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TASB Risk Management Fund

The Leading Cause of Workplace Injuries in Schools Might Surprise You

January 25, 2019 David Wylie

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 accounted for 3,805 workplace injuries that resulted in lost workdays in 2017, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. That figure represents 36 percent of all lost-workday injuries.

Cluttered walkways, slick sidewalks, and freshly waxed floors are just a handful of hazards that can cause serious, sometimes fatal, accidents. Here are five things your employees can do to keep their feet on solid ground.

Dress for the job

Everyone wants to be comfortable at work, especially if we spend most of the day on our feet. Unfortunately, open-toe shoes, athletic shoes, and high heels increase the risk of injury. 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.

Practice good housekeeping

Clean, orderly work areas 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.

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?

Avoid ladder substitutes

Most of us have been there. We need to change a light bulb or hang a picture, so we stand on a nearby desk or chair for the sake of efficiency. We don’t think much about it, but those seemingly harmless shortcuts put our safety at risk. There is no substitute for a ladder with damage-free siderails, rungs, spreaders, and feet. 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.

Keep your head up and your phone down

You probably know that distracted driving is dangerous. But did you know that 6,000 distracted walkers were killed by vehicles in 2017, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association? 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.

Access free online training

TASB Risk Management Fund Workers’ Compensation fully funded and aggregate deductible members benefit from free online safety training. We encourage members to assign their employees the slips, trips, and falls course modules. The full module is available in English and Spanish. Position-specific modules are available for teachers and administrators, as well as nurses, custodians, dieticians, and maintenance personnel.

As always, if you need expert advice on slips, trips, and falls or other workplace safety issues, your Fund risk solutions consultant is ready to help.

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