The CARA process for plant, equipment or materials
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 3, 14 April 2022, page no. 24
A member recently contacted the Union for assistance with the significant workload impost of using plant, equipment and materials in a curriculum activity.
On the member’s behalf, the QTU contacted the CARA team and received the following clarification, which applies to all learning areas.
When planning to conduct curriculum activities, for example science experiments/investigations, teachers and adult supervisors should use the CARA planner (https://ppr.qed.qld.gov.au/attachment/cara-planner.docx) for support in identifying hazards, assessing the risks, determining an inherent risk level, and deciding on control measures for the activity in the local context (environmental considerations, facilities and equipment, and student participants).
The CARA guidelines (https://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/stages-of-schooling/CARA/activity-guidelines) outline the minimum safety standard expected. Schools are required to:
use the published CARA guidelines to conduct a risk assessment for that curriculum activity – if any requirement cannot be met, alternative control measures must be put in place to meet or exceed the standard provided in the CARA guideline
determine additional risks, hazards and control measures relevant to the activity and the specific school/group circumstances in order to lift the safety standard above the minimum.
If a CARA record is required in OneSchool, a summary of plant, equipment and/or materials used in the activity must be provided. This can be done by either:
- entering plant/equipment/materials directly on to the CARA record in OneSchool
- attaching a summary document – a sample template is provided as a convenience for schools (https://education.qld.gov.au/curriculums/school-curriculum/Documents/plant-equipment-materials-template.docx) to demonstrate the information they are expected to provide (schools are not required to use this template and may instead use other documentation to provide the same level of information).
Note that only high and extreme risk level activities require a CARA record in OneSchool. Schools determine whether medium risk level activities are to be recorded in OneSchool.
If they have high or extreme risk level plant and equipment in curriculum activities in any learning area, schools should have plant and equipment risk assessments (P&ERAs) (https://education.qld.gov.au/initiatives-and-strategies/health-and-wellbeing/workplaces/equipment-machinery-resources) and/or safe operating procedures (SOPs) (https://education.qld.gov.au/initiatives-and-strategies/health-and-wellbeing/workplaces/equipment-machinery-resources). Low risk activities, for example cutting and pasting and measuring with scissors and a ruler, would not require either.
School-based decisions determine:
- whether a summary of low or medium risk level plant, equipment and/or materials used in the activity is recorded in OneSchool. Such decisions take into account the level of risk, the workload imposts and the ability of the administration to release teachers and others to attend to this work. For example, cutting, pasting and measuring with scissors and a ruler in class generally does not require either a P&ERA or a SOP as this equipment would be considered low risk when used in any curriculum activity, irrespective of the learning area.
- monitoring mechanisms to determine whether SOPs are followed when using plant, equipment and/or materials in curriculum activities.
When conducting curriculum activities:
- induction is required on emergency and safety procedures for adult supervisors, prior to the activity
- instruction is required for students and adult supervisors on correct techniques, for example managing spills, first aid support, correct set-up and operation of equipment
- schools, through consultation with teachers, are best placed to determine how the induction and instruction will be delivered (eg in the form of instructions from the teacher in the location of the activity, prior to the activity).
CARA processes can be time consuming. As they are founded on obligations under Queensland’s Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011, it is crucial that teachers/teaching teams are allocated focus time for undertaking this work. Doing so evidences a safe system of work and grows knowledge and understanding. Undertaking risk assessments is not a compliance activity. The WHS Act expects that resources are allocated to ensure rigor and “fresh eyes” when teachers are reviewing or documenting risk assessments.
The department’s CARA team has issued a standing invitation to all schools that would like further support with their CARA processes. The QTU encourages members to contact CARA@qed.qld.gov.au to arrange an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding of the requirements of the CARA process and to walk through your concerns.
Where members have concerns re workload imposts, the first step is to request release time, so that focused and reflective work can be undertaken. If you require advice or assistance, contact the QTU.
By Kevina O'Neill, Assistant Secretary - Services