Staff Health and Safety
8-01 - Staff safety and injury prevention

Provide working conditions that promote health and safety and that reduce the likelihood of unintentional and intentional physical injuries. Develop and clearly communicate plans for steps to be taken when injuries and threat of injuries occur.


Adoption of safety policies at school is essential to prevent injuries. Staff knowledge of safety policies is essential for compliance. When staff understand the essential components of preventing injuries in the school environment, they will model safe behaviors.


Schools have a responsibility to minimize staff exposure to environmental hazards (e.g., communicable diseases, toxins, allergens), to physical dangers (e.g., violence, traffic hazards on campus), and injuries that can be incurred from supervising sports, science experiments, art, and industrial art classes, food preparation, and off-campus school activities. Teach staff about violence prevention strategies (Guideline 7-05). Educate staff about proper ergonomic precautions, such as proper desk set-ups for school secretaries or proper lifting techniques for staff who assist with the lifting and transferring of students with special needs. Teach proper handling of needles and syringes for those providing health services, and universal precautions for anyone who may have contact with human tissue and fluids. Provide staff with adequate safety equipment (e.g., laboratory goggles and other safety gear, communication devices, Hoya lifts) and educate them on how to use the equipment properly. Inform all staff of safety and involve them in the development and revision of these policies. Inspections by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may be considered in order to verify compliance with meeting safety standards for staff. As staff also serve as role models for students, staff safety practices (e.g., use of safety belts) can ultimately benefit more people.

Be certain that staff know how to reach immediate help and how to report the injury when an employment-related injury occurs. Provide financial and medical support for injured staff members. Many school districts achieve this by providing Workmen's Compensation programs - programs that are often required by state law.

8-02 - Hepatitis B immunization for staff

Recommend that all school personnel at risk for exposure to blood-borne pathogens have current hepatitis B immunization.


Many employees are at risk of having contact with someone else's blood or other body tissues and fluids. To protect those employees and the students they serve, immunization is a cost-effective measure and is required by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).


Employee education on means to protect oneself and others from blood-borne pathogens and the provision of hepatitis B vaccination to those employees at risk of contact is a requirement of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Those at risk for exposure to blood include school nurses, health assistants, custodians, athletic trainers, physical education and special education teachers, first responders (for first aid), coaches of contact sports, and playground aides. A worksheet has been developed to assist school district employees as they determine their level of risk and relative need for the vaccine. 29

As it is a legal requirement for the employer to provide this immunization to those at risk, employee health insurers are likely to shift the cost of vaccination programs to school districts, unless the vaccine is negotiated by the district to be covered as part of employees' health benefits. There are various ways immunization of staff can be organized. School districts may offer the vaccine on school sites, refer eligible employees to their personal physicians, arrange immunization programs with the local health department, or refer eligible employees to a contractual health care agency.

8-03 - Provision of wellness programs for staff

Provide staff wellness and health promotion programs for school staff based on an assessment of their needs and interests.


Employees' mental health and physical health are essential to the success of a school system. The promotion of staff members' own health helps them to become positive role models for students and increases their commitment to promoting student health and safety. Staff who are fit and healthy may be expected to have fewer absences and have more energy.


Work site health promotion (staff wellness) is not institutionalized in many school settings. School-site health promotion programs for staff may not only impact the health of school faculty and staff, but also have effects on students, their families, and community members. Examples of health promotion programs for school staff include: health screenings, physical activity and fitness programs, nutrition education, weight management, smoking cessation, and stress management. Aside from local school programs, school district and state offices (e.g., departments of health and education) can develop health promotion programs that involve school staff.

Once wellness and health promotion programs are available, encourage staff to participate in these programs. Examples of promotion ideas include introducing wellness programs to new staff at their orientation sessions, presenting information at regular staff meetings, including flyers and brochures with paychecks, putting information into newsletter articles and e-mail messages, and offering health insurance discounts for participants.

8-04 - Insurance coverage for staff

Provide health, disability, long-term care, and life insurance to all employees. This includes coverage for health promotion programs, medical, dental and vision coverage, and coverage for their dependents.


The provision of health insurance benefits for staff members and their families increases their accessibility to preventive health services. Preventive health care and early detection and management of health problems will reduce employee absence and reduce staff turnover, resulting in potential cost savings to the district, ultimately benefiting students. Generous and comprehensive benefit packages are excellent ways to attract and retain the most outstanding employees.


School districts can be role models for other employers on their policies towards employee benefits. In many cases, the level of insurance coverage is determined by collective bargaining agreements. At a minimum, health insurance should provide access to a health plan that is affordable with respect to staff salaries. Health plan options should provide coverage that is broad enough to protect the employee and the employee's family from economic hardship. Districts' benefits offices should be staffed to meet all health and disability insurance information needs of its employees.

Many school districts provide financial and medical support for injured staff members through provision of Workmen's Compensation programs - programs that are often required by state law.

8-05 - Employee assistance programs

Provide employees with a work-site environment that encourages them to express their feelings, fears, and anxieties and to rehabilitate during times of personal crisis, personal loss, and school crisis. Provide employee assistance programs that help address these crises as well as mental disorders, and drug- and alcohol-dependence.


Adults need assistance with stressful life situations or these situations will adversely affect job performance and/or conduct. Employee assistance programs can restore employees to levels of full productivity. Staff are more likely to be effective helping students deal with similar issues once their own issues are addressed.


At some time many employees face mental and emotional problems, difficult family responsibilities, financial burdens, legal difficulties, or dependent care needs. Provide free, confidential, short term counseling to help employees identify and deal with stressful problems. Often, school districts require referral arrangements with outside organizations in order to assist with the full range of problems that can confront a staff member. Programs offered should include comprehensive counseling, help for employees to achieve a balance between work and family and other personal responsibilities, and drug/alcohol rehabilitation.

The social environment of the work-site should encourage members of the school staff to discuss stressful situations with their supervisors and other staff. Managers and supervisors must become familiar with employee assistance programs and know how and when to make referrals and/or recommendations to employees who seek help. It is the employee's decision to participate and to follow through with any referral.

During a school crisis (such as a natural disaster, loss, or other trauma), adult staff will need assistance with their own trauma and grief reactions if they are to be helpful to students. Teachers and other staff should receive current information about the crisis, be invited to participate in planning and implementing school-wide interventions, and receive the emotional support they need to work through the stressful situation.

8-06 - Inter-professional collaboration, staff mentoring

Arrange for and encourage staff members to have opportunities to consult with and exchange information with other staff members across various disciplines. Arrange for peer mentoring.


Consultation and open exchanges across disciplines enhance school staff members' understanding and ability to manage program-related and student-related issues. Mentoring programs can be helpful to all school professionals (e.g., teachers, school nurses, school counselors), whether they are beginners, veterans in new assignments, or in need of remedial aid to improve their skills.


Include health, mental health, teaching, and other staff members in student assistance teams. Inter-professional activity should go beyond problem-oriented models of dealing with educational challenges of students or student behavior. The National Education Association (NEA) has resources on its Internet site to help staff members engage in multi-disciplinary exchanges that help to promote wellness, individual interventions, and systems change.

Mentoring is an essential part of staff development and a part of envisioning schools as professional learning communities. The Internet site of the NEA Foundation has various publications that describe how schools can create mentoring programs and set up professional developmental centers led by the professionals themselves. Such resources can be used to help schools create a climate for mentoring, select training materials, protect the confidentiality of those who are mentored, and evaluate their mentoring program. Although directed primarily toward mentoring of teachers, concepts and planning tools on this Internet site apply very well to the development of mentoring programs for other school staff, including health and mental health professionals.

8-07 - Accommodating staff with disabilities

Accommodate staff with disabilities and other health and safety concerns, as required by federal and state laws.


The provision of access to employment for all eligible applicants and all current employees promotes a fair and inclusive environment. For most schools, this is also necessary to comply with federal laws and many state laws.


As outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (5), prohibit discrimination in regard to job application procedures, hiring, advancement, employee discharge, employee compensation, and job training. ADA also protects individuals who have a relationship or association with a person who has a disability. School districts are not required to hire an individual if that individual, with or without an accommodation, is incapable of doing the essential functions of the job. Establish written essential functions for each potential employment position in the school district. Determine what, if any, accommodation can be made to allow a disabled individual to perform those functions.

ADA requires public school districts with 50 or more employees to name an ADA coordinator to deal with questions and complaints about ADA compliance and accommodations and to establish a grievance procedure for the resolution of disputes under ADA. It is recommended that all schools, including private schools and others that are exempt under ADA, establish the same procedures.

A federal law known as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a total of 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive) in each 12-month period for any combination of the following reasons: (1) the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child; (2) the employee's own serious health condition; and (3) to care for a parent, spouse, or dependent who has a serious health condition. Generally, for parental leave purposes, the FMLA leave would also have to be taken in consecutive weeks and is only available for 12 months after the birth or adoption of the child.


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Allegrante JP. School-site health promotion for staff. In Marx E, Wooley SF, eds. Health is Academic: A Guide to Coordinated School Health Programs. New York, NY: Teacher's College Press; 1998.

American Chemical Society, Committee on Chemical Safety. Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 1995.

American Public Health Association. Creating healthier school facilities. Am J Public Health. 2001;91:494-495.

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American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers

ASTM International (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials)
Provides consensus standards and related technical information in order to promote public health and safety as well as contribute to the reliability of materials, products, systems and services. This includes anything from art materials and sports equipment to construction supplies and playground equipment/surfaces.

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Education Association, Health Information Network
Non-profit health affiliate of NEA, provides health information on topics of concern to educators and students.

National Education Foundation
"School employee health" link shares resources to help staff focus on their own health and lifestyle concerns while they continue to take care of others.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

National Resource Center for Safe Schools

National Safety Council
Includes pages on ergonomic safety.

NEA Foundation
Resources for educators to become agents for change to improve teaching and learning.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Safe USA
Resources for safety on playgrounds and in sports, and for violence prevention.

The Catalyst
A site developed for secondary school teachers as a resource for finding relevant information for teaching chemistry. Includes safety measures to be taken in biology, chemistry, and physics classes.

US Department of Justice, Americans with Disabilities Act
Information and technical assistance on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

US Department of Labor, Family and Medical Leave Act
Information about employee eligibility, employee/employer notification responsibilities, and employee rights and benefits.