Navigating the health and safety in school laboratories need not be a minefield.
Given recent events, such as the South End School incident, in Carterton; and the conviction of North Island Mussels Limited for failing its responsibilities as a PCBU, by allowing a worker to receive blinding by chemical burns to their eye; there may be waves of unease passing through our school communities.
Numerous incidents involving chemical spills, burns or banned substances have occurred in recent years, some of which are still under investigation. The responsibilities outlined and implied in the Act are many, and compliance with the Code of Practice is your best bet to avoid falling foul of ignorance - which is no longer a defence in court.
Our technicians work very hard to achieve a balance of health and safety and normal operations in a cumbersome environment fogged with uncertainty and obstinacy. Many feel left out on a limb. The National Hazardous Substances Advisor for Fire and Emergency NZ (formally the NZ Fire Service), Dr Trudy Geoghegan, wants our schools and technicians to know that they are never alone. They offer a free service to supply advice on health and safety in school laboratories, and they are there to help as a first responder in the event of a spill or leak. Too often, seemingly small events can blow into National news.
The Fire and Emergency team can help in any event, with information about how and where to dispose of hazardous substances, or even cleaning up spills and leaks of any degree. This does not need to turn into a major news event, and will most often be nothing more than a highlight of safety procedures for staff and students.
- The substance that put 10 Carterton students into hospital for observation is believed to be ammonia or a sulforaphane compound produced by chicken manure based compost.
- North Island Mussels Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
- Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while at work in the business or undertaking.
- A fine of $219,375 was imposed.
- Reparation of $60,000 was ordered.
- The maximum penalty under the Act is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.