Teachers: Tips for Staying Safe

Underpaid, overworked teachers face a fleet of hazards, from the rare school shooting to aging building rife with mold and other hazards. Here are some tips for safe teaching:

  • Unexplained respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma, and secondary infections, such as bronchitis and sinusitis, can be caused by mold in school buildings. Report these problems to the school district and ask for a thorough inspection. Molds can be eliminated by repairing leaks and cleaning buildings regularly. Buildings should also be checked for any source of airborne asbestos.
  • Don't ignore stress symptoms. Sherri Rutman, a teacher for 24 years and a wellness coordinator in Minneapolis, says that she encourages teachers to cope with job stress by paying attention to their physical well-being. She has initiated a program that gives teachers paid leave for fitness activities and nutrition or behavior management classes.
  • Rely on your colleagues. According to several studies funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the teachers who coped best with stress were those who had moral support from their colleagues when classroom troubles erupted rather than those who attempted to resolve them on their own.
  • Ease back strain from bending over children's desks by buying a comfortable office chair that's ergonomically correct for you. Don't squeeze into a kiddie chair to communicate with students.
  • To avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis, pay attention to ergonomics when working with computers, and if your desk won't adjust for height, get a chair that will.
  • For hauling those boxes full of books and supplies, see if you can borrow a rolling cart from your school or another in your district.

-- Kristin Kloberdanz, M.A., a former associate editor for Consumer Health Interactive, is an editor at Book magazine in New York City.

Further Resources

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

This federation has 1.4 million members and conducts research in areas such as educational reform and bilingual education. It also offers teachers technical assistance and strives for legislative reform.http://www.aft.org

National Education Association (NEA)

Founded in 1857, this association has over three million members who are teachers from preschool through university level. http://www.nea.org

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Established in 1970, NIOSH is a federal research agency that makes recommendations to help employers prevent job-related injuries and illnesses. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

Part of the Department of Labor, OSHA develops and enforces safety and health regulations in the workplace. http://www.osha.gov

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