School Accident Reporting - what’s an Accident and what’s an Incident?

bigstock-A-Child-Broken-Arm-In-Plaster--379175734A school can take every reasonable step to keep everyone safe but accidents can and do happen. All accidents should be captured by law in the school Accident Book and some of them will be reportable under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). There will also be a range of less serious incidents such as a nose bleed or a bumped head where it is good practice to also keep a record of the details and inform parents. Whilst there is no legal definition of what is recordable in the Accident Book, many schools will specify an event requiring first aid intervention.

Only certain accidents are reportable under RIDDOR. The first criteria is that the accident must have happened in relation to the workplace and its related activities. For example, asthma that is triggered by a known irritant in the workplace is reportable. However, if an asthma attack is caused by a cold virus, then it’s unrelated to work and isn’t reportable. The responsible person in your school must report accidents to the HSE that happen to students if:

  • The incident occurred as a direct result of a work activity or lack of sufficient safety measures in the workplace.
  • The person dies or is taken directly from the scene of the accident to hospital for treatment. Note that examinations and diagnostic tests are not considered treatment in this definition.

The accident is reportable if it occurred in relation to:

  • Any school activity, both on or off the school premises.
  • Equipment, machinery, or substances in the school premises, e.g. equipment used in a woodworking class or chemicals used for a science lesson.
  • Poor management or organisation of a school activity, e.g. a lack of supervision.
  • Poor design or condition of the premises, e.g. badly maintained floors.

Incidents that are not reportable to RIDDOR include:

  • Those that happen due to an existing medical condition, e.g. a student with asthma who is taken to hospital following an asthma attack not triggered by something related to how the school operates.
  • Those where the person goes to hospital purely as a precaution and has no apparent injury.
  • Sports injuries that are not connected to how the school manages the risks from the activity, e.g. those caused by normal ‘rough and tumble’ of the game.
  • Playground accidents due to collisions, slips, trips, and falls that are not related to the condition of the premises or the level of supervision.
  • Violence between pupils.
  • Injuries caused while travelling on a school bus, that result from a road traffic accident. These are classed as road traffic incidents and are investigated by the police. However, if pupils are getting on and off the bus and are injured and taken to hospital due to a vehicle striking the bus, this is reportable.
  • Any incidents involving pupils on overseas trips.
  • Incidents involving pupils who are elsewhere on a work placement. During work placements, students are considered an employee of the business at which they have a placement. This means that the criteria for reportable incidents involving staff apply and the business is responsible for reporting.

To put this guidance into more context let’s look at three examples.

Accident in the School Playground

A student is playing on a swing at break time when the chain snaps and the child hurts their arm requiring a hospital admittal for a fractured arm. This is reportable because the accident was caused by poor maintenance of the playground swings.  

Accident during a PE lesson

During a PE lesson, one of the students slips on a wet patch on the gym floor and breaks their foot. The gym floor was mopped before the lesson but not given enough time to dry. The cleaning schedule wasn’t planned well and is an example of poor management of a school activity and so is reportable under RIDDOR.

Accident while students play kickabout at lunch

Some students are using the playing field to play kickabout during their lunch break. One of the students run to kick the ball, but misplace their footing and sprain their ankle. They need to go to hospital for an x-ray, but because the injury was not caused by something related to how the school operates it is not reportable under RIDDOR but it would still go in the Accident Book.

However, whilst some incidents are not reportable under RIDDOR or the Accident Book, it’s still good practice to keep a record of minor incidents such as asthma attacks and keep parents in the loop regards any occurrence so they are fully informed on what happened and what action was taken. The record can be paper or electronic and should include a date, details of the incident, any treatment received with a copy going to the parents ideally with a mechanism for confirming receipt.

SG World’s Incident Reporting solutions give school staff a clear consistent process to follow which will keep parents/guardians informed and generate a central record at the same time – reducing paperwork, capturing all the facts and protecting students and staff alike from breakdowns in communication.

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