Schools have a general ‘duty of care’ to provide a safe environment for staff, students and visitors. Therefore schools have policies in place that apply to all activities conducted in the school including, but not limited to, excursions, sporting activities, student supervision and classroom activities. These policies should take into account areas of potential harm or injury. It is important for school science departments to follow the policies and guidelines of their individual school or controlling body for managing risks. The concept of ‘duty of care’ is contained in workplace health and safety legislation throughout Australia. For links to the health and safety legislation that covers your school, see the ASSIST information sheet AIS: Links — Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) and for links to support materials regarding risk assessment and risk management see AIS: Links — Risk assessment and hazard management. School science departments, in delivering the science curriculum, run practical activities, which can potentially have a range of different hazards. It is important that hazards are identified and risk assessments are conducted so that relevant control measures can be put in place to reduce the level of risk.
Risk assessments: The teachers at my school are wondering if they have to fill out risk assessments for household items like bicarb and vinegar or boiling water in a beaker over a Bunsen burner? These are things that are done in food technology as well as science. Does food tech have to fill out risk assessments for these things and if not then why do they have to for science.
I have tried to tell them that they should always fill out a risk assessment and that it is to cover them and the school legally in case something should go wrong.
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