Summertime Loss Control and Risk Management

by Cassandra Pfeifer, The Sandner Group

As the 2013-2014 school year comes to a close, it is important to begin looking at how you can use the summer months to positively impact your district’s risk management program. Loss Control and Risk Management should not come to a halt during these months; in fact, the months between school years present a fantastic opportunity to greatly increase the overall effectiveness of your district’s Risk Management Program and create a safer school district for employees and students alike.

Each year districts are faced with accidents resulting in either injuries or property damage. Each incident should be given individual attention by the district and all accident reports should be saved long after each claim is closed. Keeping a log of all accident reports will allow you to review accidents throughout the entire year to ascertain what areas need improvement. Were there multiple falls on ice through the winter months that indicate there may be some issues with the snow and ice removal process?  Did employees sustain injuries due to standing on chairs, indicating a need for more stepstools throughout the district?  Asking these types of questions while reviewing accident reports can provide you with a huge amount of information regarding your district’s current safety program and allow you to take steps to avoid further accidents of a similar nature. You can also end up finding that additional information needs to be included in your accident reports to provide a more comprehensive look at each incident. Should you desire input on accident reporting, our Loss Control Manual includes a sample accident report that can assist you in determining all information that should be gathered after an accident (Chapter 9: Exhibit 19).

Several inspections are ideal for the summer months when there are no classes because there is more time to remedy any areas for improvement that are discovered. For instance, going through personal protective equipment (PPE) in manual arts and science classrooms and replacing/updating the equipment will help assure that students are fully protected when working with hazardous machines and materials once the next school year commences. PPE should be inspected in all maintenance shops to ensure outdated and aged PPE is discarded and replaced. Be sure to check out our PPE chart in Chapter 9: Exhibit 18 of our Loss Control Manual, to determine if your district is missing any PPE for specific hazardous jobs, as well.

All classrooms should be inspected to determine any hazards that may have developed through the school year along with flooring and ceiling inspections to detect any potential roof leaks. Overall building and grounds inspections should be performed, as well, to determine new and existing areas of risk to employees and students. Take the time in the summer to clear out cluttered storage areas and be on the look-out for common hazards, such as cracks in pavement, personal appliances in classrooms, blocked electrical service panels, loose handrails, aged or fraying carpet, or missing guards and shields on manual arts and maintenance tools. All of these items are easy to fix hazards that can cause severe injury if left unchecked.

School districts accumulate a great deal of clutter through each school year, whether it be unused or aged furniture, broken tools, or simply unorganized storage areas. Rather than allow clutter to build over a series of years, districts should consider implementing an annual clean-out program during the summer months. Getting rid of old, unused, or damaged materials rather than storing them in out of the way locations will lead to a safer, more efficient district. During the clean out, you will be able to examine how you are storing things. Are items getting stored in ceiling rafters due to lack of adequate storage space?  Do elevated storage spaces have proper guards to prevent items from falling and striking employees?  Is all storage kept away from electrical service panels?  All of these questions address ways in which storage space should not be utilized. Storing items in ceiling rafters puts undue stress on the roof structure, undermining the structural integrity of the whole building. Elevated storage should always have fall protection, whether it is guards to prevent items from falling or rails to prevent employees from falling in the case of larger elevated storage spaces. Electrical service panels need to have at least three feet of clear space to reduce the chances of an accidental fire and make the panel accessible in the event of an emergency.

Districts should also use the summer months to focus on developing a standard safety policy for all employees. Take some time to review your employee handbook. Do you have policies in place for fall protection, hazard communication, lock-out/tag-out, and personal protective equipment listed within the employee handbook?  If not, we recommend these items be added to the handbook in order to allow all employees access to these important safety policies. These safety policies need to offer effective controls to prevent workplace hazards and also be in compliance with OSHA regulations. Our Loss Control Manual can be of immense assistance to all districts looking to develop a stronger safety policy that will go above and beyond what OSHA dictates and move into becoming a proactive part of the safety process.

The best way to organize and implement all of these items is by forming a dedicated safety committee.  If your district does not already have an active safety committee, take the summer to form one and begin to reap the benefits a safety committee can offer a district.  Be sure to contact your loss control representative at one of the numbers below to begin moving your district towards bigger and better safety programs and decreasing the number of injuries that take place throughout the next school year through effective summer risk management!