must complete the staff induction checklist. There is a template that the Department of Education provides, but it is really important that you customise it to suit your workplace. Another start of the year activity is to approve the Issue Resolution Flowchart, a document which outlines how issues are reported and then resolved in your workplace. The easiest way to do this is to table it during a staff meeting and record its acceptance in the staff meeting minutes. These minutes should then be printed and displayed on the OHS Noticeboard. It is also important that the HSR is acknowledged and endorsed by staff and each member of the OHS Committee introduced.


OHS Committee


While the policy states that a school can decide if they’d like to establish a Health and Safety Committee (HSC) any workplace with a significant number of students should have a committee. In a lot of ways it makes running the OHS easier as it creates a formal working group to assist with monitoring and implementing necessary work procedures. To create a Health and Safety Committee, half of the members must be employees and a maximum of half can be management. The HSR must be a member and a charter agreed and established. There also needs to be a formal meeting every quarter with minutes taken and displayed on the OHS Noticeboard to ensure staff are aware of actions being taken to improve safety in the workplace.


For smaller schools, an OHS Working Group can be established that does not require a formal charter or the 50/50 split of management to employees. However, for most workplaces of a certain size this would not be the recommended approach. A formal recording of key OHS actions will provide a more efficient management structure to staff and employees.


First Aid Summary Sheet


The Department provides a First Aid Risk Assessment which enables you to see how many trained first aid officers and what equipment you’ll need for the year. For instance, for less than 50 staff and students one first aid officer and one first aid kit is required but for between 200 - 399 you’ll need four first aid officers and six first aid kits as a minimum. Please refer to the First Aid Risk Assessment for a full break down. If your first aid room needs refreshing, St John Ambulance is a brilliant resource and their team are very happy to come to the school to undertake training and to replenish supplies. They are even happy to do a full audit of any existing first aid kits for complete peace of mind. Once first aiders are identified it is important that they are communicated to everyone in the workplace. The First Aid Summary Sheet outlines who to contact in the instance of a medical incident and should be displayed near first aid kits, in first aid room/sick bay and on notice boards.

Conclusion


It is important to reinforce that the tasks listed above are a small proportion of the overall process of setting up and implementing the OHSMS. Other tasks such as reviewing the OHS Activities Calendar, OHS Risk Register and Staff Training Plans are also vital stages of the process. We have talked about tips for setting up the OHS Risk Register and the OHS Activities calendar in previous blogs.


If you have any additional questions, we encourage you to call the Department of Education's OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715. Or if you’d like any further information on the services that TeachSafe offers please get in touch. TeachSafe specialises in creating and managing these documents for schools so that you can focus on implementing rather than recording the procedures. The more you do at the start of the school year, the better prepared you’ll be for the remainder. Please feel free to contact TeachSafe on 0403 865 142 or info@teachsafe.com.au if you’d like any additional information.


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