The end of summer is quickly approaching, and those in public education are shifting back into their academic lives. Maintaining and enhancing safety in your schools should be an ongoing process, but August is always a good time to focus on starting the year with safety. This includes workplace safety, student safety, and employee safety.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are the most common type of accident that occur on school campuses. Many of these injuries can be prevented by taking steps to ensure a safe working environment. At the beginning of the school year, take time to focus on how the classrooms and workspaces are organized, with the goal to prevent these injuries.
Below are some tips to help you steer clear of this common problem:
- Keep stairways and hallways clear at all times.
- Ensure exit signs are functioning and that entrances and exits are not blocked.
- Clearly mark passages that are not exits with signs that say “NO EXIT.”
- Post directional signs and designate sides of the hallways for foot traffic.
- Create a hallway patrol group to report spills and other hazards quickly.
- Put down floor mats to keep the soles of shoes dry.
- Keep an extra eye on areas that can clutter easily, such as storage rooms and theater stages.
Fire Prevention and Safety
The beginning of the year is a great time to ensure that you have the proper fire equipment, procedures, and protocols. Campus officials should perform regular fire surveys and work with the local Fire Marshal to ensure that they are meeting the fire code. Teachers, professors, administrators, students, and other staff members at school districts and community colleges can reduce the chance of fires in schools by adhering to recommended guidelines, which include compliance with fire codes and promoting fire safety awareness among staff.
Remember these additional guidelines when working on your fire safety procedures:
- Fire extinguishers should be clearly marked and readily accessible. Avoid placing tables, chairs, and other equipment in front of them that could create a delay in the event of an emergency.
- Train staff on the proper use of fire extinguishers.
- Ensure exit signs are illuminated and backup power systems tested. Everyone should be practicing exit drills on a regular basis.
- Combustible and flammable materials are a part of everyday life on campus. Practice proper storage and use to prevent fires and explosions.
- Students and staff should understand which items can create unwanted hazards, such as matches, lighters, and candles. These things have no place on campus and should be left at home.
- Avoid using electrical closets as storage areas for custodial and maintenance materials. These closets contain electrical panels that have the potential for flash arcs and shock hazards. Three feet of clearance in these areas is always recommended.
A key step to maintaining a safe environment is to provide staff with ongoing training opportunities and the proper equipment. This includes reviewing written procedures and ensuring that your organization has an emergency operations plan. Safety and reporting responsibilities should be documented and communicated clearly with expectations for staff who have key roles.
Along with training, it is important to make sure that staff has the proper protective equipment and tools. Personal protective equipment, including helmets, safety glasses, gloves, and work boots, is often the only safety measure in place to keep staff injury free. Equipment needs will differ with varying job functions. For example food service staff and operations staff take on very different tasks in helping the school day run smoothly. Purchasing the right equipment and enforcing proper use year-round are important factors in demonstrating continued efforts for keeping staff healthy and injury free. TASB Risk Solutions Consultants offer training and resources designed to provide staff with the information they need to stay safe on the job.
Committing to routine inspections for all work areas demonstrates your commitment to safety. When work areas and classrooms are not well organized, not maintained, or contain broken equipment, the likelihood of an incident occurring increases. Key staff can complete inspections and report problems in order to mitigate potential loss.
It takes dedication and work to keep everyone safe on campus. The Fund is here to provide support to help make the school year a success. Webinars, training events, downloads, safety videos, and specialized experts are available to our members to help make it happen. For more information, contact your risk solutions consultant.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.