25 November 2011 at 15:33 #17302
Hi – Ruth’s set-up this group to encourage discussion of safety.
This is mainly to help TalkPhysics’s members work safely on any specific issue, but also generally to model professional behaviour by showing that even the experienced, specialist physics teachers who work for the IOP need:
- to assess risk
- to consider carefully how to do unfamiliar activities
- and many other forms of support and action.
TalkPhysics includes non-specialists, trainee teachers, and NQT teachers, so we want to encourage you to engage with exciting, safe practical work, rather than shut out practical work entirely or run activities outside your specialism without appropriate safeguards.
Ideally, I’d even like to go as far as modelling behaviour such as open, supportive, blame-free discussion of near-misses as a technique for reducing risk in the future. Both accidents, and mistakes, happen. I think the key is to learn from them so as to minimise the odds of recurrence for yourself and others.
I expect discussion will often involve pointing people at specialist resources and support – this will often be CLEAPSS for those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and SSERC for those in Scotland. I’d like to hear from those in other countries – do you have a similar specialist advisory organisation in your country?
And I would remind you of TalkPhysics’s disclaimer, specifically that the “IOP does not monitor, verify or endorse information submitted for posting on this web site and does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness or usefulness of, or otherwise adopt or endorse, any information or services provided.” In CLEAPSS’s words “[UK] [r]egulations require staff to assess risks before taking part in any activity, class practical exercise, teacher demonstration, operation by a technician etc, which involves a hazard”. Myself and the other IOP staff are not specialists in safety – in all cases it is your professional responsibility to assess risk before carrying out anything mentioned in TalkPhysics by us or other members. However, I know we can have a professional, supportive discussion, aided by CLEAPSS, SSERC, etc. that will help everyone assess risk adequately.
I know I’ve gone on long enough, but a final, positive word: last year I was asked for a risk assessment for a training session I intended to run for an audience I hadn’t met before. I viewed that request positively for several reasons – by completing a written risk assessment I knew I was minimising the odds of actual harm to any audience members, I knew I was minimising the odds of doing something foolish in front of an audience, and (best of all!) it helped me realised I’d intended to run a workshop that included no significant hazards. That was a signal that I was planning something quite “dry” and dull. I put in something rather more exciting to grab the audiences’ attention, wrote an appropriate risk assessment, and the session was a great success.
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