Guidelines for a school safety program 

The following guideline is a tool to allow a school to compare their existing safety program features to see if they meet minimal standards. It is not intended to replace a specific safety program geared to an individual school. Each school should have a safety program created specifically for that school by competent persons. Local school districts can assist with developing a functional school safety program. 

Policy statement: 
Each charter or independent school should adopt a policy statement relating to safety of employees students and visitors. The broad philosophy should be formally adapted and signed by the school superintendent as well as the president of the board. 

A sample statement might read as follows: 

Statement of safety policy:

  1. Purpose The Board shall establish a safety program with the primary objective of providing a safe, healthy working environment for all employees, students and visitors. The success of the Safety Program depends on sincere, consistent and cooperative efforts of the entire staff. 
  2. Authority The Board directs the establishment of a Safety Committee to provide leadership in accomplishing the following objectives: 

    • Prevention of human and economic losses from personal injury and property damage. 
    • Prevention of losses from fire and theft. 
    • Ensuring the safety, protection, and well-being of students and staff. 

The Safety Program must assure compliance with federal and state regulations and guidelines. An effective safety program must provide the staff with an awareness and commitment to promote a safe and healthy environment. The staff must strictly adhere to all aspects of the safety program. In-service activities  must be provided to all staff to develop a consistent and viable program. 
3.  Responsibility The Superintendent or his/her designee shall be responsible for the enforcement of this policy.

Each school should have someone in administration designated as being ultimately responsible for enforcement of the policy. 

Written rules and regulations: 

Policies, procedures, rules and regulations for all aspects of the school operations should be established and written and updated as needed. All employees should have access to written policies and there should be both paper copies and electronic copies available for review. Due to the wide variety of activities and types of schools, policies should be established based on best practices for the education industry. 

When reviewing a program for compliance with minimal standards the following areas should not be overlooked: 

  1. Classroom policies 
  2. Field trip policies 
  3. Athletic event policies 
  4. Lunchroom procedures 
  5. Laboratory policies 
  6. Housekeeping policies and procedures 
  7. Visitation and Visitor identification policies 
  8. Background check and employment application policies 
  9. Zero tolerance weapons, drugs, and violence policies 
  10. Maintenance and inspection guidelines and safety procedures 
  11. Protection against unauthorized entry during day and when closed 
  12. Fire drills 
  13. Storm drills 
  14. School violence policies 
  15. Assemblies 

Due to the variety of departments within most schools the various rules and regulations can be developed interdepartmentally by experts in those areas and compiled into a functional manual by a safety committee or designated person. Of course some aspects of a school safety program will be more complicated than others.

Accident investigation procedures: 
It is essential in any functional safety program to have a procedure whereby accidents, injuries and illnesses can be investigated promptly with accurate documentation of the findings. Additionally, it is advisable to investigate "near miss" accidents even when no injury occurs. Accident investigation allows for a school to eliminate or reduce those exposures, which are commonly causing injuries as well as controlling those exposures that have resulted in near miss accidents. Accident and injury analysis will make you aware of the most prevalent cause of accidents within each department. At a minimum an accident investigator must determine the following facts: 

  1. Who got hurt, and what was the nature of his/her injuries? 
  2. What was the injured person doing, exactly, when the accident occurred? 
  3. What other persons were involved, directly or indirectly, in the incident? 
  4. What were they doing, exactly, at the time of the accident? 
  5. What physical factors were involved, equipment missing, defective, not being used? Why? 
  6. Were job procedures being violated? By whom? How? Why? 

In summary, these questions are designed to determine which factors existed, that if they were removed, would have prevented the accident. Your school can use a specifically designed form to gather facts after an accident or injury. In the alternative, you may choose to have a supervisor and the injured party discuss the facts surrounding the accident and complete a narrative explanation containing the essential elements of the investigation. It should not be the purpose of the accident investigation to determine fault for the goal of punishment of the injured party or other parties involved. The ultimate goal of accurate accident investigation procedures is preventing future similar accidents and providing a basis for a claims investigator to begin handling other aspects of the claim. 

Record keeping procedures: 
There is a common misconception that since Educational Services (SIC Code 82) “…are not required to keep OSHA injury and Illness records…unless they are asked in writing to do so by OSHA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), or a state agency operating under the authority of OSHA…” that record keeping can be discounted altogether. In actuality the “Exempt Industries” are only partially exempt. Schools, like other businesses, should develop some method for recording and tracking injuries even if they are only using employment records and a summary sheet. OSHA still requires that ANY fatality, OR if three or more employees are hospitalized, a report to OSHA is required. For more information on the OSHA Record Keeping standard visit the OSHA website at:http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/ppt1/RK1exempttable.html

Training and education: 
It is essential that all new employees undergo a period of safety training in addition to any new employee orientation training that may take place. Statistics consistently show that new employees have the highest accident frequency rate. Management must provide new employee training concerning specific rules and hazards in the employee's particular department. 

All training and safety meetings should be documented including the topics discussed employees in attendance, as well as concerns raised by employees during the meeting. After each employee completes the new employee orientation safety training documentation should go in the employee's personnel file. 

In the education environment some areas that need special attention regarding training include:

  • Labs 
  • Chemical use 
  • Kilns and art tools
  • Kitchens 
  • Sports
  • Traffic plans 
  • Fire drills 
  • Storm drills 
  • Computer use 
  • Media equipment use and safety 

Self-inspection procedures: 
The purpose of safety and health inspections is to identify and correct unsafe conditions and work practices before an injury occurs. The ultimate goal is to make the necessary changes in the work environment and employee behavior through specific, methodical reviews. Inspection procedures to identify conditions and work practices that lead to on the job accidents and illnesses is essential. Identifying unsafe conditions relates to the physical environment hazards that may be present in a school. These physical hazards have the potential for causing employee injury. Examples may include poor housekeeping in classrooms, hallways, storage closets or other areas requiring employees to step over or around debris while working. 

Unsafe work practices address human behavior which can be influenced through effective training and follow up to the training. An example of human behavior that may increase the potential for injury at schools could be as simple as an employee's tendency to use a classroom chair instead of a stepladder to access out of reach shelves. 

A formal monthly review of safety activities in place at the operations should be performed. This review is simply a follow up to disseminate information gathered during meetings and review accidents or safety issues which have occurred since the last review period. Additionally, special review activities should take place. These reviews relate to specific hazards found at many job sites that can be eliminated by the following steps: 

  • Monthly safety reviews by a rotating two-person team from a safety committee 
  • Semi-annual reviews performed by two supervisors. 
  • Unannounced reviews or inspections performed by the safety administrator. 

It should be the goal of the self-inspection policies to maintain a safe work environment the entire year, not just when an inspector is arriving. An effective inspection program will create the atmosphere of "habitual safety." 

Periodic safety discussions during staff meetings: 
Management should have brief discussions about various safety topics during regularly scheduled department or staff meetings. These meetings can be accomplished as a group or on a one on one basis and should be designed to inform employees of any changes in safety policies or procedures. Additionally, any new hazards, which are being introduced to the work place, should be touched on during these meetings in advance of the changes. All meetings should be documented and submitted to the safety director for review. 

Emergency first aid and disaster procedures: 
A school’s emergency first aid procedures will depend largely upon the size of the organization. OSHA requires that any organization which has forty or more employees at one work place have a designated "first response individual". This individual must be certified in CPR and emergency first aid training. Smaller organizations may have designated procedures such as requiring a witness to an accident to contact local emergency authorities. All schools should have adequately stocked first aid kits to be used in the event of an injury. First aid kits may vary slightly depending upon the hazards at a particular organization. 

A current industry trend is for public places to have in place Defibrillators that are used to revive individuals suffering from heart arrhythmia and some heart attacks. If a company decides to obtain an AED device caution should be taken to make sure someone with training to use the device will be on site at all times. The purchase of AED devices on school campuses is becoming more commonplace

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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