The Comp Alliance is always looking for ways to improve school safety culture through loss control inspections, training, safety committee participation, and safety bulletins. With the start of the school year just a few days away, now is a great time to talk about safety for your school staff, including teachers, maintenance, custodians, coaches, and bus drivers.
As part of this safety focus, we are providing daily safety tips for the week leading up to the opening day of school. Beginning Monday, August 29th, and running through Friday, September 2nd, our safety tips will focus on areas of risk and prevention, where staff can assess the hazard and implement corrective actions to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.
These tips will remind staff of the importance of safety, completing injury-free work, and maintaining a positive attitude throughout final preparations for opening day!
Safety Tip #1: School Workplace Injuries – How to Avoid Them
As the start of the school year is upon us, and your staff orientation process begins anew, it is a great time to review safety practices with school personnel. It’s essential to communicate the importance of safe work practices with staff. The basis of a good safety program is for staff to understand where injuries might occur and take proactive measures to avoid them whenever possible.
School district injuries occur most frequently from three sources: Slips, Trips, and Falls, Back Injuries from Lifting, and Struck/Hit by Student.
Tips for avoiding these causes of workplace injuries include:
- Avoid slips and falls by reviewing the environment (classroom) and removing any hazards which may pose a problem. Be sure to take precautions such as removing extension cords when not in use, removing worn or frayed carpeting, replacing damaged floor tiles, and providing space for walking around the desks and tables. Keep an eye out for boxes or debris during the first few days of school, especially during move-in periods.
- Back injuries often occur from unsafe lifting. Practice lifting techniques such as lifting with your legs, keeping your back straight, moving with your legs and not your back, and using mechanical means (cart, hand truck) for heavier items. Staff often take on too much moving and lifting during the classroom moving-in phase, causing back injuries, or creating other strain-type injuries.
- Struck/Hit by Student is a newer loss area for school employees and includes dealing with students in duress. Students under pressure often do not comply with verbal commands, and adults must intervene with a physical presence (to restrain not injure). Protect yourself when necessary and remove yourself from harm’s way if the situation becomes too dangerous. Get help as soon as it becomes apparent the problem is growing out of control. Maintaining lines of communication with others is vital to get help quickly.
Applying classroom housekeeping and lifting techniques helps remove hazards that lead to injuries. Now is a great time to remind all staff of the risks of injury and the importance of good housekeeping and hazard removal. Educate your school staff on maintaining a positive safety culture, and the school year will likely be an overwhelming success.
The Comp Alliance wishes all our school district members and employees a safe and prosperous 2022-2023 school year!
Safety Tip #2: Safe Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injuries
Training employees to ensure safety and security in the workplace is a school’s top priority. Since custodial work requires moving around extensive facilities and dealing with various hazards, any lack of control of the work environment promotes injuries. While these injuries are minor, they occur frequently.
About 1 out of every 96 employees sustain a nonfatal illness or injury that keeps them from performing their jobs. Learning how to bend, lift, and handle items throughout the day is essential for custodial teams in preventing injuries on the job.
Here are some easy steps they can follow to limit risks and improve janitorial safety.
- Widen feet for a more stable base.
- Bend your knees deeply before a lift.
- Engage your core muscles as you lift.
- Press down into your legs as you lift.
- Keep the load close to your body when possible.
- Ask for help if the object is heavy, awkward, or overhead.
When lifting and emptying buckets be sure to:
- Use floor drains if available.
- Use suitable lifting mechanics when emptying the buckets in a floor drain or sink.
Repeated lifting and carrying of loads increase the risk of back injury. Do not lift anything too heavy. Check the weight to be sure that you are comfortable with the lift.
- Use handles, cutouts, or handholds.
- Use carts with large wheels.
- Bend your knees and lift with your back straight.
- Plan the lift and talk to your partner.
- Use lifting equipment wherever possible.
Practicing lifting techniques will help to ensure that the school staff are safe. The Comp Alliance wishes all our school members a healthy and safe 2022-23 school year.
Safety Tip #3: Slips, Trips and Falls: A Loss Leader That Can Be Prevented
Slips, trips, and falls in schools result in strains, sprains, contusions, and fractures are the leading cause of employee injuries in school districts. Below are a few tips to help prevent slip, trip, and fall injuries.
Enforce good housekeeping procedures:
- Put away supplies/tools/equipment/papers when finished.
- Dispose of materials no longer being used.
- Encourage students to practice good housekeeping by keeping backpacks, coats, books, pencils/pens, and other belongings off the floor and out of walkways.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Avoid carrying loads that are awkward or block your view.
- Observe and watch where you’re going.
- Watch for hazards such as backpacks, coats, books, binders, supplies, tools, equipment, electrical cords, and other items left in walkways.
During wet or wintery months, your school entryways must have carpets that extend at least six feet inside entrances. This simple measure will keep moisture from shoes to one manageable area and minimize the slip and fall risk throughout hallways and classrooms. Establishing a schedule to regularly maintain outdoor walkways, sidewalks, and doorways is one way to reduce slip and fall risk. Coordinating regular intervals for shoveling and salting is an easy method to prevent slips and falls. Inspecting your outdoor school property regularly for potential hazards is essential. For example, take a few minutes to identify pavement cracks or heaving. If you cannot repair them immediately, spray paint these hazards a bright color to visually focus the eyes and ensure safety for all school visitors. Whether it is a spill in the art room or a mess in the cafeteria, ensure your custodial staff is prepared to attend to these hazards by:
- Providing custodial staff with the necessary equipment and barricades to keep teachers and students away from slick floors.
- Ensuring custodial staff has ample cleaning and hazard removal supplies on hand.
Execute indoor safety inspections regularly. Educate all staff members on what to look for and solutions to help them prevent accidents. Staff members should identify and bundle any extension cords out of traffic areas and look for places where moisture can accumulate (classroom sinks and hallway fountains). Classroom storage is essential because improper storage methods can lead to a fall injury. Please encourage your students and staff to wear sensible, weather-safe shoes into the building when weather conditions permit and to change their shoes once they are safely indoors. Consider offering your staff members a shoe storage bag.
Adherence to routine, standard controls can reduce the potential for slip, trip, and fall injuries in school buildings. The Comp Alliance encourages all our school members to maintain safe facilities throughout the 2022-23 school year.
Safety Tip #4: Bloodborne Pathogen Exposures for Teachers and Custodians
Bloodborne pathogens are micro-organisms in human blood that can cause disease. Examples of infections caused by bloodborne pathogens include hepatitis B and HIV. These diseases can be passed from one person to another if exposed to a person's infected blood. There are many guidelines on avoiding or decreasing the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including annual training. Under OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard, employers with exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must train employees annually regardless of the employees' prior training or education.
Even though not every school employee is occupationally exposed to bloodborne pathogens, it is still crucial for all employees to understand the dangers of infection and recognize safe practices to minimize their risk.
- Special Education Area: Students are more prone to injury, may have special medical needs, and depend on adults for personal care.
- Classroom Settings: Exposures include student injuries, nose bleeds, and even paper cuts. Cleaning up blood creates exposure as well.
- Kitchen: Cuts from sharp objects, providing first-aid for an injured co-worker.
- Custodial Exposures: High-hazard, physical work where cuts and scrapes can occur routinely.
- Broken Glass
- Sharp metal
All teachers and staff must be cautious and protect themselves from a possible bloodborne pathogen transmission. Remember, if a staff member such as a teacher or custodian is possibly exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you should:
- Wash the exposed area with soap and water and treat all potentially infectious material as if it was contagious. Finish the process with a hand sanitizer application.
- Routinely use appropriate barrier precautions to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure when any patient's contact with blood or other body fluids is anticipated. Examples of protective controls include gloves, gowns, masks, and protective eyewear.
As a school employee, you must react to emergencies with your heart and your head. Know the facts and take precautions to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogen transmission.
Safety Tip #5: Safety Behind the Wheel
School district transportation departments have always had the vital job of safely getting students to and from school. The duties of a school bus driver are daunting. Many school transportation departments are faced with driver shortages requiring their own workarounds. Best practices cultivate a positive safety culture by enforcing safe driving procedures and encouraging positive attitudes.
Research shows that most accidents involving school buses occur in the Fall months. This is because, at the beginning of the school year, newer routes are learned, inexperienced drivers are behind-the-wheel, and students are learning their bus stop locations and procedures. Proper driver orientation should include job expectations, physical and mental fitness, and fatigue prevention. The driver-required Physical Performance Test is one identifier of a driver's physical wellness. Review the importance of each driver's mental state during the first few weeks of returning to school. Observe drivers, including seasoned ones, who experience stress and fatigue during this time. Dealing with new students can cause stress for some drivers too.
Safety behind the wheel for bus drivers includes:
- Drive defensively and expect the worst from other drivers. Many times, drivers will approach intersections and look to pull out in front of the bus, sometimes dangerously.
- Be alert to other drivers who may be unfamiliar with the traffic rules associated with approaching a stopped school bus and expect the worst from on-coming traffic. If you require children to cross in front of the bus, hold students until all required traffic has completely stopped.
- Come to work mentally prepared to take on the challenges of the position. Start with a good attitude and greet the children in a friendly tone. This has been known to get students to behave better on the bus.
- Know the safety procedures for the bus. If students are hurt, know how to use the first aid kit. If the bus is involved in an accident or breakdown, follow district procedures, and notify the bus garage personnel.
- Driving comfort corresponds with safe driving habits. Adjust your seat and mirrors to maintain good posture and viewing angles.
The Comp Alliance looks forward to working with our valued school district members throughout the 2022-23 school year. Have a safe and productive school year!
These tips will be emailed daily and available on our website www.compalliance.org.