Teachers are not included in the lists of the professions that face the highest risk of workplace injuries. Many consider schools to be “low-risk” workplaces. After all, working with children in the classroom should not involve significant hazards.
However, that low risk is much higher than many might believe, and it only keeps increasing every year.
What injuries do teachers commonly face?
Accidents can happen at any time. And there are many times during every school day that teachers could face the risk of a workplace injury, from hanging artwork or decorations to even playing with younger children.
The injuries that teachers most frequently report include:
- Slips and falls: Teachers often have to escort students in school hallways, on staircases or outdoors. And throughout the school day, students or staff could spill water or other fluids that pose a hazard to teachers.
- Repetitive motion injuries: Writing on the whiteboard, standing in front of the classroom or typing for long periods can leave teachers facing muscle strain or tears, back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome or even arthritis. These injuries can also result from long periods of bending, twisting or other incidents of overexertion.
- Injuries specific to their subject: Gym teachers are more physically active during the school day, and therefore might face a higher risk of sustaining a broken bone or another physical injury. On the other hand, various science teachers could face the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals or substances.
Maryland teachers face a risk of workplace violence too
Schools might be considered low-risk, but that perspective is quickly changing with every news story covering student violence.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, several schools across the country reported incidents of violence or violent crimes, including:
- 57% of elementary schools
- 88% of middle schools
- 90% of high schools
Teachers are usually the ones who end up mitigating these situations. They break up fights between students or calm down individual violent students. All the while, they are at risk of sustaining serious injuries.
Special education teachers especially face violence at school
Of all educators, special education teachers are the population that faces the highest risk of violence and suffers the most injuries. Students with behavioral or emotional issues often lash out suddenly in anger or confusion. They might:
- Scratch teachers hard enough to draw blood
- Punch and kick teachers
- Spit on or bite teachers
Unfortunately, not all teachers report these incidents. They want to protect the students they care about. But without reporting the incident, they continue to face a serious risk at work.
Many teachers also do not want to miss work while they recover from an injury. However, teachers have just as much of a right to file for workers’ compensation as any other employee in any other field. It is critical that teachers report their injuries and take the time they need to recover.