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What academy governors need to know about Heath & Safety

01 January 2017

Solicitor Stuart Armstrong of SV Armstrong has developed a Health & Safety Leadership Checklist as an introduction for those managing academies.

In the event of a serious incident occurring on or off premises, it is likely that there may be an investigation by the police and/or the Health & Safety Executive. Individual governors, trustees, board members as well as officers and employees may all be required to demonstrate that they did everything so far as was reasonably practicable to prevent the incident from happening.

In this article, SV Armstrong solicitors summarise what governors and education leaders need to know:

Do board members know what they should be doing to avoid incidents occurring?

The HSE and the Institute of Directors in their Guidance to Directors (INDG 417) suggest three essential principles of effective leadership in health and safety. These apply to governors, trustees, officers, directors and their equivalent senior managers.  These are:

1. Strong and active leadership with:

  • visible, active commitment from the board; 
  • established downward communication systems; and 
  • good health and safety management integrated with business decisions.

2. Worker involvement that includes:

  • engaging the workforce in the promotion of safe and healthy conditions; 
  • effective upward communication; and 
  • high quality training.

3. Assessment and review processes that:

  • identify and manage risks; 
  • allow access to competent health and safety advice and require that advice to be followed; and 
  • include monitoring, reporting and reviewing of health and safety performance.

How should boards put these principles into practice? 

  • Agree a health and safety policy statement that the board then ratifies and the senior executive signs – for and on behalf of the board. This should be reviewed after 12 months and then on a regular basis after that. 
  • Agree on the practical arrangements for managing safety and checking on the understanding of those arrangements. Consider: 
    • Who gives the board its competent advice? This should be someone with the relevant safety Competence (Knowledge, Skills Training, Experience etc.  Training should be a Diploma Level qualification in Safety and Membership of a professional body (CMIOSH, MIIRSM or above); Experience in education and relevant knowledge of the industry; experience in working with the same systems etc.). Internal advice is preferable to external advice of the same level since internal advisors will have greater access to documents, people and facilities in the Academy; 
    • The board should also consider carrying out a Training Needs Assessment to identify who else may need additional health & safety training to carry out their roles (first response, manual handling, risk assessment etc). Training needs may be identified in a matrix of skills required for each level of post. 
    • To what extent is everyone aware of their responsibilities for safety, and do they understand their roles etc.). 
  • Agree on the policies/procedures operating in the organisation.
  • Agree on who will and how to review policies/procedures, implement changes in policy/procedure, monitor the effectiveness of change, and consider whether the changes are working in practice. Continue to review on a regular basis.
  • Recognise that a formal management system may take 12–18 months to implement.

Leadership checklist

As a governor, consider whether you could answer the following questions:

1. Who is responsible for health and safety in the organisation?

2. How does the board demonstrate its commitment to health and safety?

3. What information does the board receive to enable it to monitor health and safety performance?

4. How does the board communicate and implement its policies on safety?

5. What information does the board review?

6. Who decides what risks to assess?

7. At what level is competent advice given within the organisation?

8. Who monitors contractors working on the premises?

9. Are the principal risks from premises or activities?

10. How does the board ensure adequate supervision of its employees?

11. How do employees inform the board if there are problems? Are there examples of these problems, and how were the issues resolved?

12. Who is responsible for managing asbestos, and how is it managed? In several school refurbishment projects the schools were criticised for not managing asbestos properly.


If board members are unsure what they should be doing, or whether their organisation is doing the right thing, then they should consider their own health and safety training needs. There are varying levels of health and safety training and qualifications available.




If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Stuart Armstrong of S V Armstrong Solicitors or if you have any other enquiry about an education or employment law matter, please contact Sue King on 0113 244 6100.

You can keep up to date by following Wrigleys Education team on Twitter here or sign up for details of Wrigleys events here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors





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