The employer has the formal responsibility for ensuring that teachers and students are safe, and that the school complies with laws and regulations concerning chemical safety.
The Employer’s Responsibility
As a representative of the employer, the principal has the formal responsibility for the health and safety of both staff and students. This responsibility includes
- documenting a systematic approach to chemical safety that fulfils legal requirements.
- making sure that staff and students have the necessary training in chemical safety.
- allocating sufficient time and other resources to chemical safety work.
Principals and other leaders with formal responsibility for chemical safety need to focus on the systematic aspects of chemical safety work. They have to know what is required in order to make sure the school has routines that ensure that the necessary tasks are distributed and carried out, and that staff and students receive the training they need. Unless the leader has a background in science, this is most likely unfamiliar territory.
Though formally responsible, the principal (employer) is not required to carry out the work regarding chemical safety in the school him- or herself. Instead, the employer can distribute specific tasks regarding chemical safety to, for example a science or chemistry teacher, or another suitably qualified person. The person given these tasks should also be given the necessary authority, time and training to do the job.
Distribution of Tasks
When it comes to taking care of the chemistry lab, many tasks do not fit into teacher’s ordinary pedagogical work. To ensure that the science department is working safely, it is a good idea for the management of the school (for example the principal) to specify these tasks in writing.
Examples of tasks that can be distributed to a suitably qualified person at the science department:
- Organising the health and safety assessment of the department
- Safe storage of chemicals used in education
- Inspection and maintenance of the equipment in the science department
When an employee is assigned a safety task, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide the resources required to do the work.
Responsibilities of Teachers and Students
Both teachers and students are responsible for cooperating with the employer to ensure safe working conditions. This means to work safely as far as possible, and to follow the given instructions.
Teachers are also obliged to inform the employer of any shortcomings of the safety arrangements.