Health and Safety

What health and safety requirements should be considered?

Handling insects
Handling insects

Obviously, health and safety is a vital consideration when planning any outdoor activities with children. Risk assessments need to be very carefully prepared and implemented. It is worth contacting the health and safety adviser in your Local Authority for advice if required.

All Outdoor Schools activities and practices must operate in line with the health and safety requirements, policies and procedures of individual schools. Such policies may include Educational Trips and Visits, Administering First Aid, Lost Child and Health and Safety etc.

The Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools programme has no direct responsibility for the health and safety of individuals within the participating schools. Any information provided about health and safety/risk assessing in different environments is for guidance only. 

Health and safety Checklists

What about arrangements for safeguarding and child protection?

The safeguarding of children is of paramount importance! School must stringently follow their own Child Protection policies. All staff and voluntary helpers taking children on school visits would be expected to have a DBS check, written references and relevant training.

What are the recommended ratios for staff to children on Outdoor Schools visits?
Again, you would need to follow your school’s Educational Trips and Visits Policy.

The table below provides a starting point for determining supervision ratios. Please note these ratios are not statutory. This table should only be used after careful consideration of the points below.

Age of childrenStaff : Children ratios
Nursery 1: 2-4
Reception 1: 4-6
Years 1-31: 6-8
Years 4-61: 8-15
Year 7 onwards1: 15-20
Special education 1: 6-10

Points for further consideration:

1. Staff to children ratio ranges given in this guidance are intended only as a starting point for visit leaders when planning their visit. Actual ratios for any visit must be determined through a process of risk assessment by the visit leader or other competent staff.

2. Competent leaders will recognise when the number of young people per leader should be reduced (e.g. if group members have particular behavioural or physical needs, or if weather conditions are not favourable on the day) or when they can be safely increased. If the visit leader deems it safe to exceed the number of young people per leader given in the table below, this decision should be agreed with the headteacher.

3. Visit leaders should be aware that small parties with minimum staffing are vulnerable if staff are ill or have an accident during the visit.  This eventuality needs consideration at the early planning stage, especially for extended visits.

4. Visit leaders should bear in mind that the longer a visit lasts, the more important it is to consider the need for additional staffing. The constant duty of care can be very demanding and coupled with other functions such as minibus driving may reduce the necessary degree of concentration and alertness.

What are the responsibilities of the team leader/trip organiser in terms of Health and Safety?

In most cases the team leader on an Outdoor Schools visit would be the class teacher. They are responsible for the smooth running and health and safety of the participants, as well as for preparing and planning exciting and interesting activities that will engage the children with the outdoors. Some of the leader’s responsibilities can be summarised as follows:

  • Identify and assess the health and safety issues at the site for the pupils and adults prior to the visit. Ensure that adequate risk assessments are produced and implemented and that staff are children are aware of any hazards that may exist.
  • Ensure that all other adults in your group are fully briefed and know exactly what is expected of them in terms of health and safety and supporting children’s learning. Leaders need to assess the capability of staff and volunteers to carry out activities with the children.
  • If any sort of tools or specialist equipment is to be used then the leader must ensure that they are checked for safe condition and support staff are proficient in their use. It is important that the correct tools, protective equipment and materials are available.
  • Ensure all accidents, dangerous occurrences and ‘near miss’ incidents are reported and investigated. Take action where appropriate to prevent recurrence.

What about the team of voluntary helpers?

Voluntary helpers are an essential aspect to an Outdoor Schools visit. They are expected to:

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their acts.
  • Carry out assigned tasks and duties in a safe manner and in accordance with instructions and approved safe working procedures.
  • Carefully follow the instructions of the leader regarding health and safety and child protection procedures.
  • Inform the leader, without any delay, of any issues which may present serious or imminent danger and report to or discuss any hazard, unsafe condition, unsafe practice, or fault that comes to their attention during the session.
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