Incorporating health and safety training as part of beginning teacher development

Health and safety issues cannot be ignored while planning and incorporating NoS elements into practical activities. The history of school science is replete with examples of accidents that have occurred when adequate assessments of risk were not carried out. Hazard identification and risk assessment are some of the main reasons for a beginning teacher's reluctance to carry out practical activities in science lessons, which leads to reduced enjoyment of, and engagement in lessons by pupils. The increasing diversity of entrants into science teaching includes newly qualified science graduates and career changers, some of whom may not be familiar with the hazards associated with certain experiments and practical activities that are part of school science. As a mentor, you have a responsibility for providing a beginning teacher with a thorough induction on health and safety procedures for conducting practical lessons - both generally and for a specific practical activity - and for offering continued guidance throughout the early years of their teaching career. For a start, ask the beginning teacher to complete Task 14.6 below to reflect on some health and safety procedures and issues.

Task 14.6 ‘A matter of terms'

Hazard and risk are terms that are commonly used as if their meanings are commonly understood. During a weekly mentoring meeting, discuss with a beginning teacher the following questions, to help them develop clarity about the terms; hence, ensuring precision in their presentation of these terms to pupils in their lessons.

  • 1. What is a hazard?
  • 2. What is a risk?
  • 3. What guidance is commonly used in schools to identify hazards associated with certain materials and equipment?
  • 4. Are there practical activities that can be considered'hazard free'?

During these discussions, ask the beginning teacher to make notes on the best ways to appraise hazards and risks while planning for practical activities (and ensuring the inclusion of the NoS elements discussed above).

To enable a beginning teacher to embed health and safety issues in planning for practical lessons, this chapter suggests three vital ways, which are: sources of guidance, induction to the laboratory and risk assessment for every practical activity.

Sources of guidance

It is important for you to make sure a beginning teacher has access to sources of guidance regarding health and safety matters. In England, for example, the Department for

Education (DfE), has provided some guidance for schools that can be adopted and/or modified in accordance with the school's context.

As a start, you could share the list below of weblinks or equivalent references of organisations used in your country with the beginning teacher:

  • • Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Equipment (CLEAPSS) website: and%20safety
  • • DfE guidance: Asbestos management in schools' website: publications/asbestos-management-in-schools--2
  • • DfE guidance: Emergency planning and response' website: emergencies-and-severe-weather-schools-and-early-years-settings
  • • Health and Safety Executive’ (HSE) website: 'Identify the hazards’ identify-the-hazards.htm
  • • Outdoor Education Advisers Panel for school trips' website: www.diverseschooltravel. = CjOKCOjwpLfzBRCRARIsAHuj6qVilhyZZU3obd 61PJunQwoOxHDd2DpHWCz9g68grYPYV5Ryt-dg7VOaAjmWEALw_wcB

As a mentor, you are the primary source of support for a beginning teacher, so you could provide a general overview on health and safety practices based on some of the above (or similar) list of resources. However, for continued, all-round development of a beginning teacher and to hand over some of this responsibility to them, instead of you giving them a general overview, you could direct them to the above (or similar) resources, which they can access as the need arises. To facilitate this practice appropriately, ask the beginning teacher to complete Task 14.7, which allows them to identify and reflect on resources they could use to gain guidance on health and safety procedures regarding specific practical activities.

Task 14.7 Sources of guidance

Follow the steps below:

  • 1. Ask a beginning teacher to reflect on where they would get advice from, for each of the practical activities indicated in Table 14.2 and any others they will be teaching in the near future.
  • 2. Then discuss with the beginning teacher some of their learning gains from the documents and ask them to identify some of the sources that helped them the most, as well as those which were not helpful.
  • 3. Encourage them to keep updating Table 14.2 in future by adding and reflecting on additional health and safety documents regarding these four examples as well as other practical activities.

Table 14.2 Sources of guidance for practical activities


Sources of guidance associated with required materials and equipment

Sources of guidance regarding associated hazards

1 Using chemical reagents

2 Using radioactive sources

3 Dissecting animal organs

4 A field trip to a nature reserve

5 Others - add as appropriate

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