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Risk assessments (COVID-19)

This page is no longer being updated. Please refer to the Government website for the latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and guidance.


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Updated 11 February 2022


Plymouth city council risk assessment process

  • SSOW Checklist - (Originally sent in April)
    Your SSOW checklist for building controls will need to be revisited in preparation for September reopening. Regular building checks should be in place and with issues such as water safety, instructions according to your water based COSHH assessment and government guidance should be followed. For specialist subjects i.e. science labs,  CLEAPPS guidance is available. Further advice on the use of Hydro-pools is now available.
  • Risk Assessment template - (Originally issued in May/June)
    Your original risk assessment for limited opening will need to be reviewed to take into account the wider opening in September at your school, seeking competent advice where needs arise. You should follow current Government and DfE guidance, which may be subject to change, and review your current risk assessment accordingly.
  • Webinars
    Previously webinars were offered to assist schools in Risk Assessment methodology and risk scoring. If there are enough schools wishing to partake in an exercise can be arranged. Please email the Children's Service inbox to register your interest
  • Specialist advice
    Health and Safety Advice should be sought from your competent person on completing your risk assessment. For schools accessing the Plymouth City Council HSW services please email and to see seek advice from the team
  • Risk Assessment Panel (23 February and 3 March 2021)
    If there are any significant changes to DfE/Government Guidance that warrant a wholesale review of risk assessments, EPS and the HSW team will discuss with schools and TU reps any arrangements for a further risk assessment panel. Please note the planned announcement on the 22nd February by the Prime Minister which may affect Schools in terms of moving to a full reopening on the 8 March.
  • Assurance Visits - (visits may be arranged after 8 March 2021)
    For those schools using the risk assessment panel and our maintained schools we will deliver a set of reassurance visits to check that risk assessment measures are in place. Areas for improvement and good practise will be shared. These visits will be considered alongside any visits by the HSE, Ofsted or enforcement officers to schools and are also an opportunity to engage with the HSW team on any concerns or questions Heads may have


Visits from the Health and Safety Executive FAQs

What is the HSE visit about?

  • The HSE have said that they will be doing spot checks on schools to check their COVID arrangements.
  • They will make contact with you, possibly via telephone in the first instance, then arrange a visit time and ask to see a copy of your risk assessment
  • Some schools, in Devon, have reported that Civica (a company used by the HSE to manage appointments) have contacted the schools to speak to heads and where this has not been facilitated a visit has ensued. In Plymouth we have no direct evidence of this (this will be monitored)
  • The inspectors will wish to walk the school and view your arrangements
    • Ensure what is in your risk assessment reflects the actual arrangements in your school
    • Be vigilant before the visit and proactive in your control measures so that by the time of the visit controls are second nature
    • Answer any questions as best you can

Some questions you might get asked with a reminder of what we have achieved since March

How and where are you informed of COVID-19 advice and support?

Information for all schools:

What Involvement have TU's had with Risk assessments?

  • Locally engage with TU reps over any concerns
  • Formal Risk Assessment Panels have been held - TU, EPS, HSW and PH (where required) - Risk assessments submitted for comment and any issues discussed
  • Lead reps present at RA Panel

Information for schools who purchase Plymouth City Council H&S

What support have you received on completing your risk assessment?

  • Initial webinars held for those heads requesting it by head of Plymouth City Council HSW Assurance
  • Risk Scoring guidance document produced by Plymouth City Council HSW Team and sent out
  • Telephone appointments arranged for heads requesting them to review RA and offer support
  • Risk assessments reviewed by HSW Team on request
  • Reassurance visits carried out on controlled schools, during July and those requesting it as part of buy back services. Further visits planned for November

How is school transport managed?

  • Plymouth City Council have worked with local transport providers on public transport
  • Specific feedback given to schools where public transport access/egress may cause additional hazards, for example external transport hubs.
  • Dedicated transport is managed by Plymouth City Council and have guidelines/risk assessments in place and have worked with schools over arrangements during COVID-19

General ventilation guidance

As we approach the autumn/winter period it may be more difficult to naturally ventilate premises and achieve a comfortable working environment. Ventilation should be considered in line with all other controls procedures such as social distancing, facing side-to-side, washing hands, and surface cleaning

Some general principles that can be followed

  • Always use natural ventilation where possible
    • Opening (external) doors (bearing in mind fire precautions)
    • Opening windows
    • Establish an air flow
  • Air circulation/ventilation systems should be set to 100% fresh air and not recirculate
  • Consider ventilating spaces when they are unoccupied
  • Make sure ventilation facilities are not blocked or obstructed
  • Where music or singing occurs, consider larger, better ventilated spaces
  • Be mindful of the legal minimum of 16 Celsius
  • Engage with your estates staff on any building management systems

Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations - Guidance for Schools

CIBSE Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance

Who is responsible for H&S in Schools?

Under section 29(5) of the Education Act 2002, local authorities have powers to direct health and safety matters relating to school premises or school activities taking place elsewhere in the following types of school:

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

Local authorities should only use these powers when a school's health and safety arrangements are inadequate.

The legal responsibility and thus accountability for health and safety lies with the employer. While this seems straightforward, who the employer is depends on the type of school. There are also differences across England, Scotland and Wales as detailed below.

England and Wales

School type


Community schools

The local authority

Community special schools

Voluntary controlled schools

Maintained nursery schools

Pupil referral units

Foundation schools

The governing body

Foundation special schools

Voluntary aided schools

Independent schools

The governing body or proprietor



School type


Academies and free schools

The Academy Trust


Schools that are not the responsibility of the Local Authority can choose to buy back services of the Plymouth City Council HSW Team to provide competent advice in matter relating to H&S under the Services4Schools arrangements

Use of hydrotherapy pools in Special Schools

Before the reopening of a hydrotherapy pool a school should actively engage with the competent contractor that advises on your water treatment risk assessment.

In this conversation you should outline what the present situation is with regards to your hydrotherapy pool:

  • whether the pool is currently full or not
  • if it has remained full, the duration
  • any TVP testing or chlorination that has occurred during the lockdown
  • control measures have been put in place since lockdown.

Your water treatment competent person should then be able to advise you on whether the pool will need to be drained and cleaned or if it can go into operation if the regular checks have been maintained. They may wish to see a copy of your Water Treatment Risk Assessment and may wish to review it in light of the information provided

Once you have received this advice back from your competent person you should follow the instructions given by them and then carry out the guidance as below for its continued operation

  • Every child and member of staff should confirm they are without symptoms before accessing the hydro therapy pool
  • Temperature checks of the children should be taken before the session
  • If therapy can be directed by poolside, maintaining social distancing this should be the first option
  • Where social distancing is not possible then the activity needs to form part of the individual risk assessment for the pupil and any support worker to understand if the activity can take place, given COVID risks
  • User numbers should be 1:1 and if large enough 2m social distancing should be observed within the pool as well as reception/waiting area, changing area, showers and poolside
  • All users must comply with infection prevention and control
  • Pool users should shower before pool use to reduce cross contamination and the likely pressure this may place on the free chlorine reserve for each pool
  • Swim hats may prevent the need for hair washing (may be clinical reasons as to why this can/cannot occur)
  • It may be necessary to wear a face mask in the pool environment and should be aligned with any PPE conditions/requirement within the school, bearing in mind the possible increased risk from the hydrotherapy pool environment
  • If there is to be a risk of splashing/submerging then wearing a face mask is not possible the mask should be removed and stored in a disposable bag for the duration of the session
  • Emergency evacuation trained staff should be within the pool area as directed by risk assessment and users individual needs, appropriate emergency PPE should be provided and readily available
  • Sessions should be limited to, wherever possible, school defined bubbles
  • After each session, all areas must be cleaned and disinfected as per ATACP guidance
  • Particular attention should be given to the cleaning of complex items such as hoists
  • Items such as toggles (floatation devices) should be soaked/immersed in a cleaning solution and left 72 hours before reuse
  • Air conditioning should operate on 100% fresh air with no recirculation
  • Adequate ventilation should be maintained at all times given the nature of the environment
  • Water treatment should be in line with advice as per your Water Treatment risk assessment
  • The free chlorine reserve for each pool should be monitored, checked and topped up regularly (reserves should not be depleted by having to cope with dirty bathers or equipment) as per your water treatment assessment
  • A suitable time period between sessions to allow for ventilation, stringent regular cleaning and free chlorine reserve dosing (if required) should be put in place .i.e. a minimum of 30 minutes

Further advice and guidance can be sought from the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) and should be discussed with a suitable competent person.

Revised guidance on ventilation and thermal comfort

In conjunction with our Facilities Management colleagues the PCC HSW team have revised the information and guidance on ventilation and thermal comfort for schools as below. Thermal comfort is how you interact with your environment and whether you are satisfied with temperature, humidity and air movement. In schools we need to balance this with making sure that we minimise airborne particles that could transmit COVID-19. This article aims to help you achieve this

Recently the DfE issued CO2 monitors to all state funded schools together with a Google Drive of documentation that gave some assistance on the placement, rotation and measurement/monitoring of CO2 levels How to use CO2 monitors in education and childcare settings. Please ensure you read this document.

It is important to note that high CO2 levels in a room are not a direct proxy for infection risk. CO2 monitors are intended to help you identify and monitor poorly ventilated or high use/occupancy areas that should have been identified as part of your thermal comfort and ventilation risk assessment that PCC HSW team advised all schools to carry out in September 2020.

Below is a summary of our advice, (POD pages will be updated shortly) which we advise all controlled schools and schools where we act as competent advisers through buy back to follow. Those schools who do not use PCC HSW services should contact their competent adviser for further advice on this subject. As we approach winter, ventilation must be balanced with thermal comfort to facilitate an environment conducive for learning.  At the bottom of this bullet pointed guidance is further documentation to assist you in determining risk levels, measurement and controls

Ventilation and Thermal Comfort

  • Carry out a ventilation and thermal comfort assessment of the estate to include:
    • the six factors involved in temperature as per HSE guidance
      • the placement and rotation of your DfE supplied CO2 Monitors.
      • the guidance issued by the DfE, CIBSE and the HSE (See below). Prioritise spaces that:
        • Feel constantly stuffy or smell unpleasant
        • High use, high occupancy areas
        • Areas could include
          • Teaching spaces
          • Indoor play spaces
          • Staff rooms, large offices, meeting room, group or breakout rooms
      • When placed in a new room, the monitor may need to refresh a few times before settling on a reading
    • Where CO2 monitor levels indicate improvement, consider the following measures
    • Take action promptly, try not to allow readings to reach the 1500ppm (parts per million) level, consider increasing ventilation at 800ppm (AMBER)
    • Improving ventilation in rooms (rooms with identical ventilation/occupation can be grouped)
      • Upper windows preferred to be open to provide background ventilation throughout the day
      • Lower windows to "purge" classrooms during non-occupancy periods or as adjustments (weather and individual criteria)
      • To maintain an air flow that balances thermal comfort
      • To rearrange furniture where possible to avoid direct drafts
      • For music activities for singing and wind instruments, larger more ventilated spaces or greater ventilation to occur and assess in line with current guidelines
    • Record readings at periodic times during the day, together with occupancy numbers and current windows/doors open to understand "What good looks like" in each room. For example, levels may build up just before lunch and may need a purge ventilation at lunchtime.
    • Where other poorly ventilated areas are identified, consider CO2 monitoring, periodic ventilation, based on usage and occupancy or if not possible, utilising a face covering, less used examples could include:
      • Little used storage areas
      • Plant/Equipment rooms
      • Cleaners cupboards
      • Disabled Toilets
    • Mechanical extraction
      • To ensure they are set to fresh air and not recirculate
      • To make regular checks to ensure no blockages, restrictions or damage
      • To consider air flow that allows particulate to drop out of the environment but still supplies a suitable air exchange
      • To consider any timed extraction periods, via fans etc and increasing the length of extraction where possible (i.e. toilet sensor extraction units, if there is no natural ventilation)
    • Record the findings of the assessment with ventilation plans for rooms that can easily be understood and maintained by estates/facilities staff. This can be referred to in your overall COVID risk assessment and contingency framework
    • Consider Physical Education environments within the survey to ensure adequate ventilation

Additional advice

Schools should reemphasis the need for pupils and staff to have layers of clothing to regulate thermal comfort throughout the day and engage with parents to explain the importance of regulating thermal comfort. Also that

Further guidance documents

Remember: you should continue with basic existing preventative measures and controls such as handwashing, hygiene and cleaning regimes contained within your COVID risk assessment

Any questions then please contact the Health and Safety Team at Plymouth City Council at or 01752 312523 or PCC HSW Team Schools Officer Shaun Badmin on 01752 304661, mobile 07747 565189


Feedback from HSE visit

Thanks to St Andrews CofE and Anne-Marie Allchurch

How long was the visit?

The HSE were on site for about 2 hours

What did they look at?

  • Went through risk assessment and any plans/communications for staff detailing controls
  • What support had you received on completing your risk assessment (see above information)
  • Spoke to Staff members (and would ask to see any local TU Reps)
    • As an example - caretaker, teaching assistant, Yr1 teacher
    • Be mindful of any clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable staff
    • What input did staff have into the risk assessments
    • Was it their plan and did they feel that had ownership of it
    • Could they raise any concerns or issues and would there be an outcome
  • General walk about of the school
  • Looked into classrooms but did not enter (checking tables/pupils were facing forward)
  • Ventilation and Social Distancing - feedback from spot checks in Scotland focused on these issues
    • Focussed on staff/adults social distancing, not children (this was a primary school and may be different for schools with pupils aged 12 and over)
  • Asked if children had their own stationery

What questions were asked and what feedback was given?

HSE were happy to field questions during the visit, examples

  • Clarification over office occupancy
    • Hierarchy of controls should be followed - 2m spacing, working side-to side, screens, together with adequate ventilation
  • COVID rooms - could these be single use or dual purpose, if a school wished to use the room for other purposes
    • An allocated room rather than a reserved room seemed sensible
    • Contingency for more than pone pupil who may have symptoms?
  • Fire doors - as per Plymouth City Council HSW advice - should not be propped open

What feedback was given?

  • Plymouth City Council HSW assurance visits were good practise
  • Engaging with pupils on arrangements, through schools councils etc was good practise
  • Comprehensive risk assessment in place
  • Head felt it was a good advisory visit

If you have any questions or feedback about these pages please email

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