Abu Dhabi: Private and public schools in Abu Dhabi need to comply with new health, safety and environment (HSE) guidelines formulated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), which came into effect on April 14, or risk being closed down, the council has announced.

During a press briefing on Monday to announce the new HSE management system, Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili, ADEC Director General, mentioned 21 points that the 297 public and 187 private schools across the emirate are expected to follow.

Higher education institutes under ADEC are also required to follow the same HSE regulations.

Some of the guidelines that ADEC has already distributed to educational institutes in Abu Dhabi pertain to transportation, parking and vehicle waiting, classrooms, learning resource centres, computer laboratories, auditoriums, art classrooms, storage rooms, administration offices, chemistry, biology, physics and other sciences laboratories, school clinics, canteens/cafeterias and dinning rooms, restaurants and toilets, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, swimming pools, and electrical rooms.

When asked how ADEC would monitor compliance by schools, Dr. Al Khaili said: "We will conduct random inspections among schools that expose their students, teachers and staff to environmental dangers.

"As per Abu Dhabi law, when there is a risk posed to a student, we have the right to take action by immediately closing that school, similar to what we did with the 70 villa schools, which we shut down due to their not being safe - for instance some of these school did not have emergency exits, which is a huge safety hazard in case of a fire."

Prior to implementing the HSE guidelines, ADEC has already started an inspection process among schools to test their readiness for health and safety (H&S) situations.

"Fourteen training courses have already been organised about H&S requirements for 325 trainees, with 260 evacuation drills. We have also issued a guideline book on each of the HSE regulations, which students, teachers and parents can access anytime," said Dr. Al Khaili.

As part of the new parking guidelines, among many others in the new HSE system, "parking and vehicle assembly/waiting areas are deemed to be high-risk because of the close proximity of people to vehicles". "Parents, school bus drivers, bus supervisors and the general public should be fully alert when approaching these areas. There should be a safe drop off/pick up bus zone with a minimum clearance of three meters in all directions," the guidelines state.

According to Majid Ali Al Mansouri, Chairman - Abu Dhabi Environment, Health and Safety Higher Committee, the executive council formed a higher committee in 2007 which decided to implement a law regarding the HSE.

"The HSE law is applicable to all sectors in the emirate, including tourism, the food sector and education. HSE is a basic issue of Abu Dhabi government's agenda to protect the lives of people, and the environment. The system concentrates on the basic requirements of each sector based on international standards and requirements, and in 2010 we have issued our first HSE annual report, highlighting best HSE practices to apply," said Al Mansouri.