Loss Control Insights for Schools

Tips for Preventing Ergonomic Injuries in Schools

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Ergonomic issues can cause back, shoulder and wrist injuries and can occur in many different jobs around your district. From janitors to teachers, there are many opportunities for ergonomic improvements at schools.

Workstation Layout
Teachers should lay out their workstation so the most frequently used items can be reached easily. Make sure the chair is set up so the teacher’s feet are flat on the ground and the front of the seat is not pressing into the back of the knees. There should be adequate armrest support and the desk should be positioned so that the teacher can type or grade papers while keeping their elbows at a right angle. Computer monitors should be placed just below eye level and about an arm’s length away. When planning for future furniture and equipment purchases, be sure to review the products to make sure they are adjustable and will meet your staff’s ergonomic needs.

Carrying Too Much
It can be tempting when moving items in or out of the school building to try to take as few trips as possible. While this may seem more efficient, it increases the risk of an ergonomic injury or a slip and fall because it’s difficult to see hazards in front of you with a large pile of boxes blocking your view. Take multiple trips to and from the school building or ask someone to help you with large, heavy or awkward loads.

Pull Up a Chair
Encourage your teachers to pull up a chair and sit next to students when providing assistance. Leaning over a desk or bending at the back for long periods of time can cause lower back problems.

Custodian Concerns
Your janitorial staff probably spends a lot of their days lifting and moving cleaning supplies. Here are three tips to help reduce the chance of an ergonomic injury.

  • Consider drilling holes in the bottom of trash cans. These holes can reduce the suction when removing trash bags so it requires less force.
  • Review the storage practices of your cleaning supply closets. Store the heaviest and the most frequently used items on the middle shelves and the lighter, less frequently used items on the top shelves. This will help prevent strain when lifting or reaching for stored supplies.
  • Encourage your custodians to avoid lifting heavy mop buckets when pouring them out into sinks. Instead, have them use the floor drain and tip the bucket over. Better yet, purchase bottom-emptying mop buckets to avoid lifting altogether.

Don’t Forget Your Cafeteria Workers
Your cafeteria workers are exposed to a number of ergonomic risk factors including repetition, awkward postures and overexertion. Just like janitorial cleaning supplies, it’s important to take a hard look at kitchen storage practices. Store heavier supplies on shelves between knee and waist levels. Make sure kitchen staff breaks apart heavy boxes and puts away items individually. Provide carts to help move large pots, pans and supplies. If you haven’t already, consider purchasing mechanical equipment for slicing and chopping, or purchase foods with some of the preparation already done. This can help reduce the amount of repetition needed from the kitchen staff and can help workers avoid cuts, too.

School Bus Drivers
Bus drivers often experience lower back pain from sitting for long periods of time, from the vibration of the bus or from assisting students on and off the bus. To help prevent these injuries, modify the seat by providing lumbar support for the lower back. Encourage bus drivers to stretch before starting their shift. If a driver must lift a student, make sure they know proper lifting technique, bending at the knees and not the back.