Nurses responsibilities in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

  • 21 November 2018

As the school nurse we often attend incidents where someone is injured at school and sometimes these injuries can be serious. Some nurses have questions about the need to notify these to Worksafe and who is responsible. We hope the following information provides some clarity for you. 

The HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ACT 2015 applies to schools and all persons who enter the school are covered by this legislation. This includes students and visitors- Worksafe clarify this when they state:  Notifiable events include those that relate to children and not just teaching staff in the education setting, as schools/ECEs are workplaces.

The Act states that WorkSafe New Zealand must be notified when certain work-related events (notifiable events) occur. Notifiable events include fatalities, serious injuries and illnesses, and unplanned or uncontrolled workplace incidents that could put people at risk of serious injury or illness. There are clear guidelines about what is classed as a Notifiable Incident which you can read here. There is a very useful section that gives examples of what to notify. For example, a student with an injury that results in a broken bone that is treated in A&E is not notifiable to Worksafe but needs to be notified if the student is admitted to hospital. A notifiable incident also covers incidents which may have only resulted in minor (non-notifiable) injuries but had the potential to cause serious injury, illness or death.

The Board of Trustees is responsible for notifying Worksafe, but this may be delegated to the Principal. We recommend you clarify your school’s procedures. Schools should have policies related to Health and Safety. An example of an Injury and Incident Management Policy is available here

In most cases the Nurse would notify the Principal as soon as an injury occurs. If an incident occurs the priorities are

-First Aid 

-Getting support from the emergency services as required

- Ensuring that no-one else can be injured at the site.  

Additionally, there is also a responsibility to preserve the site where the injury occurred, so that it can be investigated if required.

The Nurse would also need to ensure that an incident form is completed, even if the incident is a ‘near miss’, where injuries are minor but could potentially cause serious injury, illness or death.

Where the injury has occurred outside of school, such as playing sport at another school, it would be the responsibility of that organisation to report serious incidents to Worksafe, but it would also be sensible to fill in an incident form for your own school. Sometimes the other organisation/school may not know the serious nature of an injury and so there may be a need to be communication to ensure notification occurs.  Nurses may want to implement a system where they are informed of incidents and injuries occurring outside of the normal hours that the nurse is present. This could enable involvement with medical follow up/rehabilitation with the student/staff and ensure that incidents are reported appropriately.  

This document can be helpful in determining whether a notification needs to be made. 

The nurse should report to the Principal/Health and Safety Committee any risks or hazards present at school so that action can be taken to prevent injuries.  Nurses are often involved with the school Health and Safety committee and this can be a suitable place to highlight Hazard identification, but care needs to ensure that medical information of students and staff remains confidential. Involvement of the school nurse with the school Health and Safety practices varies largely between schools, but it can be a valuable way to provide further support to the organisation and students that we care for.

We hope this information is helpful for you. Please feel free to comment or ask further questions- we are always happy to hear of other’s experiences.

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