Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) is important in educational institutions which include primary schools, secondary schools, technical / vocational institutions and universities. Educational institutions play a crucial role in ensuring that staff and students in their care as well as visitors are protected at all times against any type of hazard. Such a duty is emphasised even more now that educational institutions are adapting to a period of considerable change while continuing to address existing challenges such as new structures and accountabilities as well as additional parental and public concerns.
A systematic approach to managing workplace HSE risks is therefore important in educational institutions. The HSE of all persons within the educational institution should be a continuous and ongoing planned process, which remains and should form an integral part of the management system within an educational institution.
Educational institutions should be aware that their duty extends beyond keeping staff, students and visitors including contractors safe and that there is also an additional duty in the promotion of values to ensure that all these stakeholders are "risk aware but not risk adverse". By passing down these values, the benefits for educational institutions are that they avoid costly accidents, financial ruin, loss of staff time and teaching delays. Such an approach also helps protect the reputation of the educational institution as well as ensures it complies with its duties under the Workplace Safety and Health Order, 2009 (WSHO, 2009)
The illustration below shows an ideal educational institution Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) setup:
The Workplace Safety and Health Order, 2009 imposes a duty on every employer to take as far as is reasonably practicable, measures to ensure the HSE of employees and others at work. There is a duty to provide and maintain a safe working and learning environment with adequate facilities and arrangement of welfare within the educational institutions. In addition, development and implementation of suitable procedures in dealing with all forms of relevant emergencies are also required. There is also a duty to provide and ensure adequate instruction, information, training and supervision as is necessary for their employees to perform their work and that they and others are not exposed to hazards in the workplace.
The Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations, 2014, which sits under the WSHO, 2009, in particular regulation 3, also sets out a series of further duties that requires employers to conduct a risk assessment in relation to the safety and health risks posed to any person who may be affected by his undertaking in the workplace. Educational institutions therefore have a legal duty to carry out risk assessments for their buildings as well as activities such as school visits in order to foresee and minimise any risk to students, staff and other stakeholders. Educational institutions should also have in place a monitoring mechanism which is crucial for continuous improvement where health and safety risks and workplace standards are concerned.
The Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA), being the national regulator for workplace HSE matters, regulates non-industrial workplaces such as educational institutions. SHENA carries out inspections, monitoring visits, investigations, review of safety management systems (SMS) of the educational institution and provides HSE advice in support of industry. In addition, outreach programmes are also part of the SHENA activities to increase awareness in order to realise SHENA's vision which is to make a difference and ensure that Brunei is a safe place to work and live.
In the past year, SHENA has been active in promoting awareness concerning the importance of HSE measures to be implemented in educational institutions. On 3 March 2020, SHENA held a forum for educational institution leaders to socialise the need for better HSE measures in educational institutions as well as to discuss matters concerning such issues. SHENA has also increased the number of school inspections, visiting 10 schools in the first quarter of 2020.
As we move further into 2020 and beyond, there is opportunity for educational institutions in Brunei, to work closely together and support SHENA in building a collaborative front that underpins the need for compliance and seeks to ensure consistency of good and safe work practices as well as delivering on the aspirations of WAWASAN 2035 and providing quality of life for future generations.
It is necessary to underscore that a strong HSE culture within educational institutions provides many benefits such as the prevention and reduction of unnecessary injuries, work-related illnesses, lawsuits, loss of time and manpower as well as costs of disruption to educational activities. SHENA intends to continue its cooperation and collaboration with various stakeholders to ensure a robust fit for purpose national HSE regulatory framework and ensure that risks to people, assets and the environment are controlled in compliance with laws and regulations set by the Government, implemented by those who create the risk and underpinned by continuous improvement.
SHENA welcomes any enquiries, concerns or complaints on health and safety matters in relation to educational institutions and can be contacted at email@example.com
Published by Borneo Bulletin on Tuesday, 7 April 2020