In Massachusetts cities and towns, school employees can be injured by a work-related accident. Many of these incidents are preventable. The Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards can provide technical assistance, including on-site surveys, to schools for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.

 

WHAT TYPES OF WORK-RELATED INJURIES OCCUR?

Work-related injuries pie chart

 

Chart 1:  Employee Injury Pattern. Source: Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, First Reports of Injury, 2013

•      This chart indicates that the top three categories of employee work-related injury in schools is Slip, Trip and Fall; Agitation of students against staff; and muscle strain from Lifting objects.

•      School employees include teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, maintenance, coaches and bus monitors.

•      The injury events captured in this summary are accidents which caused 5 or more days away from work. Minor incidents such as bruise or laceration which involve less than 5 days away from work are not captured in this summary.  A worksheet for monitoring your own injury pattern is available at www.mass.gov/dols/wshp.

A A worksheet for determining the injury patterns in your own school is available at www.mass.gov/dols/wshp. Staff from the Department of Labor Standards can assist you conduct this evaluation.  Call 508-616-0461 or email safepublicworkplace@state.ma.us.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE:

Resources available from the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards include:

Slips, Trips and Falls:

There are several strategies available to reduce slips, trips and falls. Install flooring with adequate slip resistance. Choose floor finishing products to provide good slip resistance. Keep floors dry and repair leaks and improper drainage. Inspect stairs for tread, stair height, rails and lighting. Instill a culture of good housekeeping so that debris and clutter is removed immediately.  See www.mass.gov/dols/wshp for a bulletin on slip prevention.

Lifting 

Lifting injuries in schools occur when lifting furniture, cabinets and gym stadium seating. A large number of injuries occur when custodians throw garbage bags into dumpsters. To prevent dumpster injuries - make sure the dumpster cover is open; hold the trash bag with two hands; do not lift trash barrel above your shoulder; and avoid throwing the trash.  See www.mass.gov/dols/wshp for bulletins on custodian safety.

Aggression Against Staff

Aggression by students against teachers and paraprofessionals is a prominent cause of work-related injuries in schools.  Teachers should be trained to recognize and de-escalate agitated behavior. 

Crossing Guards

A bulletin on crossing guard safety, which explains crosswalk visibility, crossing guard visibilty and crossing guard training is available at www.mass.gov/dols/wshp. A bulletin for parents regarding crossing guard safety is available at www.mass.gov/dph

Asbestos in Schools

The AHERA regulation requires schools to have an Asbestos Management Plan. The school must identify asbestos-containing materials in the building, and maintain material in good condition so that occupants will not be exposed to asbestos.  See www.mass.gov/dols/ahera for guidance. 

Right-to-Know 

Public employees must be informed of the chemical products they handle and instructed on safe handling. Many cleaning products and air fresheners contain ingredients that can trigger asthma attacks. Consult product Material Safety Data Sheets. Tools for conducting Right-to-Know training are available at www.mass.gov/dols/wshp.

Indoor  Air Quality 

School employees can be affected by indoor air quality concerns caused by water damage, uneven heating, and housekeeping chemicals. A resource list developed by the Department of Public Health is available at www.mass.gov/dols/wshp.