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Letters Extra : How improvements were made at Hay Lane

The praise from Ofsted for Hay Lane school's health and safety policy is well deserved (Helen Ward on 'Guidelines allow tragedy-hit school to resume visits'). But I was disappointed that this article did not describe how the improvements were made, if other schools follow the Hay Lane example then the number of such fatal accidents would fall.

The magic ingredient was their new Joint Union Safety Committee. This committee was requested by traumatised staff after the accident. They wanted their concerns to be heard. This committee had equal representation from management and unions and was supported by safety experts from Brent LEA and the NUT. It provided a collaborative structure for addressing staff safety concerns, increasing safety awareness and developing workable safety policies and practice.

The beneficial effect of joint union safety committees is already well known. John Cullen, chair of the Health and Safety Commission Advisory Committee (HSC), has said: "Those places with trade union safety representatives and Joint Union Health amp; Safety Committees have significantly better accident records, with over 50% fewer injuries than those workplaces with no such consultation arrangements."

The HSC is encouraging all LEAs to promote safety representatives and committees in schools. Brent LEA has seen in Hay Lane how successful they can be and is doing just that.

Interest in the Hay Lane school safety policies has extended far beyond the immediate school. Jenny Cooper, the NUT safety representative at Hay Lane School, has worked with the NUT to improve the usefulness of their advice to teachers who are organising visits for particularly vulnerable pupils. This guidance is accessed on the NUT web site at www.teachers.org.uk . Dr Gill Reed Brent NUT Health amp; Safety Officer London

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