School Safety 101

Education and Maintenance Reduce Injury Risk

Walking your school campus with a fresh set eyes and a checklist might be one of the most important things your team does this week. You’re on the lookout for any hazard that could cause someone to slip and fall. What you discover could help reduce the chance of injuries and costly lawsuits, not only from students and faculty, but the many visitors each year. 

Slip and fall Injuries can range from minor to severe, everything from a twisted ankle to a broken hip. Whether it’s a grandparent slipping on ice during an event or a teacher falling from a desk chair used as a step ladder, one fall can turn into a life changing event.

Take Action

When looking for trip or fall hazards, make sure to walk all areas of your school building and grounds both during daylight hours and after dark. Areas where falls are more common include parking lots, stairways, ramps, entrances, doorways, and transitions between two different surface heights. “Facilities maintenance plays an important role in minimizing injuries. Some of the biggest issues are poor lighting, inadequate signage, and lack of snow and ice removal,” said Kay Landwehr, a litigation specialist in casualty claims at Brotherhood Mutual.

When an issue is identified, it should be fixed quickly and completely.

Don’t forget to think about your teachers and staff. Make sure they’re educated to use the proper equipment for tasks like decorating a classroom or reaching for a supply on a top shelf. Using office chairs or desks as step ladders is a sure way to fall.

Responding to Injuries

Whenever someone is injured at school, not only is it important to get them medical attention right away, but it’s also important to alert your insurance company as soon as possible. “We deal with injuries like this every day. We’re here to help take this burden off your plate,” stated Landwehr.

Once your insurance company is aware of the injury, it can make sure the coverage responds appropriately to help cover medical bills or assist with workers’ compensation.* This goes a long way toward helping individuals feel like they’re being cared for by your school.

Don’t Skip Making an Injury Report

Whenever a student, guest, or staff member is injured, someone should complete an injury report. A timely injury report shows you are proactive in taking care of your people and it captures the scene. It’s a facts-only document that:

  • Creates a written record at the time of the injury.
  • Preserves factual statements from the injured person and witnesses.
  • Lists physical symptoms that can help medical personnel determine treatment.
  • Speeds up the claims process and helps fulfill a timely Medicare filing.

Completing the Form

A detailed injury report helps your school and your insurance company during the claims process. If possible, ask the injured person open-ended questions, like “how did you fall?” and “were you carrying something?”

Ask witnesses similar questions, like “what did you observe?” and “what did the injured person tell you?” Try to write down the person’s exact response.

The following information also is crucial:

  • Physical attributes: Does the person use a walker or cane?
  • Familiarity: Is this the person’s first time on campus? Did the person leave the same way he or she came in? Did the person enter a restricted area?
  • Environmental: Were the sidewalks wet from rain? Was it snowy, foggy, or dark when the injury took place?

Make it Visual. Try to take photos or video at the time of or right after the injury. First, it records the actual scene where the injury took place. Second, it gives you the opportunity to physically inspect the area and consider if safety is an issue.

Keep Reports Secure. Injury forms often contain personal information protected by privacy laws. Keep completed forms in a secure place, like a locked file cabinet or password-protected e-file.

Posted December 20, 2022.

*All coverage decisions and payment terms are subject to their terms, conditions, coverage limits, limitations, and exclusions. For precise detail of coverages and payment terms, please refer to actual policy forms.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program. Your organization is responsible for compliance with all applicable laws.