The winter season ended with a resounding, historic bang in Texas. Schools are working hard to educate students while contending with the fallout of frigid temperatures, snow, and ice that blanketed the state. With warmer weather here to stay, the Fund encourages members to also think about the risks that come with springtime in Texas.
Use this checklist as the starting point for a comprehensive action plan that protects your productivity, your budget, and most importantly, your staff and students this spring.*
Action item 1. Inspect roofs
Your roof preventative maintenance plan should call for at least two annual inspections by staff or vendors trained to
do the job safely.
Spring and fall are good times to inspect roofs because changing temperatures can uncover seasonal damage. You should also inspect roofs after facility construction and severe weather.
Action item 2. Brace for spring storms
Climate change is cranking up storm intensity. Take time to evaluate your flood risks and prepare your property for spring storms. Don’t forget about tornado season, which runs from April through June. Between 2017 and 2019, a nation-leading 138 tornadoes tore through Texas.
Action item 3. Respond to hail alerts
The Fund works with Hail Alert Technologies to notify members with Property coverage when potentially damaging hail falls in their area. Our team reaches out and explains how to proceed, depending on hail size. Responding to hail alerts is an important responsibility of Fund membership.
Action item 4. Use caution with vendors
Talk to a TASB representative before you hire a roofer, plumber, public adjuster, or another vendor to help with winter or spring storm damage. We have relationships with trusted companies that specialize in mitigation, remediation, and restoration.
Action item 5. Verify the Fund has an accurate inventory of your property
Reporting your property inventory is an important duty of Fund membership. You can also use inventory data to launch a preventative maintenance program that extends the life of your property and saves money for your organization.
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Action item 1. Remind employees to get indoors when thunder roars
Supervisors should check weather reports before starting outdoor projects. If employees hear thunder, they should protect themselves by going inside a fully enclosed building and staying there at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder.
If safe buildings are not available, vehicles with solid, metal roofs and sides are the next-best option.
Action item 2. Protect against slips
In the education services sector, slips and trips account for about 37 percent of injuries involving days away from work every year, according to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). Follow these tips to help employees, students, and visitors keep their feet on solid ground during the rainy season:
- Place absorbent mats inside doorways.
- Use “Caution: Wet Floor” signs.
- Provide wet-umbrella bags.
- Stress the importance of slip-resistant footwear for maintenance, custodial, grounds, and food service employees.
Action item 3. Prevent falls from roofs
Roofs are dangerous places to work. Springtime inspections should only be done by employees or contractors who have been trained to do the job safely and provided the right personal protective equipment.
Action item 4. Commit to integrated pest management
Last spring, the Fund responded to dozens of school employee injuries – and one fatality – caused by insects. Integrated pest management (IPM) takes a holistic approach to keeping insects, rodents, and other pests at bay using the safest methods available.
Every Texas school district is required to adopt a board-approved integrated pest management (IPM) policy and employ a designated, licensed IPM coordinator.
Action item 5. Prepare for heat and humidity
Heat illness happens when temperature and humidity prevent sweat from evaporating. The body cannot cool itself, so our core temperature rises. It takes time to build tolerance to hot, sticky conditions. Start preparing employees now.
Action item 6. Evaluate open claims before summer break
Before school lets out for the summer, Fund members with Workers’ Compensation coverage should evaluate their open claims and ensure benefits continue for employees who are entitled to them:
- Log into myTASB and click on Workers’ Compensation Resources.
- Click on Workers’ Compensation Reports, and download a list of open claims.
- Identify which employees are off work or working with modifications.
- Tell your TASB adjuster the last date each employee is expected to work for the year. We will adjust benefits accordingly.
Action item 7. Share this tax season notice with your team
Workers’ compensation income benefits paid to injured employees, as well as death benefits paid to survivors, are not taxable. Injured employees are, however, required to pay taxes on wages they earn while working modified-duty assignments. For more information, employees should consult their tax professional or TASB Workers’ Compensation Program Consultant Laura Romaine.
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Action item 1. Promote distracted driving awareness
Traffic accidents consistently cause more work-related fatalities than any other hazard. Too often, crashes involve distracted driving.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a great time to share information and resources with bus drivers, maintenance staff, administrators, and anyone else who operates a vehicle on organization business.
Action item 2. Conduct routine maintenance
This year’s historically harsh winter might have hammered your white or yellow fleet batteries. Other seasonal fallout could include underinflated tires and worn windshield wipers. Reference your owner’s manuals for guidance on preparing your fleet for spring weather. You can also use this spring maintenance checklist.
Action item 3. Prepare drivers for slick roads
Daylight Saving Time signals the start of storm season and the slick roads that come with it. Make sure drivers follow best practices such as monitoring their tire condition, maintaining a safe following distance, watching their speed, and navigating skids properly.
Monitor road conditions and steer drivers around hazards by identifying safer routes or changing travel schedules when possible.
Action item 4. Renew expired licenses
The temporary waiver for expired drivers’ licenses, CDL, Certified Learners Permits, ID cards, election certificates, School Bus Driver Certifications, and Enrollment Cards ends April 14, 2021.
Make an appointment with the local DPS office to renew licenses.
To fulfill the training requirement for expired school bus driver certifications or enrollment cards, contact your Regional Education Service Center.
Action item 5. Follow these six tips to prevent rock claims
During spring and summer, the Fund sees an uptick in claims involving lawn care equipment kicking up rocks and damaging vehicle windshields. Lawn equipment operators should:
- Confirm safety guards are in place and in good condition.
- Identify equipment ejection zones.
- Point ejection zones away from vehicles, people, and property when possible.
- Stop work and wait until ejection zones are clear, or ask people to temporarily clear the area.
- Use traffic cones or warning tape to temporarily hold parking spaces near job sites.
- Share lawn care maintenance schedules with staff.
Action item 6. Verify the Fund has an accurate inventory of your vehicles
Reporting an accurate vehicle inventory is an important duty of Fund membership. You can also use inventory data to implement a fleet preventative maintenance plan that extends the life of your vehicles and saves money for your organization.
This short driver safety training kit (login required) reinforces best practices, including distracted driving prevention, that can help everyone get home safely at the end of the day. The kit offers trainer’s notes, interactive discussions, and a quiz to evaluate employees’ comprehension.
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Action item 1. Review your quarterly statements
TASB Unemployment Compensation Attorney James Ezell recommends members review their quarterly statements for suspicious activity that could indicate benefit fraud.
Members should follow these steps if they suspect a claim is fraudulent:
- Call the claimant and ask if they filed a claim.
- If they did not file a claim, email James Ezell the name as it appears on the claim form, the last four digits of the Social Security number, and their phone number. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) can call the victim, and James will have the claim canceled. Please include all information in one email for everyone, and do not send unemployment applications or other TWC forms. Please do not include full Social Security numbers.
- Direct the victim to file an identity theft report and notify their credit reporting bureaus.
Action item 2. Issue letters of reasonable assurance
Before school is out for the year, district administrators should make sure letters of reasonable assurance (LRA) have been issued to employees who will have a scheduled break of one week or more over the summer or in the coming school term. The LRA could protect your district against current claims that extend into summer break.
- Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how to protect your district from the consequences of unemployment compensation fraud.
- Get more tips by reading InsideRM articles written by Ezell and TASB Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Consultant Lucas Anderson.
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Action item 1. Avoid tax season cyber scams
Trending tax season scams look to cash in on the financial stress many Americans feel because of the pandemic. Cybercriminals are also leaning on long-standing – and profitable – W2 phishing scams.
You can protect your organization and your employees
- Teach staff to recognize scams.
- Add controls to your outbound, sensitive-data response processes.
- Configure your data loss prevention policies in your email security system.
Action item 2. Comply with the cybersecurity training requirement
Texas law requires school district board members and employees to complete cybersecurity training by June 14 of every year. The Fund offers a State-approved, on-demand training course to members with Privacy & Information Security coverage at no additional cost.
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*This InsideRM article provides an overview, not a comprehensive list, of winter risk management best practices. For more guidance, use the related resources and collaborate with your TASB risk solutions consultant.