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Health and Safety Services

Children, Young Persons and Vulnerable Adults
on Birkbeck premises

Policy & guidance for the safety of children, young persons and vulnerable adults on Birkbeck premises including compliance with the Protection of Children Act 1999.

1. Background
1.1 The main purpose of this document is to provide guidance for schools and departments on the circumstances under which children i.e persons under 16 years of age, and young persons, i.e. persons over 16 but under 18 years of age, may be allowed on to Birkbeck premises.  However, clarification is also provided as to how Birkbeck complies with the requirements of the Protection of Children Act 1999.   The children in question are generally those of students, visitors and members of staff who are accompanied onto Birkbeck premises by their parents or are left in the care of the Birkbeck Nursery or staff of a Birkbeck research unit. The young persons may be visitors, students or employees.

1.2 Birkbeck recognises that many of its staff and visitors have child care responsibilities and would not wish to put additional difficulties in the way of their study or employment. However, Birkbeck is subject both to health and safety legislation and to civil law in respect of its activities. Under health and safety legislation there are requirements for the identification and avoidance/reduction of risk. Birkbeck has a wide range of hazards, both between and within departments/schools, but their common feature is that the precautions to prevent any risk of harm arising have been designed in the context of the characteristics of the population at risk, i.e. competent, informed adults. The presence of children or young persons within Birkbeck premises could, in some cases, mean that the precautions which serve well for the usual population are not adequate for children for a range of reasons such as the size, inquisitiveness or immaturity of the particular child. For example, the staircases in Birkbeck buildings have not been designed with the protection of children in mind and most staircase railings lend themselves to be easily climbed up and over by older children. Also, it is not impossible for children under five years old to slip between the railings of a staircase. There was a serious incident some years ago at another HE establishment in which an infant fell down a stairwell while the parent (a member of staff) was engaged in unlocking an office door which opened onto a staircase.

1.3 Although, the objective here is to avoid persons being placed at risk, Birkbeck's civil liability is covered by insurance against any injuries sustained as a part of the its activity. This would, amongst other things, indemnify a member of Birkbeck whose work activity affected a child whether the child was or was not permitted in the area of that activity.

1.4 The following sections describe the action which schools/departments should take in order to prevent children and young persons from being exposed to danger whilst on Birkbeck premises.

2. Children on Birkbeck's premises
2.1 Students, visitors and members of Birkbeck staff may bring their children onto Birkbeck premises for social purposes such as organised functions or for brief visits that are restricted to low hazard areas. Children must remain under the supervision of an adult at all times.

2.2 The bringing of children onto Birkbeck premises at other times, a typical example is their accompanying the parent whilst at work due to child care difficulties, should be at the sole discretion of the relevant head of school/department who may implement more restrictive arrangements than those described in this document. Birkbeck staff wishing their children to accompany them under such circumstances should notify the head of school/department who may or may not grant permission. The criteria for the granting or otherwise of permission would include:

2.2.1 The safety of the work area: not only the particular room to which the parent would be bringing the children would need consideration, but also its proximity to hazard areas and whether the route to the room from the building's entrance is safe.

2.2.2 The effect that having children present could have on the safety of people working in the vicinity since distractions can have resultant safety implications.

2.2.3 The particular circumstances of the case, e.g. ages and number of children, duration and frequency.

3. Guidance on the above points on access for children
3.1 Children should not be allowed under any circumstances to accompany parents in to high risk areas. High risk areas are those where hazards may be encountered which are not present in the domestic environment. They include laboratories, workshops, catering style kitchens.

3.2 Children MAY be allowed into low hazard areas, i.e. those areas where the nature of any hazards present is similar to the domestic environment. Examples include foyers, dining areas, social areas and lecture theatres (for public lectures). Some psychology laboratories are specifically designed for research into child psychology. Such labs are low risk areas.

3.3 Offices which are under the sole occupation of the parent could also be defined as low hazard, providing there are no hazards such as chemicals or equipment other than normal office equipment. Under these circumstances the parent should be fully aware of potential problems and would be expected to remove or otherwise deal with them prior to their children being present.

3.4 Communal offices would not normally be deemed low hazard since the parent may not be in a position to be aware of all the hazards and take the necessary preventative action. There is also likely to be a larger range of office equipment and electrical devices present. There should be consultation with the line manager in order to confirm the acceptability of children being present.

3.5 In some circumstances sole occupancy offices may be located off laboratory or workshop areas. Furthermore, some offices open off corridors which themselves are part of a laboratory or workshop suite. Such situations render the offices high hazard areas for the purpose of this policy.

3.6 Public circulation areas such as corridors are generally low hazard but material may be being transported through or temporarily stored in these areas which could present a hazard to a child. Also, as stated, most staircases at Birkbeck are not designed for use by children. Hence, while there is no restriction on children accompanying their parents in these areas, the need for vigilance and supervision remains. Routes which involve passing through high-risk areas must be avoided.

4. Responsibilities of parents
At all times whilst accompanied by their children, the parent is required to exercise sufficient supervision so as to prevent any hazardous situations from arising. This includes their being immediately available to intervene if necessary. Children must not be left unsupervised under any circumstances and cover for any brief absences must be obtained. Note in particular that attendant staff cannot accept responsibility for supervising the children of Birkbeck students while they attend classes.

5. Formal Teacher Training
Birkbeck accommodation,  including certain laboratories, are used for formal teacher training by recognised providers such as other HE institutions.  It is recognised that the presence of children or young persons in the training area is often essential.  In such cases a suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken before each training event takes place.

6. Young persons (16-18 year olds)

6.1 16-18 year old visitors accompanied to Birkbeck by a parent or supervising adult. Where department/school rules allow, e.g. access might not be allowed into the Library or CCS computer suites, such young persons can be left unaccompanied for brief periods. in low risk areas. The right is, however, reserved to contact parents and require them to return to fully supervise such young persons if this is felt to be necessary. 16-18 year olds may also, if accompanied at all times by a parent or supervising adult, visit offices off laboratories or workshops with the exception of a laboratory designated as biohazard category 2 or above or a controlled radiation area.

6.2 16-18 year old visitors in their own right. Occasionally, Birkbeck or hirers of Birkbeck premises hold lectures for 16-18 year olds. Such events are restricted to low risk areas - lecture theatres, public circulation areas etc where such young persons will be safe in normal circumstances and will usually be accompanied by an adult such as a school teacher.

6.3 16-18 year old employees. - Such persons are protected under the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations (1997) and as such their activities are subject to a separate risk assessment by the employer. Refer any such young persons to the College Health and Safety Officer.

6.4 16-18 year old work experience students. Any employee wishing to take on a work experience student should complete a full risk assessment of the work that will be undertaken and submit this to the College Health and Safety Officer well in advance of any start date. The school or college sending the student will probably also ask for one of their own risk assessment forms to be completed. Refer this to the College Health and Safety Officer.

6.5 16-18 year old students. In exceptional circumstances the College may allow young persons to attend its classes. Where this is the case the academic in charge will exercise particular supervision over the activities of the young person. In laboratory classes, no young person can be permitted to participate in a practical exercise that is covered by a risk assessment indicating that more than unexceptional work or laboratory hazards requiring special controls or precautions beyond the standard requirements of area/school safety codes of practice i.e. work at level 1 on a laboratory work risk assessment form. The area/school safety codes of practice will be issued to any such student and must be adhered to by them.

7. Protection of Children Act 1999
The Protection of Children Act requires criminal record searches to be carried out on persons working with children and young persons in certain circumstances.  Birkbeck carries out such searches as a matter of course for staff working directly with young children and as such have an enhanced duty of care for the children.  The staff of Birkbeck's Nursery fall into this category as do staff within research units who have regular contact with young children as part of their research duties.  Birkbeck also has staff that may inter-relate with young persons from time-to-time  on  summer schools for example.  Such activities are subject to risk assessment.  Should the findings of the risk assessment indicate that significant one-to-one situations between staff and young persons are likely to be necessary then then Birkbeck will require a criminal record search to be undertaken.  Examples of such significant one-to-one activities would be the necessity to work in a photographic dark room or a requirement for personal tutorials. 

8. Protection of Vulnerable Adults
Vulnerable adults are: persons as defined by section 59 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and/or those persons aged over 18 who by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness are or may be unable to take care of themselves or are or may be unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation whom the University encounters through its teaching and research activities.  As with the protection of children, any work with vulnerable adults will be subject to a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the work involved by the staff concerned and their managers to ensure that arrangements are in place to minimise the risk of harm to the vulnerable adults and also possible accusations of harm having been committed. The College Health and Safety Officer can provide further advice, guidance and assistance with suitable risk assessment. Where significant risk is identified, Birkbeck will require adequate control measures to be put in place including a criminal record search to be undertaken.

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: