by Cassandra Pfeifer, The Sandner Group
Anybody working in a school district knows they should be well-versed in the safety laws that must be followed in order to protect both students and employees. One of the best ways to improve safety and reduce claims costs in all districts is not required by law: forming a safety committee. A safety committee can be a district’s greatest asset when considering how best to create and maintain the highest level of safety practices. After all, safer work spaces are more productive work spaces. Safety committees are low-cost and highly effective programs that can be run to greatly enhance the environment your employees and students work and learn in every day. With the help of one of the Loss Control Specialists at The Sandner Group – Claims Management, your district will be well on its way to having a successful safety committee.
Administrative commitment and employee involvement are integral to ensuring the success of any safety committee. Administration provides the motivating force and resources for organizing safety activities and employees provide the means to develop and implement their own commitment to safety. Administrators should take a proactive stance in recruiting employees for involvement in the safety committee, whether it is for hazard inspection teams, accident investigations, developing and revising safe work rules, or training co-workers in safe work practices. Administration should also be in charge of communicating the district safety policy as well as organizing and directing regular safety committee meetings and delegating tasks to qualified employees. Without administrative commitment, it becomes very easy for safety committees to fall to the wayside. In order for employees to consider safety a top priority, the administration must make it a top priority and take a hands-on approach towards the safety committee.
Safety committees can accomplish a wide array of activities and safety improvements when everyone in the district is committed to the process. Some actions safety committees can take are: safety surveys, hazard inspections, action planning for removing hazards, claim frequency review, hazard reporting procedures, staff training, and even planning ways in which to improve safety in new construction projects (i.e. tornado shelters). Safety surveys and inspections should be undertaken at set intervals, with areas more prone to hazards, such as science labs and industrial arts classrooms, having more frequent inspections than other areas. The Loss Control Manual provided to each member of WCSIT*ISDA has a number of sample inspection forms to assist in determining what needs to be inspected and how often. Employees chosen to inspect each area should be familiar with the area being inspected and only qualified professionals should be allowed to remove hazards, particularly those that can cause injury when being removed or repaired.
Safety committees should be designed to include all employees and even students by creating a standard hazard reporting procedure that everyone can use when they identify risks present in the school, such as damaged sidewalks or unsafe work habits. It is important that this tool not be used as a way to reprimand employees or students for any unsafe work habits but to correct the habits before an accident occurs. In many cases, the person working unsafely may not realize the risks involved in the way they are approaching the task. Utilizing hazard reports as a way to reprimand workers will discourage everyone from reporting future hazards to avoid creating conflict. Consider several ways for employees and students to submit safety concerns anonymously to encourage a sense of confidence in the way hazards are addressed. Will a drop box in the office be sufficient or should surveys be sent around the schools periodically? When hazards are recognized, action plans should be created that address how best to remove the hazard as soon as possible.
Safety committees can also help keep your district’s accident reports and investigations well organized. Not only should accidents resulting in injuries be reported but near-miss accidents should also be reported. In each safety meeting, the committee will then be able to go over the reports based on accidents as well as hazards identified by employees and students in order to address potential trouble areas that may exist within the district. For instance, if there is a high rate of student aggression accidents and near-misses, it may be necessary to develop an action plan designed to address how best to respond to conflicts with students. Additionally, safety meetings should be used to determine if report types provide enough information to fit your district’s needs. The Loss Control Manual comes equipped with a sample accident report to assist you in this process. Reports should provide the accident cause, the environment surrounding the accident, as well as any other pertinent details that may have been a contributing factor to the injury.
The Loss Control staff at The Sandner Group – Claims Management has all the tools necessary to assist WCSIT and ISDA members in creating and maintaining safety committees and should be seen as an important member of your safety committee. Each Loss Control Specialist is available to attend safety committee meetings in order to be of the utmost assistance in accomplishing your goal of improved safety and lower injury rates. Alongside the annual member service visit and inspection, where your Loss Control Specialist performs an inspection for hazards and meets with you to discuss your claim history and frequency, Loss Control Specialists are also able to provide you with recommendations to remove hazards, discuss best safety practices in the workplace, perform accident investigations, and provide safety training to all employees in your districts. Please do not hesitate to get your Loss Control Specialist involved in your safety committee. Whether the committee is already in operation or in the beginning stages, The Sandner Group – Claims Management is ready to provide you with valuable advice and assistance.