SFM recently conducted an in-depth study of school employees in Minnesota to learn which employees were most likely to be injured, and how.
Researchers pored through 8,000 claims reported from 2009-2014 by 130 Minnesota school districts.
What they learned might surprise you.
School employee groups at highest risk for work injuries
According to the research, workers over 50 and males had a higher risk of being injured than the average school employee, and certain occupations were also at higher risk.
The breakdown by occupation showed that food service workers, transportation workers and custodial staff were at the highest risk for injuries.
Of licensed staff, special education teachers had the highest rate of injury, but their rates were still much lower than non-licensed groups.
Most common types of injuries among school employees
Slips, falls, strikes and strains top the list of injuries school employees in general are most likely to suffer. Combined, they comprised more than 75 percent of school employee injuries.
How school employees are injured
See below for tips on preventing these types of injuries.
School employee injuries involving students
The study found that about a quarter of school employee injuries involved students.
Causes of student-related injuries
While responding to students acting out caused the majority of the student-related injuries, injuries caused by playing with students and assisting or transferring students were most likely to result in lost time from work. In fact, 17 percent of injuries while playing with students and 12 percent of injuries while assisting/transferring students resulted in missing work.
The groups of employees most at risk for being injured by students were special education assistants followed by general educational assistants.
Employee groups most at risk for student-related injuries
See below for methods to prevent these common types of injuries among staff.
Ways to avoid work injuries among school employees
There are a number of things school districts can do to prevent common employee injuries including:
- Encourage staff to “Play with Purpose.” Participating in physical activities puts teachers, paraprofessionals and coaches at risk for serious injuries. Instruct staff to focus on demonstrating and teaching skills versus actively participating. Remind them that they are responsible for their own safety.
- Promote a hands-off approach to dealing with students who are acting out.
- Prevent winter slips and falls. Snow- and ice-related slips and falls are a leading cause of school employee injuries. Remind your employees about the increased risk of slips and falls in winter, and how to prevent them with an educational campaign throughout the season. SFM offers a number of free winter slip-and-fall prevention resources on its website.
- Provide supervisor initiated training. On its website, SFM offers free downloadable safety training talks for schools, broken down by job category (such as buildings and grounds, food service, etc.). These talks are simple and quick to present, and help keep the staff focused on safety.
- Tell staff to get up and move. Employees who stay in a static position all day long put themselves at greater risk for strain and sprain injuries. Encourage them to take short breaks throughout the day to move around. They can use this warm up and stretching poster for ideas of movements that will help them avoid strains.
- Get fit and exercise. Employees who work with their arms in front of them all day, such as food service workers, are at risk for shoulder injuries. SFM developed a program called Get Fit and Exercise which focuses on shoulder strengthening to prevent injuries. Anyone can benefit from the program, but it’s especially good for building and grounds crews and food service staff.
For more information on safety topics of interest to schools, see SFM’s CompNotes newsletter.