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Information from NYSUT Health & Safety Conference Sessions, attended by Julie Murray, RN

How to Conduct a Building Walkthrough

Schools are covered by PESCH, not OSHA. Many OSHA regulations are over 50 years old and legal in industrial settings but not schools. Levels of acceptance in schools and industry vary secondary to the age of people involved.

NY State Dept. of Ed has policy: Construction Rules and Standards which are guidelines for ongoing construction while schools are in session. Guidelines cover what can and can’t be done when students/staff are present in the building. Areas addressed are noise levels, dust/debris, fumes, ventilation.

Frequently violated in school is blocking of fresh air intake ducts/dampers. Any testing should be done in the afternoon hours after students have been occupying the rooms.

Getting to the Root Cause

Session involved incident/accident reports. Discussed identifying sources of accidents/injuries which are either environmental, machine, man, materials or methods used. Important to follow best practice. When documenting be sure to include if the immediate cause is a substandard condition or act. Also attempt to identify the root cause, job factors and personal factors. Know if your organization and building have safety committees and who serves on them. If there isn’t one, ask for one to be started. If your entity is not represented ask why not, volunteer to serve.

Root factors include poor/faulty design of equipment, poor layout, lack of preventive maintenance, lack of standard (SOP’s) operating procedures, inadequate/irrelevant training, inoperative warning devices/alarms.

Root factors should have documentation to show training and maintenance logs and scheduled alarm checks. All documents should be available for employee review. SOP’s should be included with trainings, so all are aware of what’s expected. SOP’’s can be assigned for your review which puts the burden on the employee to be familiar with them and ask questions if unsure (not best practice.)

All incident s should be recorded when they happen. The longer the delay in reporting the easier it is for companies to dispute origin of injuries. Keep copies of all incident reports for your own records. If phots of injuries are appropriate document them with date and time taken. Also depending on the injury retake phots as healing occurs.

You should also know where do reports go, who can you review it with, is it reported to PESCH/OSHA. If appropriate be sure your building safety committee is aware.

Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Bullying is defined as repeated and unwanted actions by an individual or group intending to intimidate, harass, degrade or offend. It is an abuse/misuse of power and is considered psychological violence. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is not prohibited by any federal laws. Illegal discrimination and harassment are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights act and State Fair Employment laws. 1 in 5 workers has experienced some form of workplace bullying in the past year.

Bullying can include (but isn’t limited to) threats to professional status, isolation/obstruction, limiting access to resources ($ or supplies,) mobbing (bully engages others to participate.) Studies showed victims had increased anxiety/depression, decreased work output, took more sick time, showed lower quality of work output.

Suggestions for handling bullying included excusing yourself to use the bathroom or finding another excuse to leave the bully’s presence. Do as much communication as possible via email so you had documentation. State you’re uncomfortable and would like to postpone the meeting, ask for union representation. Keep a log and document the behaviors so you can report with specifics. Make sure documentation is detailed.

Most importantly, recognize that you are being bullied and realize you are not the source of the problem. Understand bullying is a form of control and not a reflection of your performance. Identify who your supports and allies are and go to them as needed for backing.


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