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One School Caretaker based in the South of England is so concerned about the Department for Education guidelines stating that school staff are not required to wear PPE, he has written to Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Gavin Williamson, The Home Office and the Chair of Governors at his school. In an open letter to them, he told them "As a primary school caretaker, (age 60 with a medical history of hospital acquired pneumonia) my Risk...

Assessments (RA) conclude that to reduce the risk to my health during my working hours, I require PPE and RPE including a supply of FPP3 masks.

I require PPE and RPE including a supply of FPP3 masks to:

  • Transfer concentrated disinfectant from bulk containers and dilute it for spray cleaning
  • Protect me whilst spraying disinfectant onto surfaces
  • Protect me whilst emptying used tissues from open bins into bin sacks during coronavirus pandemic
  • Cleaning up body fluid spills
  • Avoiding airborne splashes when filling, cleaning and emptying mop buckets used in toilets and elsewhere.
  • Reducing my risk of catching Coronavirus transmitted by coughs and sneezes and micro-droplets whilst in the workplace
  • Dosing the swimming pool with Chlorine and other chemicals to avoid ‘dangerous’ contaminants entering the water whilst it is closed for school use.

Currently, FPP3 masks are not available from any suppliers with whom I have made contact.

I have written to the acting head teacher, the contracts manager at County Hall, The County Hall Human Resources Department, The Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council and many of these people have agreed that I have a right to this PPE.

Today I received an automated email from DfE Commercial Covid-19 Response team (the team responsible for sorting out shortages of cleaning equipment in schools) which informed me that they were not working over the bank holiday period!

Yesterday, I discovered that Government advice had changed from statement 1 (below) to statement 2.

Statement 1

“Non-healthcare workers should be trained in the correct use of a surgical mask, to protect them against other people’s potentially infectious respiratory droplets when within 2 metres, and the mask use and supply of masks would need to be equivalent to that in healthcare environments”.

“updated” to:

Statement 2

“Educational staff do not require personal protective equipment. This is needed by medical and care professionals providing specific close contact care, or procedures that create airborne risk, such as suctioning and physiotherapy, for anyone who has coronavirus (COVID-19), and is displaying symptoms”.

So, I have some questions:

  1. Am I expected to put my health and life in danger by performing the tasks listed above without adequate PPE?
  2. If the answer to the question above is ‘yes’, what compensation will I/my family be entitled to if/when my health suffers as a result (or I lose my life?)
  3. Has the person/people who wrote statement 2 (copied above) got any experience of being employed as “educational staff”?
  4. Do the people referred to in ‘3’ have any idea of how unlikely it is that young children will understand the implications of a sudden unguarded cough or sneeze during the Covid 19 pandemic?
  5. How do you suggest we should keep the school open without putting the lives of teachers, office staff, teaching assistants, caretakers and cleaners in much greater danger than the general population who have been instructed to stay at home?

I would appreciate answers to these questions as a matter of urgency since lives (including my own) may depend on them."

Our advice regarding PPE was published in the news section on 24 March Are School Caretakers and cleaning staff classed as 'Key Workers'? and this remains our advice. The main reason for this is not only are children inherently bad at retaining their sneezing and generally have poor hygiene habits, but schools are looking after the children of key NHS staff (key workers), We think that their children are more likely (than those staying at home) to have or be carrying the virus. This puts School Caretakers, cleaning staff and teachers/TA's at a higher risk.

You can read the views and concerns of School Caretakers on our forums DofE Personal Protective Equipment is not required in schools

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