Risks and hazards on school property

Information about specific risks and hazards you may encounter on school property and how to properly handle them.

Level of compliance Main audience Other

Required

  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • Third Party Contractors
  • General Staff/Administrators
  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Public
  • Health & Safety Officer(s)
  • Worksafe Regulator(s)

Under section 30 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the PCBU (Board of Trustees, Proprietor and Principal) are required to manage the risks to health and safety of their schools. If they cannot be eliminated, the risk must be minimized so far as reasonably practicable.

Your health and safety responsibilities

Keeping people safe from the risks and hazards is part of your overall health and safety responsibilities.

This guidance will help you meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 — NZ Legislation website(external link).

Poisonous plants

A number of plants, shrubs and trees in New Zealand are poisonous to people. Many of them are common garden plants.

Check for poisonous plants that may be:
growing at your school
hanging over the school fence from neighbouring properties where students can reach them.

To identify poisonous plants, refer to the factsheets available from Landcare Research(external link).

Disposing of poisonous plants

The best disposal method will depend on the type of plant. Some options are to:

  • pull out plants and burn or compost them (if no seed heads are present)
  • take the plants to your council landfill, after checking with your council that it will accept them
  • spray the plants.

Before you use spray, you need to know about using agrichemicals in schools. You can find information about this on the Hazardous substances on school sites page.

For advice about the best option, contact Landcare Research(external link).

Lead-based paint

Some schools have old layers of lead-based paint on buildings. This is not a problem if buildings are painted regularly and old layers are never exposed. However, it is a problem if lead-based paint is exposed when sanding for repainting or alterations.

You should only use contractors that know the procedures for identifying and managing lead-based paints.

Uncovered lead-based paint is a hazard

If lead-based paint is uncovered, it is a hazard and you must manage it according to the Health and Safety at Work Act(external link).

It is important that students and staff are not exposed to the paint while it is being removed. For example, isolating the work site and carrying out the work outside of school hours.

Paying to remove lead-based paint

The costs of removing the lead-based paint must be paid from the project funds.

PCBs in light fittings

If you suspect any light fittings at your school date from before 1980, they may contain PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of over 200 chemicals. Before 1980 they were used in many fluorescent tubes and other electrical equipment.
PCBs are highly toxic and don't break down quickly.

For disposal advice contact WorkSafe NZ(external link).

Only appropriately trained people can dispose of PCBs. An electrician cannot remove the lighting/electrical equipment and take it to a landfill.

WorkSafe NZ’s Safe Management of PCBs Code of Practice(external link) contains information aimed at those with statutory or other responsibilities in managing PCBs, rather than Boards of Trustees.

Paying to remove PCBs

If changing the light fittings is part of a project, pay for the costs for replacement and disposal as part of the project.

For general replacement of light fittings, use your 5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding.

Mould and fungi

When moulds and fungi reproduce, they release countless tiny spores that can become airborne. Health problems can arise when large numbers of these spores are inhaled, ingested or come into contact with the skin.

Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as ‘Black mould’) is a greenish-black mould that grows on material with high cellulose content, such as fibreboard, that has become extremely wet and has remained wet for some time.

While S. chartarum is growing and is still wet, a wet slime covers its spores and prevents the spores from becoming airborne. It is only when the mould dries out and the spores become airborne that they can become a problem.

Those with pre-existing asthma and those with weakened immune systems, as well as infants and the elderly are at the greatest risk. Most people who experience adverse effects associated with mouldy buildings fully recover following removal and clean-up of the mould contamination.

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