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Health and Safety in computer rooms - what can reasonably be asked for?

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by ictLad, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. ictLad

    ictLad New commenter


    I have just moved schools and have found that the computer rooms we use to teach computing are... not exactly rubbish but in need of an overhaul. I know that certain health and safety legislation exists but am unable to find enough specific examples.

    Two things which I immediately picked up on were

    1) Teachers chairs are non adjustable and have arm rests which squeeze your legs in. I am aware that legislation exists for chairs which are at work stations, which these are, but have a strange feeling that this legislation might only exist if the user spends enough time at a work station
    2) The pupils chairs - do these have to be adjustable? In both of my old schools they were, but in this school they are normal plastic chairs which you would find in any classroom
    3) Air conditioning - it doesn't work. In some of the rooms there are only two windows which open, which make the rooms rather uncomfortable. Air conditioning units have been installed but I have been told that they don't work. Again, I am sure I have seen some vague legislation about circulation but nothing concrete.

    I know most schools will act fairly quickly if legislation is shown to them, so I am wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of some hard facts with which I can convince SLT.

    Many thanks
  2. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    There is H&S regulation in place for teacher equipment but not student. The argument about chairs is easily countered by pointing out that students are unlikely to be sitting on them for more than an hour or so. Air conditioning is not obligatory; there are no workplace regulations for sensible temperature ranges for schools, which is ludicrous but there we go. Write some emails, encourage your students to get their parents to complain if it's too hot etc - hopefully you'll get some funding to buy some.
  3. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    Some general things, like space and temperature, are in the Offices, Shops and Railways Act 1963, but (as the previous poster said) there is no maximum temperature, only a minimum. You are entitled to a thermometer, though.
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

  5. jpgreenwood

    jpgreenwood Occasional commenter

    I've been in this position in the past, and had more luck ringing in the changes when approaching the problems from a teaching & learning standpoint than waving H&S legislation in the faces of higher-ups.

    If the rooms are uncomfortable, they aren't conducive to learning. If nothing else, that warrants an AC repair visit to ensure the rooms don't become uncomfortably hot when all the computers are on & the room is filled with kids. You may want to invite a budget holder to observe when the room is at its hottest to make your point.

    You may also, as I did, have to get creative when tapping budgets for furniture replacements. In some schools they are considered common areas, so come out of a budget controlled by a deputy or the head. In others the allocation to the subject is greater than most others to include hardware/software replacements.

    In my last year as a HoD in the UK I spent a couple of hundred pounds on some decent swivel chairs for the department, and later found one colleague had become so enamoured with his that he wouldn't get off his proverbial to help kids. Remember... the focus is T&L, not comfort!
  6. colwynexile

    colwynexile Occasional commenter

    Well in a past life I used to be a HM Inspector for the HSE. So;
    1. work stations - the Health & Safety (Display Screen) Regulations 1992 define what is a user, namely someone who will operate a computer with entry tasks for about an hour a day. This catches teachers, but as been mentioned above, not pupils who are unlike to spend this length of time in front of the screens. This means that an assessment has to be made of each work station to ensure it is ergonomically suitable for the user concerned (my ex-HOD had spina biffida so required a different chair). I would suggest that it is unlikely the chair you have will be adjustable enough for you to get an ergonomically sound seating position.
    2. pupil chairs - as said above as pupils are not covered as users by the regs, there is no legal requirement to provide adjustable chairs (which will also stop them playing 'drop-the-gas-lift-on-my-mate's chair' and 'swing-around' on the chair, so not all bad!
    3. air conditioning - the Offices, Shops and Railways Act 1963 and the Factories Act 1961 HAD specific legislation concerning workplaces, however these were repealed by the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992. This lays the duty to provide a workplace temperature that is reasonable. On the HSE website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.htm), guidance for minimum temperature is given as 16C, or 13C where physical effort is involved. There is no legal upper limit due to the different types of workplaces around (foundries, cold stores, etc). The principle of thermal comfort needs to be taken into account when looking at temp. Basically, if it's too hot to work in your room, then something needs to be done. Oh, and opening windows is never a good option, as you can have rooms at two distinct temps (cold near the window, hot inside the room as the level of ventilation is not good enough to distribute cooler air around the room), and depending on how high you are in the building will generally limit the amount you can open a window.

    Hope this helps. For more info, see the links above or visit the HSE website

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