Safety walks allow key stakeholders in the school to identify potential risks and to address them as quickly as possible, according to Paul Slater, Vice President — Health, Safety and Environment at GEMS Education.
A positive health and safety culture within a school is often driven by a number of factors. Primarily, it’s down to the commitment and engagement of senior leaders and students, and there are a number of methods at their disposal.
One approach is the adoption of a programme of safety walks, the concept of which has been around for a number of years. The likes of Walt Disney World and American Express have integrated such programmes with the aim of improving both operations and quality.
Safety walks are essentially a hands-on approach, where key stakeholders literally walk through the school. Stakeholders can include students, parents and members of the senior management team. The main aim is to identify potential health and safety risks and challenges, and subsequently make improvements.
Moreover, such walks can be used as an opportunity to engage with students and parents on the issue of health and safety, which can in turn improve awareness and understanding. This leads to an open and transparent culture – one in which all parties see the benefits and understand the importance of health and safety.
FOR ANYONE THINKING ABOUT INTRODUCING A PROGRAMME OF SAFETY WALKS, HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO HELP ENSURE ITS SUCCESS:
- Ensure you have senior management buy-in; the principal and senior leadership team have to know how the programme will look and how it will benefit students and the school.
- Make sure you select the correct stakeholders to support the programme. It should essentially be student-driven and should ideally include one or two parents, perhaps from the parent council body or Local Advisory Board. The health and safety department should also help to facilitate the programme, with selected members of the senior leadership team also contributing.
- It’s important that you clearly explain the programme and the roles and responsibilities of those involved. Some information on key areas to perhaps focus on may also help.
- Ensure there is a debrief session at the end of the walk, allowing you to identify actions that need to be taken. Once collected, it is important that these are reviewed and acted upon. It may not be possible to address every action, but a simple risk-based approach can be applied.
- Review the programme at regular intervals to ensure it remains active.