Leicester NUT Section of the NEU

Andy Haynes, Health and Safety Officer, 12th November 2012

Wintery problems

As we move into winter it's important to think about how the changing light and weather conditions can affect both teachers and children. No doubt many schools will start to suffer from cold classrooms, and this may even be the newer buildings. Cold temperatures are not only unhealthy but they reduce the student's ability to learn. For many years the expected minimum temperature in classrooms has been 18oC, but the Charted Institute for Building Services Engineers recommends a minimum of 20oC for offices, which are the closest things to classrooms. The air temperature is not the only thing to consider. Working for prolonged periods of time sitting on cold chairs and resting on cold tables saps body heat and may lead to reduced performance and increased sickness and absence by lowering immunity.

It's strange how school managers will berate teachers for only delivering satisfactory lessons, while failure to turn up the heat may have a great impact on pupil progress.

Another hazard as the nights drawn in is dark school uniforms. Some schools insist on dark coats and jackets, banning lighter markings. It would be far more sensible to make students wear reflective bands so that they stand out to drivers in the dark.

Sadly, one of the most common complaints in winter is the failure of schools to clear snow and ice from paths and car parks. Pregnant women should be particularly wary of this. There may be no law that compels schools to clear paths but all employers have a duty of care to their employees and other uses of their premises. If they fail to clear a slippery surface that people are obliged to walk on, they are likely to be responsible in law for any injuries caused by a fall. A compensation claim will be far more expensive than a bag of salt!



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