The regularity of severe flooding in recent years means that unfortunately this is one of the contingencies for which schools need to plan. Schools/colleges may be affected but also members’ homes and the journey between home and work.
A new briefing from the Union sets out advice on steps to take when floods are threatened, when the worst happens, and also on dealing with the aftermath. Employers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of staff and pupils and no-one should risk their health, or their life, during a flood or during the clean-up process.
Where a flood warning has been issued in respect of the local area, school management prepares for the eventuality as thoroughly as possible, including by:
- listening out for local news reports, updates and warnings on radio and on television.
- following advice from the Environment Agency, local authority and emergency services, as appropriate.
- calling the Environment Agency’s Floodline on 0345 988 1188 for more information and/or monitoring the Environment Agency’s “Flooding Updates” here
- scrutinising the employer’s “Major Incident Plan” and ensuring it is both adequate and that safety representatives have been properly consulted.
- liaising with Emergency Services if there is any likelihood that the premises might be evacuated in the event of a flood.
- using the ususal method for informing parents about possible evacuations and closures.
- A risk assessment must be carried out prior to re-occupation of the school and head teachers must seek employer advice before the school re-opens. No-one should be expected to work in a flooded building or without an adequate supply of fresh water, without sanitary facilities, and where heating systems aren’t working properly. This would be contrary to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In such circumstances schools must remain closed to pupils and staff. There must be no expectation that members assist in the clean-up. Where members do wish to volunteer in this respect, this should only happen following the undertaking of the risk assessment described above, which would specifically need to take account of their role. Staff who do volunteer in this respect must be provided with proper personal protective equipment.
- The affected areas must to be dried out and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Flood water may contain not only silt but sewage. Dampness can promote the growth of fungus and mould which can cause allergies and breathing problems if inhaled. See end of document for a link to the NUT guidance on mould.
- The following must be checked by a competent person and verified safe prior to resumption of use:
- Electrical and gas connections
- Electrical equipment and plant, if affected
- Heating systems, if affected
- Fire safety systems, including alarms but also fire exits and escape routes. In the event of fire safety concerns, the fire authority should be contacted.
If you have any concerns about flood preparation in your school, contact the local NUT Division.