Managing risks and hazards at school
This page provides information and links to guidance regarding how to identify, assess and manage risks, and keep students and staff safe both on and off-site.
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These resources support boards, school staff and early learning services to ensure their learning environments are safe places for students, staff and visitors. They also support compliance under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. We recommend being familiar with the supplied guidance, as it is helpful to meet your obligations under the Act.
- Equipment hazards
- Protection from UV radiation in schools
- Drinking water quality
- Food safety for schools and kura (Food Act 2014)
- Guidelines for schools to develop or review a firearms policy
- Police vetting for school property contractors
- Risk identification, assessment and management (Education Outside of the Classroom)
- School transport – safety and behaviour
- Education at off-site locations
- Students on work experience
Schools and early learning services must provide appropriate protective equipment for all work environments that their staff are likely to encounter in their roles.
For equipment specific guidance, see:
- Boiler-based heating systems
- Electrical equipment testing*
- School incinerators
- Playground equipment and surfacing*
- Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories
- Septic tanks on school sites
- Waste management in schools
- Bicycle/fitness tracks at their school
While these resources are generally for use by schools, early learning services and kōhanga reo may find content marked with an asterisk* useful.
WorkSafe's information can help your board to understand the concept of 'primary duty of care'.
WorkSafe also provides information about the use of personal protective equipment in situations where a worker's health and safety are at risk.
Schools will also benefit from viewing the Ministry’s example PPE policy.
Cancer caused by UV rays from the sun is easily preventable. Schools and kura play an important role in providing environments that protect, children, teachers, volunteers and staff. They also have a role in sharing sun protection knowledge and skills. Exposure to UV radiation is a recognised hazard for people who spend all or part of their working days outside – including teachers.
WorkSafe health and safety regulations(external link) requires employers to provide and maintain, as far as practicable, a working environment that is safe and minimises the risk of sun exposure. Evidence shows schools with a sun protection policy implement sun protection practices that better protect New Zealanders from harm. Schools and Early Learning Services have a duty of care and legal responsibility to minimise exposure to UV radiation for staff and students.
- For more information on making your school a sun protective place for students, teachers and the school community visit Sunsmart Schools(external link).
- The Cancer Society(external link) website has more information and policy templates for primary and secondary schools.
- For information on protecting workers from Solar UV Radiation visit WorkSafe(external link).
- Read Ministry guidance on providing shade(external link).
You can also contact your local Cancer Society(external link) for support.
Clean and safe water must be provided at schools. Poor quality water can cause illness.
If a school is on town supplied water, their local authorities are responsible for managing the water’s quality. If a school’s water is self-supplied, the board is responsible.
The Food Act applies to schools and kura that are selling food or providing it as part of their paid holiday programme.
The Ministry acknowledges that there may be legitimate circumstances where firearms may be a part of students’ education or sporting activities. The Ministry does not support the unsupervised access of firearms in schools.
Every contractor who is likely to have unsupervised access to students at a school during normal school hours must be police vetted.
When educating outside of the classroom, risk management reduces the likelihood and severity of harmful incidents.
Students should be kept safe and behave appropriately when being transported to and from school in a service such as a bus.
Section 117 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) states the requirements that the provision of education at an off-site location must meet.
Approval from the Ministry for the provision of education off-site is required only when all five of the following points apply to the site:
- One or more students enrolled at your school, or another school, will be using the site.
- Students will be educated at the site.
- The use of the off-site location is ongoing, not temporary.
- The site is separate from the school’s main delivery site (your usual address, which can include closely-located split sites such as a side school).
- There are two parties – your board, whose students are going off-site and the host party, which could be a subcontracted third party using its own or another site. Your board needs to provide evidence to us that the host agrees to the use.
The Ministry has also prepared guidance specifically about Satellite units on host school sites.
The Work Experience Notice 2004(external link), which regulates the conditions under which school students may get work experience, is intended to formalise current practice in schools. The notice is pursuant to section 71 (2) of the Education Act 1989.
Work experience for school students can include:
- work experience through a Gateway programme
- school-organised work experience
- structured workplace learning
- part-time/casual paid employment arrangement forming part of a learning programme.
Read the Ministry’s health and safety guide for schools and employers for further information.
- Students on Work Experience – a health and safety guide for schools and employers(external link) [PDF, 357 KB]
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