Good estate management for schools

Health and safety

Advice on legal responsibilities for managing and maintaining school buildings and land, and ensuring compliance with statutory and regulatory standards.

You should make sure that you manage your statutory responsibilities and other health and safety issues in the estate to ensure the safety of pupils, staff and visitors.

To keep the estate in a safe condition, you should:

  • clearly define and designate responsibilities for health and safety issues
  • identify all property related health and safety issues
  • take appropriate actions to minimise any avoidable risks
  • monitor risks and issues

You should make sure that you follow the relevant legislation, Statutory requirements are prefaced with ’you must’.

This section is primarily about the health and safety aspects of school buildings and their external areas. It includes fixed fittings and equipment, but not loose equipment (such as portable gym equipment).

Estate related health and safety should be part of your wider school health and safety policy, approach and procedures. Find out more about general health and safety in schools.

Specific health and safety responsibilities for schools undertaking construction projects are not covered in detail in this section. More information about this can be found in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

Find out more about health and safety considerations when managing estate projects.

Who should read this section

Read this section if you have any responsibility for the safety of children, staff or visitors using the school buildings and site areas.

This includes:

  • proprietors, leaders and governors of schools
  • charity trustees of academies and academy trusts
  • trustees of schools
  • school business professionals
  • those with responsibility for the day-to-day running of the school estate
  • local authorities
  • diocesan authorities and other religious authorities and bodies

If you have an oversight role, you should read this section so that you can ensure that these key responsibilities are effectively discharged. This includes:

  • governing boards
  • academy trusts
  • school trustees

Who is responsible for health and safety

Please refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on responsibilities in the education sector.

The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). The regulator is the HSE.

The HSWA places overall responsibility for the health and safety of employees, pupils and visitors in workplaces with the employer.

Other people also have duties under the HSWA. For example, anyone who has control of non-domestic premises has some duties towards non-employees who use those premises. HSE have produced guidance for the responsibilities of school leaders.

You should seek professional advice if you’re unsure about your responsibilities.

Who is the employer in schools

The employer varies depending upon the type of school.

Local authority

The local authority is the employer in:

  • community and community special schools
  • voluntary-controlled schools
  • maintained nursery schools
  • pupil referral units

Governing body

The governing body is the employer in:

  • foundation and foundation special schools
  • voluntary-aided schools

School proprietor

The school proprietor (the academy trust, for academies and free schools) is the employer in:

  • academies
  • free schools
  • other independent schools

Employer responsibilities

The HSWA requires employers to:

  • ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees
  • conduct their undertaking in a way that does not expose non-employees to risks to their health and safety

Maintenance plays an important part in complying with health and safety law. As an employer your duties include:

  • safe provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work associated with them
  • provision of information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety at work of employees
  • maintenance of a safe place of work including access and a safe working environment

You cannot delegate your HSWA duties. You might be able to delegate the management of specific functions, but that does not release you as an employer from a legal duty.


You may appoint a competent person to carry out risk assessments, but you will still have ultimate responsibility for health and safety.

In schools, the management of health and safety on the estate is likely to be delegated by the employer. The designated person should ensure that:

  • the school meets statutory compliance across all estate areas
  • competent persons are engaged to assist with the various compliance areas

Schools and academies also have duties under Occupiers Liability Acts towards pupils, staff and visitors, to ensure that they will be reasonably safe when using the premises.

Where the local authority or other responsible body is the employer, they may delegate roles and responsibilities to school staff, but they must undertake regular monitoring to ensure that local management arrangements are being implemented and are effective.

Premises responsibilities

The HSWA (section 4) imposes duties on an individual or body who has control of the premises. This includes those with obligations for maintenance or repairs and control of access. There can be multiple duty holders within a school context.

Duty holders are required to take reasonable measures to ensure that the premises are safe and without risk to health.

Roles, responsibilities and arrangements for estate health and safety should be clearly set out within the health and safety policy.

Appointed competent persons

The general duties imposed by the HSWA are supported by several regulations. Of particular relevance are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). These require employers to appoint one or more competent persons to support compliance with the regulations. This includes day to day responsibility for health and safety at the school, as well as additional responsibilities relating to maintenance and construction work.

The MHSWR prefer employers to appoint a competent person who is already employed by their organisation.

A competent person should have:

  • a core knowledge of the subject
  • sufficient training
  • the experience to apply that knowledge correctly
  • the personal qualities needed to undertake functions effectively
  • sufficient time to carry out responsibilities

The employer should ensure that this level of competence is retained. This will include regular training.

Managing health and safety well

Managing health and safety can rarely be achieved by one-off interventions. HSE recommend a ‘plan, do, check, act’ approach.


  • determine your policy
  • plan for implementation


  • profile risks
  • organise for health and safety
  • implement your plan


  • measure performance
  • monitor before events
  • investigate after events


  • review performance
  • act on lessons learned and the findings of investigations

Risk assessments and management

The MHSWR impose several duties on employers to manage health and safety including:

  • making and reviewing suitable and sufficient risk assessments
  • recording the significant findings
  • implementing appropriate preventive and protective measures
  • monitoring and reviewing any preventative and protective measures taken

Carrying out suitable and sufficient risk assessments will require inspections and servicing by qualified professionals (for example of gas equipment).

Any potential risks identified should be formally recorded, assessed and managed. This should include taking appropriate preventative and protective measures. You should routinely monitor and review the risks and actions taken.

As well as formal risk assessments undertaken by competent persons, you should encourage and enable the reporting of risks by staff and pupils. You should have a system in place to formally record and act on issues raised.

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and kept up to date. This could be as a result of changed circumstances such as bringing in new equipment, using an area for a different purpose or if someone reports a hazard.

You should take account of health and safety monitoring arrangements when carrying out any repairs, maintenance and improvement projects.

Find out more about controlling risks at work and risk assessments.

Estates documentation

You should hold a number of documents to help you manage your estate and ensure it is safe for all users. These will include certificates and details of all statutory examinations, testing and remedial work.

Examples of documents that are required by law include:

  • health and safety policy including risk assessments and arrangements
  • asbestos register and management plan
  • fire risk assessment and management plan

Other documents you should have to help keep your estate safe include:

  • statutory maintenance and testing certificates
  • a legionella risk assessment and management plan
  • inspection logs and registers
  • details and contact information for responsive maintenance and emergency services contractors

Find out more about information about the estate, and maintenance documentation.

Information and training

The MHSWR require employers to provide employees with comprehensive and relevant information on risks, protective measures and procedures. They are also required to provide adequate health and safety training and ensure this is repeated periodically as appropriate.

Other legislation may require specific training on aspects of estates health and safety, for example in respect of asbestos and fire safety.

You should consider training needs to enable individuals to manage risks and undertake designated tasks and roles.

Display Energy Certificate (DEC)

All buildings occupied by a public authority that are larger than 250m² and frequently visited by the public must have a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) and advisory report. This includes most schools and academies.

This is a requirement of The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007.

Find out more about Display Energy Certificates.

Risk Protection Arrangement

The Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) is a school insurance arrangement supported by the Department for Education. All academies, including free schools and private finance schools can join the RPA. From April 2020, local authority maintained schools have also been able to join.

The membership rules for RPA require all members to comply with general and estate related health and safety legislation.


Accessibility plans for school buildings should include actions to make the school accessible to all. Assessment of pupils or staff with particular needs may require reasonable adjustments to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, to protect people from discrimination and avoid disadvantage to those with disabilities.

Find out more about the Equality Act and schools.

Building structure and fabric

Structural stability

It is a statutory requirement to have structurally safe buildings.

All buildings should be inspected periodically to check for damage. The nature and frequency of inspection will depend on the use of the building along with the construction type (traditional brick, steel, concrete or timber frame) and environmental considerations such as:

  • flooding
  • nearby water-courses
  • historical mining activity in the area
  • ground conditions

Any visible changes in building structural condition should be formally reported and actioned using appropriate professional advice. Some inspections could be undertaken by a member of staff, and some may need to be done by a professional surveyor. A record of inspections identified issues and actions should be maintained.

Find out more about assessing the condition of your estate.

Working at height and fall protection

Falls from height are one of the most frequent causes of serious accidents in the workplace and remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths. HSE guidance provides key messages to help plan and organise work at height.

Working at height should be avoided wherever possible. Where it is not possible, you should prevent a fall by working from an existing safe place or by using suitable equipment. If the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated you should reduce the distance or consequence of a fall.

Any equipment provided must be suitable, stable and sufficiently strong. It should be inspected prior to use and at suitable periods to ensure that it is still in good condition. This may include roof edge protection or harness eye bolts/systems used to secure window cleaning equipment. Scaffolding should only be erected and used by competent persons.

Those who are in control of any work at height should make sure that work is:

  • properly planned
  • appropriately supervised
  • carried out by competent people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the task

You should give special consideration to situations where it may be possible to fall through a fragile roof material or surface (for example, a skylight) and take precautions to prevent such an accident. You should also take precautions to prevent anyone becoming injured by falling material or objects.

The Working at Height Regulations 2005 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) contains further provisions.

Slips, trips and falls

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that floors should be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. You should consider all access routes, including corridors, stairs, passageways and external paths. They should be periodically inspected, and any condition issues formally recorded and actioned accordingly.


The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that every window or other transparent or translucent surface in a wall, partition, door or gate should, where necessary for reasons of health and safety, be of a safety material or be protected against breakage and be appropriately marked.

Drainage and sewerage

Blocked drains or sewers have the potential to overflow, causing flooding and contamination of areas of the school. This can result in significant health and safety issues and affected areas will need to be immediately closed to all persons. For this reason, it is important to address any potential drain blockages as soon as they are identified.

Gutters should be regularly cleaned. Ponding on roofs should be dealt with as a matter of urgency as it can cause deterioration of roof finishes and in severe cases can overload roofs contributing to structural failure.

At times of severe loading (such as following storms), drains and sewers can become blocked. This also leads to flooding or contamination of areas.


Read the detailed guidance on asbestos management in schools.

The majority of schools in England will contain some asbestos, as it was used extensively as a building material, particularly from the 1950s to the mid-1980s, until it was completely banned in 1999. School buildings may contain asbestos if any part of them was built before 2000.

Asbestos can be dangerous if not managed effectively. As long as asbestos containing materials are undamaged, and not in locations where they are vulnerable to damage, they should be left undisturbed and their condition monitored. When asbestos does pose a risk to safety and cannot be effectively managed in situ, it should be removed.

It is extremely important that any asbestos present in your school is managed properly. If managed correctly, asbestos poses very little risk to health. Equally, if it is not effectively managed, asbestos poses a significant health risk.

The school must have an:

  • asbestos register (including associated remedial actions)
  • asbestos management plan

Suitable communications and training should be provided to all staff. All available asbestos information should be made available to building or maintenance contractors for their reference prior to undertaking work at the school. Find out more about managing contractors.

HSE provide guidance about asbestos health and safety, includes advice on selecting a competent asbestos surveyor.

Fire safety

Safety and security systems: checks and testing

You should carry out checks and tests for:

  • existing school estates
  • new schools
  • fire detection and alarm systems
  • fire doors
  • firefighting equipment
  • emergency lighting
  • lightning protection

Existing school estates

School premises, accommodation and facilities must be maintained to a standard that ensures, so far as is reasonable, the health, safety and welfare of pupils and staff. For maintained schools this is covered by the Schools Premises Regulations 2012 – Regulation 6. For academies, Part 4 of the Schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 applies.

Further advice is available in the standards for school premises.

New schools

New building work must comply with Building Regulations 2010 on fire safety. This can be achieved by following the relevant building regulations. The Building Bulletin 100 provides fire safety guidance for school designers.

Fire escape and safety

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) imposes duties on employers and persons with control of school premises. You must, amongst other things, have an appropriate and up-to-date fire risk assessment for all premises under your control. This will include ensuring procedures are in place to reduce the likelihood of fire, maintaining fire detection and alarm systems, and familiarising staff and pupils with emergency evacuation procedures. See fire safety in the workplace for more information.

The FSO states that you must ensure the fire risk assessment is reviewed and updated (where appropriate) regularly, and particularly where there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid or where significant changes to the premises or use take place.

In addition, the final report from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety recommends that fire risk assessments are reviewed annually for high-rise residential buildings. Schools of any height should consider reviewing their assessment annually, or at least every 3 years.

Those completing fire risk assessments, or providing advice in relation to them, should be appropriately qualified or experienced. The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (FRACC) has issued advice on what to consider when appointing a ‘competent person’ to carry out the fire risk assessment.

Fire detection and alarm systems

Fire detection and alarm systems should have a weekly alarm test. In systems with multiple manual call points, a different one should be tested each week, so that all are eventually included in the schedule of testing over a period of time. The system should also be subject to quarterly and annual inspections and tests by a competent person.

All work on the fire alarm system, including routine testing, should be:

  • recorded
  • accessible to the fire service

Zone diagrams should be available at the main control panel to enable the fire services to:

  • determine the location of the incident
  • devise the most appropriate methods of fighting the fire

Find out more about fire safety in new and existing school buildings.

Fire doors

All fire doors must remain in efficient working order and should be regularly checked and maintained by a competent person. You should keep a record of any maintenance. The inspection of fire doors should check that:

  • self-closing devices operate properly
  • hold-open devices release when the fire alarm operates
  • glazed panels are intact and undamaged
  • warning signs are in place - ‘automatic fire door – keep clear’ if the door has automatic release, or ‘fire door keep closed’ if manually operated
  • doors open and close freely and are free from damage
  • there is no distortion or warping of the door or frame
  • intumescent (a substance that swells as a result of heat exposure, thus increasing in volume and decreasing in density) strips and smoke seals are in place and not damaged
  • hinges and locks are properly lubricated
  • fire doors are not propped open by staff or pupils

Firefighting equipment


Extinguishers should be maintained and inspected by a competent person at least once a year. This involves a visual inspection of the extinguisher and a check of the contents and stored pressure.

A written record should be kept of the date of the last maintenance examination and this should usually be attached to the body of the extinguisher.

Fire blankets

Fire blankets should be inspected at least annually and replaced as required.

Hose reels

Hose reels are for the use of the fire service and staff should not normally be trained in the use of this equipment. All hose reels should be inspected on a yearly basis by a competent person.

They must also be recorded in the risk assessment for Legionella and maintained accordingly.

Fixed systems

When activated by the warning/alarm system, fixed systems release the extinguishing medium, for example, sprinkler systems. All fixed systems should be inspected at least on an annual basis or to manufacturer’s guidelines.

It is advisable to keep a record of any maintenance and testing.

Facilities for the fire service

This could include:

  • dry risers
  • access for emergency vehicles
  • emergency switches for installations
  • firefighting lifts
  • information in respect of the premises and its contents

Where these facilities are provided, they should be maintained and kept in good order. Maintenance and testing is required annually and varies dependent upon the height of the building.

Emergency lighting

Emergency lighting is installed in a building to provide some light when the normal lighting fails.

In terms of fire safety, the most important component of an emergency lighting system is the escape lighting. This illuminates escape routes to allow people to safely evacuate the building.

Schools are encouraged to undertake and record a monthly flash test. It is good practice to conduct a more detailed condition test every 6 months, including a 3-hour battery test by a competent person.

Signage and exit routes

Employers and those who have control of premises are required to ensure safe means of escape in the event of fire. This should include signage to provide direction to emergency exits. HSE provide guidance on safety signs (PDF, 2.13MB).

Lightning protection

Lightning protection includes:

  • lightning conductors, which protect the structure, typically of taller buildings
  • lightning surge protection, which aims to protect electrical and electronic equipment from a severe power surge caused by lightning

The British Standard BS EN 62305: 2006 recommends that all lightning protection systems are inspected and tested at least annually. A fully qualified engineer checks that all joints and bonds are not corroded and still have electrical continuity.

Electrical surge protection systems not only provide protection from lightning, but also from other potential electrical surges.

Schools are advised to identify any lightning protection systems installed in the school, and to obtain professional advice regarding the maintenance of these systems.

You should always have your electrical installation inspected and tested by a competent person.

HSE provide guidance and resources (PDF, 2.13MB) to help you control the risks from your use of electricity at work.

Building services – heating, ventilation and water

Gas installations

Maintenance of all gas installations and appliances must be carried out in accordance with the Gas Safety Installation and Use Regulations 1998. If you employ someone to carry out gas work, you are required by law to ensure that the person carrying out the work is a certificated competent technician. Currently this means that they must be a Gas Safe Registered Engineer with a valid certificate of competence relevant to the particular type of gas work involved (for example, non-domestic).

Effective maintenance of gas appliances requires an ongoing programme of regular/periodic inspections, together with any necessary remedial work. The Gas Safety Regulations require employers to ensure that any gas appliance, installation pipework or flue is maintained in a safe condition to prevent risk of injury.

You should have a maintenance plan for appliances, pipework and ancillary equipment on site, with reference to the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific requirements and periods between maintenance. It is good practice to have at least annual gas safety checks of appliances and associated pipework.

In the case of boarding schools or residential accommodation that is provided as part of a job (such as a caretaker’s home on school property) landlords have additional duties. This includes undertaking an annual gas safety check and ensuring appliances, pipework and flues are maintained and in a safe condition.

Gas appliances or fittings must not be used if it is known or suspected that they are unsafe.

Further guidance is given in the HSE Approved Code of Practice. Where doubt exists, specialist advice should be sought.

Electrical heating

Electrical heating and hot water heaters are covered under fixed electrical system testing.

Extreme care should be taken if any portable heating is used. Portable heaters present a risk of:

  • fire
  • burning
  • over-loading the electrical system

A risk assessment should be completed and control measures established before any portable heating is used within the school.

Oil heating

Oil burners should be serviced at least annually, ideally at the end of the winter by a competent person.

The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 cover the storage of oil at schools and other establishments.

All tanks, bunds and pipework should be regularly checked for signs of damage and it’s recommended that they are checked at least weekly, with a more detailed annual inspection and service by qualified inspectors to ensure that any potential defects are found and rectified.

There are security and environmental issues regarding oil storage areas and these areas should be as resistant as possible to unauthorised interference and vandalism.

If there are any permanent taps or valves where oil can be discharged from the tank to open areas, these should be fitted with a lock and should be locked shut when not in use. Where appropriate, notices should be displayed telling users to keep valves and trigger guns locked when they are not in use.

Pumps should be protected from unauthorised use and taps and valves marked to show whether they are open or closed. Where these are not in use, they should be fitted with a blanking cap or plug.

Professional advice should be sought where schools have redundant oil storage tanks, particularly if the removal of redundant tanks is proposed, as there is a risk of fire or explosion.

Other heating equipment

In recent years there has been an increase in the use of alternative heating equipment to reduce the carbon footprint of burning fossil fuels, such as biomass boilers, ground source, air source and heat recovery.

Due to the wide variety of equipment and methods of heat generation available, you should follow your manufacturer’s recommendations on inspection. This should be incorporated in the school annual maintenance plan.

Radiators and fan convectors

In a traditional ‘wet’ heating system (circulation of hot water), heat is delivered to areas of the school via either radiators or electric fan heaters which force air over a radiator to blow hot air.

A closed water circuit operates under pressure and should be inspected periodically for leaks.

Fan heaters should be checked and inspected periodically to check the fan operation and condition of electrical connections.

Hot water temperature

The School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 say that hot water at the point of use should not pose a scalding risk. Suitable arrangements should be made to ensure that control measures are in place and functioning effectively.


Legionella bacteria can grow in hot and cold water systems and can be harmful to health if inhaled. Growth is more likely to occur where cold water temperatures are greater than 20°C, when hot water temperatures are below 50°C or when water is permitted to stagnate due to pipe work dead legs or infrequent outlet usage.

Legionnaires’ disease is normally only contracted where water is sprayed and small droplets of water containing the bacteria are inhaled, such as in a shower.

As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you have a duty to:

  • appoint a competent person to take day-to-day responsibility for controlling any identified risk, sometimes referred to as the ‘responsible person’ - this person may be a member of school staff but they should have sufficient knowledge of the water system and sufficient authority to deal with the issues
  • identify and assess sources of risk in accordance with HSE Approved Code of Practice L8
  • prepare a written scheme (or course of action) for preventing or controlling the risk
  • implement, manage and monitor the written scheme
  • keep records and check that what has been done is effective
  • if appropriate, notify the local authority that there is a cooling tower on site - however, it is very unlikely that cooling towers will be present on school sites

The risk assessment and preparation of the course of action should be undertaken by a company which offers these specialist services.

HSE have produced guidance about legionella and legionnaires’ disease.


Employers must make sure there is adequate ventilation in enclosed areas of the workplace, under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Your risk assessment should identify areas of your estate that are poorly ventilated, including:

  • areas where there is no natural ventilation (open windows, doors, or vents) or mechanical ventilation (fans or ducts bringing in air from outside)
  • areas that feel stuffy or smell bad
  • where a CO2 monitor has identified poor ventilation

You can generally maintain and increase the supply of fresh air by opening windows and doors – although fire doors must not be kept open.

You should balance the need for increased ventilation while maintaining a comfortable temperature, you could do this by:

  • partially opening windows and doors to let fresh air in
  • opening higher-level windows to reduce draughts
  • airing rooms by opening windows and doors in between use – opening windows for 10 minutes an hour can help increase the amount of fresh air

Where it is not possible to maintain adequate ventilation, it may be appropriate to consider the use of an air cleaning unit while remedial works are undertaken.

Air cleaning units are not a substitute for ventilation and should never be used as a reason to reduce or not remediate poor ventilation in the long term.

An online marketplace is available to education settings, providing air cleaning units at a suitable specification and competitive price. The marketplace provides a guide for how many units you may require depending on the number of occupants in the space.

HSE provide more information on ventilation in the workplace and using CO2 monitors to assess ventilation.

Local exhaust ventilation

Air extract systems may be employed to maintain a safe environment by removing:

  • hazardous fumes, as in the case of a laboratory fume cabinet or kitchen extract
  • dusts and fumes, as in the case of technical workshops

Where such systems are installed, they should be adequately maintained as advised by the supplier or installer.

Mechanical extraction is often used to remove cooking fumes and heat, and to provide effective ventilation in kitchens. Build up of fat and other substances in filters and ducts will affect efficiency and increase the risk of fire. Planned maintenance should include regular removal and cleaning of grease filters and accessing ductwork for cleaning.

These systems also prevent the build up of gas fumes or leaks from kitchen equipment during cooking. For this reason, the extract system should be linked to the gas supply so that any flow of gas is prevented while the extract system is not working.

Filters can become blocked with residue from cooking and should be cleaned or replaced in accordance with the maintenance or supplier recommendations.

Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems (LEVs) may be used in fume cupboards and in workshops. They should be examined and tested at least every 14 months.

HSE provide guidance on LEVs, catering ventilation and catering maintenance.

Air conditioning

Under Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, an air conditioning system must be inspected by an energy assessor at regular intervals, not exceeding 5 years. Bi-annual checks and an annual maintenance schedule should continue as best practice.

If you have certain equipment (which includes stationary air-conditioning equipment), the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 require you to check for fluorinated gas (F gas) leaks using an appropriately qualified person. The frequency of inspection will vary between 3 and 12 months, depending on the amount of F gas in the equipment.

Refrigerant based systems and other systems or equipment which contain a liquid or gas under pressure can cause serious injury and damage to property if they are not properly maintained.

Electrical safety

Fixed electrical supply/installation

Fixed electrical system testing involves testing the electrical installations and systems that conduct electricity around the building. It covers all of the electrical wiring within the buildings and grounds and includes:

  • external lighting and supplies
  • main panels
  • distribution boards
  • lighting
  • socket outlets
  • air conditioning
  • other fixed plant

To comply with the requirements of the The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the HSE recommends periodic inspections by a competent person, but does not define the frequency. The Institution of Engineering and Technology Guidance Note 3 recommends a maximum period of 5 years between inspections or tests of electrical installations. Fixed wiring electrical inspections in swimming and hydrotherapy pools and other high-risk locations are required annually.

All testing must be conducted by a suitably qualified electrician.

Find out more about controlling risks from use of electricity at work.

Portable electrical appliances

A portable or moveable electrical appliance can be defined as any item that can be moved, either connected or disconnected from an electrical supply. Portable or movable items generally have a lead (cable) and a plug.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) state that electrical systems must be maintained to prevent danger. This includes any electrical equipment used by employees at work.

The law does not say how you must do this or how often. You should decide the level of maintenance needed according to the risk of an item becoming faulty, and how the equipment is constructed.

Not all electrical equipment will need a portable appliance test (often called a PAT test). In some cases, a simple user check and visual inspection is enough.

Items deemed unsafe to operate should be immediately rendered incapable of use until repaired or replaced.

HSE provide guidance on the maintenance and safety of portable electrical equipment.


Lighting is covered under the fixed electrical supply section. You should ensure that any external lighting is sufficient to enable safe use of the site.

External areas

The HSWA puts a duty on employers and those having control of the premises to ensure (as far as reasonably practicable) that the premises are safe and without risks to health. This includes external areas and means of access to and from the school.

Perimeter security

You should assess the risks associated with individuals entering or leaving the school estate. The school perimeter should be secured and controlled accordingly.

Find out more about site security.

Access routes, gates, roadways and parking

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that pedestrians and vehicles should be able to circulate in a safe manner providing protection to staff and pupils at the school. There should be clear segregation and delineation of pedestrian and vehicular access routes, and separation of parking and playground areas.

Automated gates and barriers offer an improved level of security but can also represent a significant safety hazard. To understand your legal obligations and for details of best practice for installing and maintaining an automated gate, the charity Gate Safe has developed a guide. HSE also provided guidance on powered gates.


If you have trees on your site, you will have responsibilities under HSWA and the Occupiers’ Liability Acts 1957 and 1984. You should carry out routine inspections reflecting the level of risk and following any potentially damaging activities or weather.

Further information about risk management of trees is available from HSE and the Forestry Commission.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas given off by rocks and soils. It is a harmful gas that can enter buildings.

Schools in a radon affected area and those in a non-radon area that have a basement that is occupied for more than an average of one hour per week (50 hours per year), should carry out measurements to determine potential radon levels in their premises. You may need to take action to restrict resulting exposures in accordance with the requirements of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.

Find out more about radon in the workplace.

Other site hazards

Schools may have other health and safety hazards within their grounds that children should be kept away from. This would include:

  • ponds
  • excavations
  • ground contamination
  • electrical plants

You should assess and manage these hazards, with regular reviews to ensure the safety arrangements are effective. Records should be kept of these arrangements and checks made.

Other equipment, systems and storage

Lifts and lifting equipment

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) require duty holders to ensure that lifts used by their employees for work are safe to use.

LOLER also requires people-carrying lifts to be thoroughly examined every 6 months. This involves a systematic and detailed examination of the lift and its associated equipment by a competent person such as an insurance provider. The competent person may call for supplementary testing in support of the thorough examination.

You should consider the safety of users in the event of the lift breakdown or stopping between floors. Options include a breakdown response contract as well as the normal maintenance contract, or training some employees in lift lowering and emergency door opening. The lift should have a suitable means of raising the alarm (for example, alarm call buttons, emergency telephones) and may have emergency lighting. Only lifts designed for use in the event of a fire can be used to evacuate during a fire.

HSE provide guidance for employers about the examination of lifting equipment (PDF, 141KB).

Gym and playground equipment

Equipment used for physical education must be safe to use (under section 3 of the HSWA). To ensure that equipment is maintained in a safe condition, it should be regularly inspected. British Standard EN 1176 requires that playground equipment should be inspected at regular intervals reflecting its use, purpose and position.

Find out more about the inspection and maintenance of playground equipment (PDF, 8.5MB).

Swimming pools and hydrotherapy pools

It is the responsibility of swimming pool operators to:

  • carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of their operations
  • identify necessary control measures

This should take account of the whole user population of the swimming pool and the risk that a fatal incident can occur very quickly.

Find out more about managing health and safety in swimming pools.

Guidance on water treatment and pool maintenance and operation is available from the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group which publishes the standards for water treatment which should be followed. It also provides suitable training and qualifications for school pool operators.

Swimming and hydrotherapy pools should also be included in the risk assessment for legionella. Find out more about the control of legionella bacteria in swimming and hydrotherapy pools (PDF, 238KB).

Spa-pool systems carry a particularly high risk of infection and require a more intense schedule of monitoring and inspection.

Find out more about the control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pool systems.

School meals kitchens

You should consider:

Pressure systems

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) cover the safe design and use of pressure systems to prevent serious injury. The HSE Approved Code of Practice (PDF, 547KB) provides guidance. The regulations apply to many types of pressure systems, including all pressure systems over 250 bar litres capacity.

The PSSR do not apply to portable gas cylinders and simple welding sets.

The Approved Code of Practice includes an appendix on how to apply the regulations in a proportionate manner.

Gas cylinders for welding

Model risk assessments (MRATs) for both gas welding and oxy-acetylene welding recommend that the equipment be inspected by a suitably qualified person every 12 months and the regulators and hoses replaced every 5 years. MRATs are available for all equipment, materials and processes used for design and technology and art.

Storing hazardous substances

Dangerous materials and chemicals need to be stored securely and an up-to-date inventory maintained. The handling and use of hazardous substances is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 schools must ensure that the workplace is ventilated by a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air.

Guidance is also available about the storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals in schools.

Contractor competence and management

If you use contractors, you have a responsibility to make sure they are competent. You should carry out checks and request evidence to ensure they are competent and appropriately qualified to carry out the work they are to undertake.

When procuring works on the estate, you should follow robust procurement policies and ensure these identify required competency levels and qualifications.

You also need to ensure that contractors are safe on the site. You should make sure that contractors and their employees have information on health and safety risks they may face, and the measures in place to deal with those risks. This includes providing information about asbestos and emergency procedures before any work is started.

HSE provide guidance about complying with health and safety law when using contractors.

If the work involves construction or building work, as the client you have legal duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. Find about more about managing estate projects.