Health & Safety
A guide to health and safety for youth groups, including legal obligations, risk assessment information and sample policies and procedures.
All organisations have a ‘Duty of Care’ towards those that come into contact with the organisation. This means they have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to service users, volunteers and members of the public. In practice this may mean providing suitable equipment, training and/or supervision based on a risk assessment of the activity, event or work being undertaken.
Organisations employing at least one member of staff under contract have legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. However, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that volunteer run organisations use the Act as a good practice guide as far as practicable.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place duties on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others arising from work activities. In addition, organisations that ‘control’ non-domestic buildings have a duty to ensure the building is safe to use and complies with relevant Health & Safety regulations.
Liability for negligence depends on the legal structure of the organisation. The management committee of unincorporated associations or clubs may be held individually liable if found to be negligent. For incorporated organisations (e.g. Companies Limited by Guarantee), the primary liability will generally rest with the organisation itself. There are now a range of different organisational structures out there, so if you employ staff, run large events or are thinking about purchasing property you might want to consider if your governance structure is still the most appropriate.
More information about governance structures can be found on the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s (SCVO) website.
A written Health and Safety Policy sets out an organisational commitment to health and safety, clarifies procedures and areas of responsibility and also helps demonstrate that the Duty of Care is taken seriously.
As overall responsibility for health and safety rests with the group of people that runs the organisation, a Health and Safety Policy should state the Board or management committee’s collective responsibility and commitment to ensuring the implementation of the Health and Safety Policy.
Within the Policy, areas of specific responsibility can be outlined as a way to achieve that commitment. You might like to think about:
- Stating the requirements that you are legally obliged to implement (e.g. insurance) and who these cover (i.e. volunteers as well as staff)
- The need for workers to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and that of others
- Designating particular staff to certain roles (e.g. H&S officer, Fire Officer, First Aid officers) and detailing what they are responsible for
- A statement regarding drinking/smoking/illegal drug use in and around the premises
- The implementation of the Child Protection Policy (including recruitment and selection of volunteers)
- The use of consent forms and volunteer/staff information forms
- The use of risk assessments for all activities.
It’s essential that all staff, volunteers and management committee are aware of their responsibilities and understand how to put the Policy into their own practice. The ‘procedures’ part of the document outlines how the organisation will ensure that staff and volunteers are supported to implement the Health & Safety Policy. It could also include how the Policy and Procedures are reviewed. For example:
- Ensuring relevant and regular training of the designated officers
- The formation of a Health & Safety group that monitors any incidents and reviews the Policy regularly (i.e. once a year)
- Template consent forms available for staff to use
- The introduction of the Health & Safety Policy at induction for new staff and volunteers
- A system for checking the fire alarms, fire extinguishers and other safety equipment
- The use and review of a accident forms and an accident book (including ‘near misses’)
- The implementation of a Risk Assessment framework for all activities
It’s vital that everyone feels that the Health & Safety requirements are a useful tool, rather than a cumbersome burden. Regular training and participant reviews will help to ensure that volunteers and staff are included in the process, rather than feeling it’s an imposition.
Risk Assessment is the backbone of the health & safety process. It needs to involve everyone that is responsible for the safety of the group and those that will be carrying out the activity.
A risk assessment is simply a way of identifying:
- All the hazards – anything that has the potential to cause harm
- Who could be harmed – volunteers, young people, the public
- And the risk – the likelihood of that hazard causing harm, and the degree of harm it would cause
Potential premises related hazards on a ‘typical club night’ may include thinking about:
- Trips, slips and falls – does your building have any uneven flooring, wires or cables, dark rooms or corridors? How are spills dealt with?
- Substances hazardous to health – are there any chemicals stored in the building? Who can access these and do they use protective clothing?
- Falls from a height – Are ladders or other equipment checked and maintained? Do people currently stand on rickety chairs to reach objects in a cupboard?
- Strains, sprains and pains – is anyone engaged in heavy lifting? Have they received any training or advice on manual handling techniques?
- Equipment and machinery – is equipment regularly checked? Are all young people allowed to access the kitchen area (scalds, burns) unsupervised?
- Hygiene – are there adequate toilet and hand washing facilities, including a disabled toilet? Do you prepare food for/with young people? Is anyone trained?
- Transport – is your club on a busy main road, or has a well used car park next to it? Do you use a hired minibus or volunteers own transport for activities? Are these adequately insured and maintained?
- Stress – do you provide support (training, supervision sessions) to your volunteers? Does your Child Protection Policy include support for volunteers after a young person has disclosed abuse to them?
- Fire safety – do you have adequate fire escapes from your building? Does everyone know what to do in the event of a fire? Could a visit from the local Fire Service be included in a club activity to help volunteers and young people get involved? Do you have a ‘drop in’ approach or a sign-in and no re-entry system?
After assessing the risks, you will need to implement measures to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. There’s no prescriptive way of formatting a risk assessment, although there are many resources available to help. Some guides suggest giving values to the risk to help decide if the activity is too risky to take place. Some thought also needs to be given to who may be harmed, or particular risks for certain people (e.g. pregnant women, those with a disability, people whose first language is not English etc).
Sample Accident Report Form
In the event of an emergency, there will need to be some standard procedures to follow, both ‘during’ the accident and afterwards. Many of these should be identified as part of your Risk Assessment:
During and immediately after the accident
- Have you got enough leaders to deal with the accident and the rest of the group?
- Is there adequate First Aid support?
- Does the group leader have the necessary charged phone and emergency numbers to hand?
- Do you have a procedure for deciding when to take the whole group home?
- Is there a chain of communication to ensure that parents/guardians are informed?
- Is there an allocated ‘home contact’ to phone for advice and support?
- Is there support available for volunteers and young people to discuss what happened, in the event of a traumatic accident?
- An Accident Report Form should be completed as soon and as fully as possible after the event
- Any subsequent action taken should also be recorded, along with any reasons why other actions are not taken
- A report should also be written outlining who, when and how appropriate people were informed (e.g. parent/guardian, Senior youth worker/manger, Management Committee, Police, Social Services)
- If the accident was due to a serious failure on behalf of a youth worker and the youth worker was subsequently dismissed because of it, the incident may have to be reported to Disclosure Scotland for the youth worker to be assessed for possible inclusion on the children’s list
Reviewing the Accident Forms
Reviewing the Accident Forms or Accident Book can give you an idea of where there are persistent problems (with equipment, particular activities or a member of staff). You must, however, remember that this information is confidential and should be treated as such. If you share a building with other users it might be helpful to have a Health and Safety meeting with them regularly to identify any issues that need to be raised with the buildings owner.
All Youth Groups are strongly advised to have adequate insurance cover.
Youth Scotland provides a specialist insurance package and advice on insurance for youth work activities as part of the membership package.
Few buildings are completely perfect for youth clubs, so it is important to check out the places that you have in mind. Think about possible meeting places such as schools, village halls, community centres.
- Is there enough space for the numbers you are planning for?
- Are there facilities for the sorts of activities that you want to do?
- Will you be able to create the right atmosphere?
- Is the building accessible for everyone?
- Have you taken into account the views of neighbours and the local community?
- Seek support for ensuring that you have child protection policy and procedures in place.
- Make sure that you have adequate insurance cover.
- Undertake a health and safety check on potential new premises, identify potential fire hazards and ensure that the premises are accessible.
Once you been through a risk assessment process, you’ll need to have comprehensive consent and information forms. Obtaining relevant medical information, emergency contacts, consent for photographs/video are good practice for all participants, both young people and volunteers.
A standard yearly Membership/Consent Form is likely to be sufficient for most activities within the club. Residentials, trips away and specific activities will require separate Participant Consent Form.
It’s also important to think about where you store the information forms and who has access to them.
You may have a confidentiality policy that outlines this, so you need to ensure that the procedures are carried out.