December 2015 – Top tips for Safe School Premises

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The new year is the perfect time to review the school calendar and we feel it is a good time to share our Top 5 Tips for Safer School Premises….

 

 

The new year means that children and staff are returning to school to share Christmas stories and ease back in to the school curriculum. What better time to review school procedures and in-particular those vitally important safety procedures.

We feel that robust inspections and maintenance programs are crucial to ensure the safety in and around buildings and grounds.

According to Martin Clemmit, risk consultant at Zurich Municipal, regular inspection is the basis of good building maintenance practice. It helps to identify necessary repairs at an early stage to minimise the risk of major and costly problems occurring. Good practice suggests that schools should premises should be subject to a thorough visual inspection by a chartered building surveyor and building services engineer every five years. A report should be produced following the inspection which is in turn used to prepare a planned maintenance programme.

We feel that relying on a technical inspection every five years is not sufficient; a lot can happen in the interim 5 years!

To ensure the safety of pupils and staff, schools need to undertake maintenance inspections annually.
These would typically be performed by the facilities or premises manager, however, it is good practice to seek outside technical expertise from facilities management companies, local authority property services and school governors to assist in undertaking inspections.

An inspection schedule should include:

  • Roof space – roof structure, chimney stacks, insulation and ventilation, covering, flashings, fascias, soffits, gutters, downpipes and gulleys.
  • External walls – pointing, cladding, rendering, windows, doors and damp proof course.
  • Internal rooms – ceiling, walls, floors, windows and doors.
  • Stairs – treads, risers, nosings, and handrails.
  • Kitchens & storage areas.
  • Toilets.
  • Plant rooms.
  • Services: electrics, heating & ventilation, plumbing, water supply, fire safety, intruder security and lightning protection systems.
  • Basement and cellars

An action plan should follow the inspection. The action plan will identifying what remedial work is required. Each action should be prioritised between essential and desirable work.

It is vitally important to retain the inspection report and action plan including any photographs or measurements that have been taken. This information provides an essential benchmark for the next annual inspection to assess any deterioration.

To help you adhere to building maintenance standards here are our 5 top tips:

1) Identify where needed information is located

People come and go over a very long period of time. Buildings change hands and it can be difficult to locate and secure all of the relevant documentation. It is helpful to list the people you would need to speak with. Typically you would need to consult the folowing people:

– Facility management staff,
– Inspection authorities,
– Health and safety departments,
– Third party suppliers and contractors,
– Design teams,
– Building surveyors and structural engineers.

2) Check existing documents for any construction details

We recommend looking for recent building condition surveys. These can be completed to assess funding needs of the building or as part of refurbishment efforts in the past. Local Authorities may hold these documents on behalf of your school.
Other documentation such as local authority records, local education authority records and listed alteration documents over the lifetime of the premises should also be identified.

3) Assess the building fabric along with individual components

Prepare a list of things to check such as,

  • are window frames adequately secured to the fabric of the building?
  • are lintels over openings showing any signs of deflection or cracking?,
  • is the guttering secured to the building?
  • do any roof tiles appear to be loose or misplaced?

Look for signs of general wear and tear. Check also for lifecycle issues such as cracking or movement of ceiling tiles which may suggest potential problems.
We suggest checking non-building items such as room dividers, door frames and display panels, etc.
Don’t forget to check accident logs to establish any accident or injury patterns.

4) Secure potential hazards

The building maintenance plan should include essential & non-essential maintenance tasks along with any interim or temporary arrangements. It may be necessary to cordon off an area of the building to mitigate risks. Ensure all necessary measures are taken, such as adequate signposting indicating that the area is off limits.

5) Defect reporting

Schools should have in place effective defect reporting systems that are accessible and easy to use. Smaller schools, may wish to use a simple defect book where problems and concerns can be recorded. Larger schools often implement electronic database systems to help record and prioritise defects.

Whichever system is used, responsibility to report building defects should be covered during staff inductions to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities and how t use the reporting system.

The details above are provided as guidance and are not exhaustive by any means. The complexity and level of detail required in an inspection will vary from premise to premise.

Adequate building maintenance inspections and regimes are an essential element of effective facilities management.
Robust processes are Vital in ensuring that defects are identified and remedied as soon as possible.

Need help or advice?

Call our Premises Team on 03333 355 938 or

email by clicking HERE or more@tvefm.co.uk

 

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