In general, school administrators and their employees are expected to properly maintain the facilities, equipment, and school grounds in accordance with applicable standards of care. School districts have a duty to protect students and staff. Standards of care have been established to ensure the safety of the educational environment without compromising compliance with existing building codes, property codes, fire codes, and life safety codes.
In this article, School Facility Expert, Edward Gray, discusses the importance of keeping schools in compliance with safety standards of care to avoid injuries, the most common of which are falls.
School Maintenance Practices to Prevent Slip, Trip, and Fall Injuries - Expert Article
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “The most frequent causes of school-associated injuries resulting in hospitalization are falls (43%)…”
Property maintenance, building, and fire codes require floors to be reasonably slip resistant, and to be maintained in a safe condition. The proper maintenance of floors, sidewalks, and building entryway mats is of vital importance in school settings, where some facilities accommodate thousands of students on a daily basis. The standards relevant to floor maintenance in school facilities are covered in recognized standards, such as ANSI/ASSE 1264.2, ANSI/ASTM F1637, as well as local codes and ordinances on the state level.
During my tenure as a NYS Director of School Facilities and NYC Board of Education District Plant Manager, annual training for custodial staff included policies and procedures for enhanced safety of students and staff. In-service trainings and daily inspections performed by Custodian Engineers would also target prevalent areas for vigilance in fall avoidance.
School custodial and janitorial staffs are responsible for ongoing maintenance, and to be proactive in the implementation of fall avoidance methods and protocols. Reference guides such as the Means Facilities Maintenance Standards contain minimum standards for inspection frequency, protocols, and checklists for monitoring regular, preventative maintenance, as well as unplanned/emergency maintenance. It is important that each facility consider the unique challenges presented by their facility, staff, and students and adjust inspection cycles to address known problem areas.
Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls at Schools
All walking surfaces throughout school facilities are potentially susceptible to slip, trip, and fall incidents and require attention in order to maintain the safety of the environment. As a result, maintenance and inspection protocols must address the features and configuration of each facility. Facility-specific features such as swimming pools, elevated stages, water bottle filling stations, and locker rooms may each require additional vigilance from maintenance and custodial staff.
Falls can be caused by slippery contaminants, uneven surfaces, or from environmental risk factors such as tripping hazards and insufficient lighting. Falls inside a building are usually related to improper floor care maintenance, such as water on the floor, excessive spray wax buffing, or worn entry door walk off mats. Ingress/egress areas are hot spots for slip hazards, as people can track moisture in from outside. Administrators should identify the areas specific to their facility that require more frequent maintenance and implement countermeasures, such as the proper use of floor mats to maintain the safety of the environment.
Common causes of falls, and noncompliance issues include:
- Improperly maintained exterior grounds
- Deficient snow/ice removal to sidewalks, stairs, and playground areas
- Rain and weather related tracking inside building
- Food spills in the school cafeteria and gymnasium bleachers
- Wet interior floors around water fountains and bottle filling stations
Investigating Incidents at School Facilities
The School Facility experts at Robson Forensic are trained and experienced to investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of public and private schools. Visit our Supervision & Education practice group to learn more about our highly specialized experts in that field.
For more information, submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.
Facilities & Marine Engineering Expert
Ed Gray is a Facilities Mechanical & Chief Marine Engineer with over 36 years combined career experience. His particular expertise is exclusively in areas of Engineering Operations, Maintenance, Construction Management, Property Management, Renovation and Repair. After achieving his Federal Chief Engineer license in the U.S. Merchant Marine, Ed applied his hands-on operating experience to Facilities/ Buildings operations within various categories. A subset niche is within specialized pharmaceutical production, cGMP process, medical, hospital, and school facilities. These have been in both the public and private sectors, from K-12 grades through to College and University levels. In the course of Ed’s professional career, he served as a NYS Director of School Facilities and NYC District Manager, managing school operations personnel and coordinating school construction and repair projects. Ed applies his expertise to forensic casework involving facilities maintenance, engineering operations, construction, renovation, repair, and New York State Labor Law.