10 November 2005
Funding gap contributes to safety failures
An incident such as the gas explosion at Kaitaia College could happen again because schools’ operations grants are already stretched to the limit, PPTA president Debbie Te Whaiti said today.
She said health and safety requirements for schools had changed significantly in recent years, increasing compliance costs on schools, and these were not adequately reflected in operations grant increases.
For example, schools had been required by OSH to place guards on machinery in workshops, to meet a revised New Zealand standard for safety glass, and to comply with new certification requirements on portable electrical equipment. In addition, amended guidelines for education outside the classroom had also been developed.
“In most cases, it seems extra funding is not provided to help schools implement such procedures and guidelines and they are required to do it within their existing budgets.
“The Ministry of Education needs to recognise that many schools do not have the ability to make their technology workrooms safer without extra funding.
“A figure of $2000 has been suggested as what it would have taken to upgrade the welding equipment at Kaitaia - this is not peanuts as some are suggesting and requires money to be taken from another area.
“In smaller, poorer schools these are difficult decisions for Boards and Principals to make.
“You would expect that because of risks to the health and safety of students and employees, the Ministry would fund these changes immediately.”
Te Whaiti said many technology teachers were worried about health and safety risks and 54 per cent had rated it as an issue of significant concern in a yet-to-be-completed PPTA survey*.
She was thankful the Kaitaia incident had not resulted in a tragedy but it was a salutary reminder to schools of the need for transparent and rigorous health and safety reporting practices.
“Although OSH attributed no blame for the reporting failures, under the Health and Safety Act employers are ultimately responsible for remedying hazards in the workplace that employees have identified.
“However, even employers with
the best of intentions will not be able to remedy hazards if
the funding is not there.”
*Quotes from technology teachers about health and safety:
" (There are) inconsistencies between safety requirements in industry and schools. Why do some schools in the same area or city have 'state of the art' systems and others have out dated rooms? "
"Lack of minimum health and safety (OSH) requirements - the equipment we teach students to use can only be done theoretically because the school simply can't give me ergonomic furniture and peripheral devices."
"Large class sizes can pose safety issues"