Monday, June 8, 2015

From Safety 2015: Occupational Injuries in Schools

© Smith
Each year, more than 250,000 recordable workplace injuries occur in local government elementary and secondary schools. Although research has focused on the etiology and prevention of student injuries, workplace injuries of teachers, non-licensed and support staff employees (i.e., educational aids, transportation employees, food service workers) are widely overlooked. In her Safety 2015 session, Occupational Injuries in Schools, Katie Schofield, Ph.D., CSP, ARM, CHST, CSRM, highlighted several factors that contribute to occupational risk in schools including an influx of students with special needs; an aging workforce; aging school buildings and infrastructure; budget, staffing and resource allocation.

According to Schofield, uncontrolled injuries and workers’ compensation costs can be detrimental to school district staff morale and confidence and can increase existing risk of occupational stress and job burnout. Additionally, injuries have serious consequences on district budgets, distract time and energy from the district’s educational mission, and negatively impact the taxpayers and children of the communities in which they are located.

To help employers mitigate these risks, Schofield recommends several loss prevention solutions.

  1. Play with purpose: Staff participation in physical activities can lead to serious injury. Schofield suggests promoting a Play With Purpose Program to remind staff to demonstrate or teach skills instead of active playing whenever possible.
  2. Winter slip and fall prevention: Slips and falls are a leading cause of injury, particularly in cold/snowy climates. Recognizing this issue, SFM, a Minnesota-based workers' compensation insurer, established a grant system for school districts that matches funds for winter slip and fall reduction projects, equipment or products.
  3. Supervisor-initiated training (SIT): A SIT is a small, informal educational session that focuses on a key safety messages and procedures. Schofield suggests organizing monthly SITs to correspond with timely topics for each department. Topics might include lifting for custodians, not standing on desks or chairs for teachers, avoiding cuts for food service and transferring students for special education.
  4. Get up and move: Movement has many positive physical effects and can help reduce the risk of injury. Schofield suggests starting a movement and stretching program to encourage increasing activity during the day.
  5. Get fit and exercise: Joint weakness and instability can occur with age, increasing the risk of injury. To encourage employees to add more movement into their day, particularly for employees with more physically demanding jobs, Schofield suggests incorporating exercise programs that build joint strength and stability
  6. Training in stations: Employees learn best from hands-on education and training that directly affects their daily activities. Schofield recommends focusing on interactive training during which employees decide the topics for staff training each year, then also lead a rotation of mini hands-on-education stations for their co-workers.
Schofield's session was recorded during Safety 2015 and is available for purchase on