One of the most important pieces of workplace health and safety legislation is RIDDOR, and many people are surprised to discover that it also applies to schools. Whilst many educational facilities have found themselves moving to online teaching because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of schools are still open for the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable, meaning that RIDDOR regulations still apply.
Cases of coronavirus infection in school are not reportable under RIDDOR, but the regulations do require that records are kept of all health and safety incidents and that the most serious of these are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Whilst the majority of accidents that occur in schools are not very serious, RIDDOr applies to both staff and students and it is important to know which scenarios require an official report.
RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, and was implemented in 2013. The types of incidents that are outlined by the legislation are broken down into seven categories, all of which could take place within a school.
If a member of staff, student or visitor dies within a school because of a work-related accident, it must be reported. The exception to this is incidents of suicide, which are not classed as a work-related incident under RIDDOR.
Deaths that do not occur immediately, but are still directly caused by a workplace accident, must also be reported. If a member of staff dies because of an incident that has already had a RIDDOR report submitted within one year, then it is counted as a work-related death.
Major, non-fatal accidents are classed as RIDDOR reportable injuries. Specified injuries are described in the legislation as:
Injuries that lead to the incapacitation of a worker for over seven consecutive days are reportable under RIDDOR. This category of injury applies to any incident that does not result in a ‘specified injury’ and is serious enough that a staff member is unable to perform their usual working duties for a week.
This seven day period does not include the day of the accident, but does include weekends and bank holidays.
Non-fatal accidents that occur in the workplace to non-workers, such as school visitors, are classified as reportable incidents under RIDDOR.
However, a report only needs to be filed if the injured individual is taken directly to the hospital from a workplace for treatment. If they are only taken to hospital as a precaution, or only receive an examination and diagnosis, the incident still needs to be recorded but not reported.
An occupation disease is classified under RIDDOR as an illness or condition that is caused or made much worse by a certain job or place of work. If a staff member is diagnosed with one of these then it must be reported, although there are very few occupational diseases associated with teaching and working in schools.
RIDDOR classifies ‘dangerous occurrences’ as near-miss events that could have caused significant injury or damage to health. Not every dangerous occurrence needs to be reported, but there are 27 examples listed in the RIDDOR legislation that are relevant to the majority of workplaces.
The majority of health and safety-related incidents that take place in schools do not need to be reported under RIDDOR, but records must be kept of every accident, illness or first aid incident so that common risks can be identified and preventative measures can be put in place. Accident books for schools are a common method of keeping track of this, and can also be referred to in the unlikely event of any legal issues.
RIDDOR policy states that there must be a designated ‘responsible person’ whose role it is to record and report any accidents or injuries. This is usually the job of a school’s main employer, but it could be the responsibility of a member of the senior management team.
The most important thing to remember when considered whether a school incident is reportable is that RIDDOR only applies to accidents, diseases or dangerous occurrences that arise out of or in direct connection with work. For example, if a staff member faints because of a hazardous substance in the workplace then the incident is RIDDOR reportable, whereas if they faint because of having the flu it is an incident unrelated to work.
RIDDOR in schools applies to three different types of incident; injuries and illness involving employees, injuries involving pupils and visitors, and dangerous occurrences.
Accidents and incidents involving members of staff at school are reportable under RIDDOR if they result in death, a RIDDOR specified injury or an injury that prevents the staff member from working for 7 days or more.
Many cases of physical violence also need to be reported if they result in the above scenarios. If a teacher or other staff member is assaulted on school grounds by a pupil, other staff member or visitor, resulting in injury, the incident is classified as reportable because it happened in connection with work.
Occupational diseases suffered by members of school staff are also reportable under RIDDOR, as long as the affected individual has a doctor’s written diagnosis that a condition has been caused by occupation exposure. Examples of occupational diseases that may affect school staff include carpal tunnel syndrome, severe hand or arm cramp or tendonitis.
Stress or other stress-related illnesses that are connected to work do not tend to be classed as reportable under RIDDOR because they are usually caused by a prolonged period of problems and not a single, work-related incident.
Similarly to members of school staff, accidents and incidents involving students or school visitors are reportable under RIDDOR if they result in death. An incident is also RIDDOR reportable if an accident or injury related to the workplace results in the individual being taken to hospital for treatment.
With students and visitors, it is a lot harder to decide whether an incident has occurred out of or in direct connection with work. When assessing the cause of an incident, consider:
These considerations only need to be taken into account if a student or visitor has died or been taken to the hospital for medical treatment. If an accident is only minor and a child or visitors is simply sent home or to the doctors later on, RIDDOR procedures do not need to be followed.
Accidents and injuries that take place during PE lessons or outdoor play are often not classed as work-related incidents. The only circumstances in which RIDDOR may be applicable is if a student is injured because the environment or equipment caused the incident, such as a slippery floor or faulty sports apparatus, or if an injury is the result of the poor supervision or organisation of an activity.
If a school is on the Early Years Register, Ofsted must be notified if an accident, injury, or death happens to a child on the school premises while they are under the care of the school.
RIDDOR legislation lists several ‘dangerous occurrences’ as reportable incidents, which are classified as ‘near miss’ emergency events that involve either staff, students or visitors.
In a school, these usually include:
It is the task of the identified ‘responsible person’ to submit a RIDDOR report to HSE when required. This report must be submitted within 10 days of a death, specified injury or dangerous occurrence, or within 15 days of an incident that removes a member of staff from work for a week.
In the case of death or specified injury, the HSE Incident Contact Centre must be contacted by phone as soon as possible to notify them that a major event has taken place. A full report must then be submitted afterwards.
The following information is needed before filling out a RIDDOR report:
RIDDOR incidents need to be reported using an online form, which can be found on the HSE website. It is advised that schools download a copy of this form after it has been submitted to keep in their accident book records.
Thousands of accidents happen at work across the country every month, many of which could have been prevented. The introduction of RIDDOR has led to much higher standards of health and safety in the workplace and means that employers have a legal obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees and deal with hazards and risks immediately.
There are seven different categories of incidents that are reportable under RIDDOR; death, specified injuries, over 7-day injuries, injuries to non-workers, occupational diseases and dangerous occurrences.
RIDDOR allows organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive to keep track of common accidents that occur in the workplace, and was introduced so governing departments were made aware of common health and safety issues in the workplace. This means that strategies and regulations that greatly reduce risk can be implemented, leading to fewer accidents.
Keeping a note of all accidents and injuries that take place in a school is a key part of good health and safety practice, and ensuring the RIDDOR regulations are followed should be a part of this process.
Health and safety has become more important than ever in schools right now as staff try to find the balance between keeping infection rates low and providing quality education for all children. Whilst it is very rare that RIDDOR procedures need to be followed in schools, it is still important to know what the legislation covers and how to identify reportable accidents.