TASB Risk Management Fund

The Leading Cause of Workplace Injuries in Schools Might Surprise You

July 26, 2021 David Wylie

Woman wearing green sweater and carrying a box

Employees in the education sector navigate workplace hazards every day. Groundskeepers work in the elements, science teachers mix volatile chemicals, and trained maintenance personnel repair or replace faulty outlets and circuit breakers.

Still, the leading cause of workplace injuries has nothing to do with heat indexes, hydrochloric acid, or high-voltage electricity:

  • In the Texas educational services sector, slips, trips, and falls account for about 37 percent of workplace injuries that resulted that cause employees to miss work, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.
  • Coincidentally—or not—slips, trips, and falls represent about 37 percent of claims filed by Fund members with Workers’ Compensation coverage.
  • Accidents that seem minor can cause broken bones, sprains, strains, and damage to the head, neck, and back.
  • If an injured employee misses time from work, employers often face a tough decision: see productivity suffer, or hire substitutes or temporary employees.

Here’s your slip, trip, and fall toolkit for schools

Your friends at the Fund are here to help you rein in the costs of slips, trips, and falls. We put together this toolkit to help schools keep staff and students safe.

Common hazards

You should investigate every accident and near miss to identify the root causes and take corrective action. The following hazards are commonly uncovered during slip, trip, and fall accident investigations.

Physical conditions

  • Uneven walking surfaces such as stairs, speed bumps, and elevator thresholds
  • Leaky equipment
  • Broken stairs, handrails, and floorboards
  • Floors that are wet, oily, or freshly waxed
  • Rugs that are rolled up at the ends
  • Unanchored rugs and mats
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Bottom drawers left open

Unsafe behaviors

  • Standing on furniture instead of ladders
  • Jumping off loading docks instead of using the stairs
  • Moving loads we can’t see over
  • Failing to keep the workplace clean and orderly
  • Choosing the wrong footwear for the environment
  • Walking while distracted

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7 tips for preventing slips, trips, and falls in schools

Considering the many physical hazards that cause slips, trips, and falls, it makes sense that custodial and maintenance employees are key to keeping schools safe. Still, everyone can do their part to protect themselves, their co-workers, and their students.

1. Practice good housekeeping

Clean, orderly workplaces promote productivity and reduce opportunities for accidents. Keep walkways, stairs, and exits clear of supplies, tools, and hoses. If you have to run a power cord across a walkway, tape it down or use a cord cover.

Finally, remember that personal accountability drives workplace safety. If you see a wet spot on the floor, wipe it up, even if you didn’t make the mess. If you can’t clean up a spill immediately, use a Caution: Wet Floor sign or rope the area off.

2. Dress for the job

Athletic shoes, high heels, and shoes with slick soles can increase your injury risk. Custodial, maintenance, and kitchen staff should wear slip-resistant footwear in slippery areas. Everyone else should choose flat, close-toe shoes with soles that provide traction.

3. Strategically place nonslip mats

Secure nonslip mats to the floor inside entrances, locker rooms, cafeterias, kitchens, and other areas with potentially wet or slippery surfaces. Leadership should also consider slip-resistant flooring in wet areas.

4. Avoid ladder substitutes

There is no substitute for a ladder with damage-free siderails, rungs, spreaders, and feet. That means no standing on desks, chairs, and other furniture. On a related note, do not prop ladders on truck beds or other elevated areas. If you need to extend your reach, get a taller ladder. It might take a little longer, but the fastest way to do a task is rarely the safest way.

5. Keep your head up and your phone down

It’s no secret that distracted driving is dangerous. But did you know distracted walking can cause serious, even fatal, accidents? Whether you’re crossing the street, taking the stairs, or racing to beat the bell, follow this sage advice from the National Safety Council: Keep your head up and your phone down.

6. Walk like a penguin

Texans use the term “winter” loosely. Still, our friends in some parts of the state are no strangers to snow, sleet, and ice. If your travels take you across slick surfaces, walk like a penguin. Bend your knees slightly; keep your feet flat; take short, shuffle-like steps; and extend your arms at your sides for balance. It might sound funny, but have you ever seen a penguin slip?

7. Report damaged property

Damaged stairs, handrails, floorboards, and sidewalks are common culprits in slip, trip, and fall accidents. The same goes for unsecured or wrinkled carpet, burned-out lightbulbs, and faulty electrical switches. Report damaged property to your supervisor immediately. Use signs or cones to alert co-workers, students, and visitors until damaged property is repaired or replaced.  

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Facility inspection checklist

Use this checklist to uncover and correct physical hazards that cause slips, trips, and falls. 

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Accident investigation worksheet

Every accident and near miss offers an improvement opportunity. Your accident prevention plan should include a process for uncovering the root causes of incidents. Use this worksheet to guide your accident investigations.

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Sample job safety analysis

Every job task comes with risks. A job safety analysis (JSA) breaks tasks into steps, identifies the risks, and documents corrective action. This sample JSA tackles slips, trips, falls and other hazards associated with mopping facility floors.

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Slip, trip, fall safety kit

Safety training is a core element of strong accident prevention plans. This safety kit empowers supervisors to share slip, trip, and fall prevention best practices with their teams in as few as 15 minutes (login required). File the attendance roster and 10-question quiz results with your training records.

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On-demand training

Fund members benefit from no-cost, on-demand training developed for the risks facing schools. The Workplace Injury Prevention course covers slips, trips, falls, and other common hazards. The course is available to Fund members with Workers' Compensation pool coverage.

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Put our consultants to work for you

Make your regionally based risk solution consultant your first call for expert guidance on preventing workplace injuries such as slips, trips, and falls. Your consultant is ready to survey your facilities for hazards, develop tailored service plans, and deliver in-person or virtual training.

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Tagged: Safety, "school safety", "slips trips and falls"