TASB Risk Management Fund

Read this Before Planning Summer Projects

May 10, 2021 Laura Romaine

Employee spraying pesticide

The education business requires a year-round commitment. Summer break is when maintenance employees tackle straggling work orders, grounds crews keep property well-groomed, and teachers prepare classrooms for students’ return. Your organization might even welcome community volunteers who help with projects.

Productivity doesn’t pause between June and August. Neither do workplace accidents. Before the final bell rings, make sure your organization identifies the risks associated with summer work and understands how its coverage addresses those risks.

Explain the injury reporting process

In many cases, employees will report workplace injuries to their supervisor, just as they do during the school year. But what if an employee is working alone during the day or at night?

Make sure everyone understands how to report injuries, find an Alliance health care network provider, and get immediate medical treatment when necessary. Contact inquiry@tasbrmf.org if you would like help preparing a packet that includes a medical verification form, an Optum medication card, and other documents injured employees need.

Report injuries to the Fund as required

State reporting requirements apply to employees working during the summer. Even if it was the employee’s decision to come in, the employer must file a First Report of Injury. TASB will investigate the incident and determine whether the injury is compensable. Some members may opt to close their campuses to off-duty employees to avoid exposure.

Comply with child labor law

Take special care when allowing students to work or volunteer on projects. Your organization should also consider that the Texas Child Labor Law prohibits children of certain ages from specific occupations.

Examples include operating or tending power-driven machinery other than office machines, as well as loading or unloading goods from trucks or conveyors unless children are participating in a school-supervised and school-administered work-study program approved by the Texas Workforce Commission.

To learn more about jobs that students are allowed to do under the law, read this TASB HR Services article.

Navigate volunteers carefully

It’s not uncommon for students, parents, and even employees to help with landscaping projects, onsite voting, and other summer initiatives. Talk to your coverage provider, and explain the risks to all stakeholders.

Workers’ compensation:

  • Employees who come in over the summer for activities such as cleaning or decorating classrooms or preparing lesson plans may be considered in course and scope of employment if the activity is furthering the business of their employer. If they are hurt, they may be covered by workers’ compensation.
  • An employee who volunteers for an activity such as a tournament or election, which merely happen on a member’s property, may not be covered by workers’ compensation.
  • If students are paid to work over the summer and they suffer on-the-job injuries, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.
  • It is always best to immediately check in with your coverage provider when an employee is injured on your property to ensure you meet your employer filing obligations and to allow an adjuster to investigate and determine if the incident is covered.

School liability

  • Report third-party injuries or damage to your School Liability provider as soon as possible.
  • If your organization is a Fund member with School Liability coverage, third-party bodily injury and property damage claims are likely to fall within your coverage. Generally, we will assert your immunity as a political subdivision in these cases.

Be careful with “hold harmless” agreements

Members often ask us whether they can have employees or volunteers sign “releases” or “hold harmless” agreements that protect the employer in the event of a workplace injury. Always have your counsel review this type of document before asking someone to sign it.

Employees of political subdivisions are conclusively considered to have accepted workers’ compensation coverage, and they can’t reject their coverage. If they are in the course and scope of employment and furthering the business of their employer, no signed release can negate the statute. And remember, being in course and scope is not as simple as being on or off the official clock.

We’re here to support you

Fund experts are just an email or phone call away all year long. For guidance on managing claims this summer, contact an adjuster or Workers’ Compensation Program Consultant Laura Romaine.

Members with School Liability coverage can file a claim online to notify our team about any claims or lawsuits.

To learn more about complying with your reporting requirements and filing an incident report with the Fund, watch our on-demand workers’ compensation webinars.

Explore more summer risks

If you need help managing the risks associated with summer work, use our risk management checklist as a guide, or contact your TASB risk solutions consultant.

About the author

TASB Workers' Compensation Program Consultant Laura Romaine guides schools in complying with their reporting obligations under the law. Romaine brings more than 30 years of experience to her relationships with our members. 

Tagged: claims, compliance, coverage