Abu Dhabi: With an aggressive plan in place to implement standardized health and safety programmes across 300 public schools and 120 private schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, parents can now stop fretting about the well-being of their children at school.

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) is involved in one of the UAE's most comprehensive and extensive school health and safety training campaigns. Initiated in April 2009 and allowing for a two-month inception phase, the programme is to be implemented over 20 months.

Gulf News speaks to the man behind the scenes, Engineer Hamad Ali Al Daheri, manager, infrastructure and facilities, ADEC, to glean more about the School Health and Safety Audit and Training Programme.

Gulf News: What is the main objective of the health and safety programme?

Hamad Ali Al Daheri: To create a health and safety (H&S) culture across all schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. We want to transfer H&S knowledge to students and teachers so that they transfer the knowledge to the UAE community as a whole.

The programme will audit school H&S conditions by evaluating the safety of school buildings, the effectiveness of firefighting systems and assessing air quality in addition to various school facilities including classrooms, laboratories, sports halls and the like.

What is the geographical scope of the programme?

H&S inspections will take place in all 300 public schools across three educational zones of Abu Dhabi Emirate (ADEZ, AEZ, and GEZ). Since, private schools are now under ADEC's umbrella, the secondary beneficiaries will be private schools that will benefit from H&S standards through a tailor-made H&S manual that we are currently working on.

The manual will be issued to all schools with comprehensive, clear and standardized international guidelines that fit UAE regulations as well as ADEC requirements in the context of H&S hazards. Auditing inspections in public schools will start in September 2009 and by the end of 2009 in private schools.

Will the process of implementation of the H&S programme be a phase-by-phase affair?

Phase one is the inception phase. ADEC made an announcement about this last month.

Phase two, which is where we currently stand, involves the development of a comprehensive H&S manual in both English and Arabic.

Phase three includes a health and safety audit, practical training programmes and safety awareness programmes.

During phase three, students will also be directly involved in fire drills and awareness campaigns that will take into account response time and adherence to best practices in the event of emergencies.

Parents will also be encouraged to transfer a safe health environment to their homes and, hopefully, with the help of students, the concept of H&S will catch on across the Emirate.

Phase four includes compliance certification and safety staff training programmes; an administrator from each school will be selected to complete an H&S course after undergoing a thorough theoretical and practical training, an exam and an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification.

How would you rate the current level of H&S awareness in schools across the Emirate?

We didn't have standardized H&S procedures earlier and the rules were not clear. Some schools had their own individual programmes in place; other less fortunate schools had infrastructural mishaps and couldn't afford to implement an H&S environment. Now H&S will be synchronised across schools in the Emirate.

Can you tell us how you propose to carry out technical inspections and how they will help enhance safe and healthy school infrastructure as a whole?

Technical inspections are projected to be carried out between October 23, 2009 and April 22, 2010. It takes two days for each school to be inspected. There are five members in four different teams that look at factors like air quality, electrical connections, fire drills, emergency doors and H&S knowledge among students and teachers. Based on the findings, ADAC will suggest corrective action.

What additional H&S measures does the programme introduce to ensure schools are prepared in the event of a medical outbreak?

ADEC is collaborating with different partners in this programme, one of them being the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA), which is in charge of educating teachers, parents and students through a safety awareness programme.

Who are the other parties involved in this programme?

ADEC has chosen a private provider but is responsible for overseeing and managing implementation of programmes through close collaboration with partners in the government, namely the Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA), Mosanada and of course NCEMA.

How will results for the programme be monitored, published and communicated?

Data will be collected on all activities conducted and interviews with various stakeholders will be held on how the programme was maintained and whether practices were properly adhered to. At the end of the programme a press conference will be held to publish results and findings and a synopsis will be developed and submitted to the media.