Last reviewed 2 June 2020

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has launched new guidance to help ensure a safe return to schools in the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the chartered body for safety and health professionals, creating a handwashing schedule, staggering break times and extending timetables into the evening are among measures schools could introduce to manage the risk of coronavirus infection.

Some schools in England have remained open for the children of keyworkers throughout the pandemic.

Now, as many more children in primary school year groups get set to return to classrooms, IOSH has published a guide to help education bosses with what to consider when reopening premises.

IOSH says that while there should be standard operating procedures and checklists issued nationally, some decisions will need to be made at a local level to suit different settings.

The IOSH guidance is intended to assist with this and is based on information first published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is aimed at protecting teachers and other school staff, children, parents or carers, communities and society at large.

It says that plans to reopen should take account of the local situation, the school’s ability to maintain control measures, behavioural aspects, hygiene practices and physical distancing.

Launching the guidance, Fiona Riley, Chair of IOSH’s Education Group, said, “As with any place of employment, no premises should reopen until the health and safety risks of all building occupants — in this case children, teachers and other staff — can be controlled successfully.

“The first step in this is to conduct thorough risk assessments to identify those risks and to then put in place robust control measures. This risk-controlled approach should be based on strong leadership, worker involvement and sound health and safety advice.”

The Returning Safely to Schools guide can be accessed via the IOSH website.