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Health and safety guidance for led visits

Advice for schools undertaking led programmes

At Westonbirt the safety of visiting groups is paramount and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have on health and safety issues.

The following guidance is intended to help you understand the general risks associated with a visit to Westonbirt and enable you to plan accordingly.

We offer all group leaders a free preliminary visit to the Arboretum to familiarise themselves with the site and its facilities.

NB: this document is provided for guidance only – you should carry out your own assessment. It is your responsibility to ensure your accompanying adults are aware of health and safety issues.

Arboretum environment
There are a number of inherent risks involved when taking groups outside such as slips and falls. While we do our best to minimise these risks by regularly walking the routes we use with groups, we have found that most accidents occur as a result of inappropriate behaviour. To this end we would ask you to prepare your class before they arrive by discussing with them how to behave. In particular we ask that students:

• walk rather than run
• listen to instructions
• be careful when picking up and carrying fallen sticks

The Arboretum is an outdoor environment and your students should come dressed appropriately. We recommend as a minimum:

• Waterproof, sturdy shoes with non-slip soles. Open-toed sandals should not be worn.
• Waterproof coat
• Warm jumper

On top of this we recommend that students coming at particular times of year also bring/wear:

Spring/Autumn/Winter Visits
• Gloves, hat and scarves
• Extra pair of socks

Summer visits
• Sun hat
• Sun cream
• Extra water

It is your responsibility to ensure parents are aware of what their child should wear/bring. If you are undertaking a led visit, the learning team will assess the appropriateness of your students’ clothing. Failure to comply with our guidelines may result in your activities being modified, or in extreme cases, cancelled altogether.

• Within Silk Wood, dogs are permitted off the lead. Groups using Silk Wood (e.g. when using our orienteering courses) should therefore be aware that they may encounter dogs.
• Within the picnic area and main facilities dogs are allowed but must be on a lead. 
• The Old Arboretum is an area where dogs are not allowed.

Most led groups will not encounter dogs as the majority of programmes run in the Old Arboretum.  The exceptions to this are those taking part in den building activities or following the orienteering courses both of which take place in Silk Wood. For led programmes the member of staff will make your students aware of this issue and advise on appropriate behaviour.

Emergency Contacts
Mobile telephones have poor reception at the Arboretum. If you are undertaking a led visit the learning team member leading your group will be carrying a radio during your visit in case of emergencies. The Arboretum has an emergency procedure in place to deal with major incidents.

Should you need to contact anyone during your visit when you are not with a member of staff please go to either the Visitor Services cabin, or Great Oak Hall where staff and volunteers can alert the Duty Manager and/or Learning Manager. If necessary they can also contact the emergency services.

Extreme weather
The Arboretum has an Extreme Weather Policy, which the learning team will inform you about should it be necessary. In severe weather groups may be brought back to the learning centre at the discretion of the learning team.

First Aid
It is your responsibility to ensure that at least one accompanying adult per class has first aid training and is carrying a first aid kit. Should you need further first aid assistance during your visit please go to either the Visitor Services cabin or Great Oak Hall where staff and volunteers can alert a first aider.

Learning Centre
The learning team undertakes fortnightly inspections of the Learning Centre to check for any possible health and safety issues.

In most cases only groups on led programmes may use the Learning Centre.  There are smoke detectors in all of our rooms with two assembly points just beyond the fenced boundary of the learning centre grounds. Should you be using the centre independently (by prior agreement only) the learning team will liaise with you about health and safety issues.

Hygiene and plant hazards
The Arboretum has a number of hand-washing facilities and the importance of good hygiene will be stressed by the learning team during the safety talk at the start of your visit. In particular students will be reminded that they should not eat anything they find within the arboretum and should wash their hands before lunch.

In addition the team undertake regular inspections of the main areas used to check for potential plant hazards (such as fungi, poisonous plants, stinging nettles etc.) and will make your students aware of these issues during your visit.

Ticks and Lyme disease
Leaders should be aware that ticks can occasionally be found in the arboretum (as in all woodland, moorland and grassy areas) and it is advised that a check is carried out after the visit to ensure that no ticks have attached themselves to the body. If a tick is found, it should be firmly removed with tweezers as soon as possible.  Not all ticks carry Lyme disease.  Should you require further information, please contact the learning team.

Self-guided activities
If you are undertaking any self-guided activities during your visit we would be happy to discuss health and safety issues with you. In addition there is separate guidance for groups using the orienteering courses.

Your school, through the LEA if appropriate, will indemnify the Forestry Commission against all claims arising from any loss or damage, or injury or death to participants and any third parties arising from the negligence of its members or agents. During the period of your visit, your school must maintain an insurance policy with a reputable insurance company for an amount of not less than £5 million in respect of any one claim. The amount of such insurance shall not limit the liability of the school/ LEA to the Forestry Commission.

This clause does not reduce the liability of the Forestry Commission for its own actions or negligence.

Lost children
The Arboretum has a lost child procedure in case of emergencies. All staff and learning volunteers have been checked through the CRB disclosures system. The learning team will stress the importance of staying as a group during the safety talk at the start of your visit and clear guidelines will be given for all activities.

It is your responsibility to ensure adequate supervision ratios. We recommend you bring a list of names with you on the day and carry out head counts periodically throughout the day.

Special needs
It is your responsibility to inform us in writing about any special needs your students have before your arrival. There is a space for this information on the booking form. It is also your responsibility to bring all necessary medications (clearly labelled with the student’s name) and to have a staff member who knows how these medications are administered.

Should any of your group require a wheelchair these can be booked from visitor services (0300 067 4861). Please let the learning team know so they can plan accordingly.

Student behaviour
The learning team staff will give clear guidelines on appropriate behaviour for all activities. However, it is your responsibility to manage the behaviour of your students and enforce the guidelines provided. You should ensure all accompanying adults are aware of their responsibilities and are ready to take an active part in the activities.

Supervision Ratios
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have enough adult helpers to comply with your LEA guidelines on supervision ratios. However we recommend the following ratios of adults: students.

Nursery Class and reception classes  1 adult: 4 pupils
School years 1 – 6  1 adult: 5 pupils
School years 7 and above 1 adult: 10 pupils

The learning team will monitor supervision ratios at the start of your visit. Failure to have adequate supervision may result in changes to your activities or in extreme cases the cancellation of your programme if the team feel that the supervision ratio is insufficient to allow the activities to be carried out safely.

To minimise the risk of on-site traffic please follow the guidelines provided within your confirmation pack as to where to park your coach.  There are crossing points at either end of the car park and from the coach drop off point.

Tree work
The Arboretum is a working environment and you should expect to have some contact with this work during your visit. The learning team has regular contact with the team responsible for this work and will not take your group to areas where the team is working. In addition the learning team will advise your students on appropriate behaviour during the safety talk at the start of the day.

All hazardous work areas are taped off with orange and white or red and white hazard tape and warning signage. It is your responsibility to ensure that your students obey this signage and do not enter taped off areas.

Exploratree is a play area for under 5s, situated behind the café.  Any nursery or reception groups are welcome to visit Exploratree but we ask that no more than 10 children use it at a time so that other young visitors can also play there.  There is a play trail in the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood, with additional play guidelines on the map.

Whilst we want you and your class to enjoy your time at the Arboretum we ask that any play you engage in be respectful to the trees, especially our younger and more delicate specimens.  

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.