Ideally, all school repairs, maintenance and new building would be carried out when there are no pupils around. However, this isn’t always possible. At Pure, our experience allows us to assess the situation and create a safe and healthy environment for students, teachers and staff, visitors and parents, and our teams. Here are some of our strategies to ensure each build is a safe one.
Restrict access to construction areas
The obvious first step isn’t as simple as it sounds. Kids are creative, smart, fascinated by diggers and poor at judging risk. While adults will typically respect a rope and a polite notice, kids tend to need stronger boundaries. Depending on the complexity of the project, we may need to create multiple layers of physical barriers using both existing structures (such as locking doors and gates) and brought in items (such as fencing).
Everyone knows who to report risks to
Every adult on site, from the foreman to the TAs to the parents needs to be able to report anything they observe that they think might be risky. While construction staff will follow their established safety protocols, such as removing ladders from scaffolding and locking up power tools, those working in the school may spot areas of concern that are less obvious to outsiders. For this reason, our project managers expect to act as a safety hotline on school projects.
Manage materials, tools and deliveries
While falls are often seen as the major risk for children on a building site, materials can be hazardous too. Children interact with their environment in ways adults wouldn’t consider, such as treating lime as sand and building or jumping in it. For this reason, careful control of materials and deliveries is an essential part of our process. Ideally, we store materials off-site until required or in a secure area within the secured construction zone.
Communicate with staff and students
A new building going up, a playground being refurbished or classrooms getting a makeover is interesting. One way we curb intrusive interest in the construction site is by communicating with staff and/or directly with students (depending on the arrangement preferred by staff) to present progress reports. For example, the project manager may attend assembly once a week with new photos, or remove a section of the sheeting to allow children to look at the work underway.
Strong language and CRB checks
As part of our awareness that health and safety doesn’t only refer to falls, toxins and other dangers, we ensure that construction staff and contractors are appropriately supervised and have appropriate background checks for their role. By having an open reporting policy, with the project manager acting as linchpin, we work to ensure that no inappropriate behaviour occurs. We are well aware that a typical building site has rougher language and behaviour than a playground and work to ensure that when the two are combined, it’s the adults who alter their behaviour and the children are protected.