What does the MOL say about workplace
hazards in schools?
According to the Ministry of Labour, the following are the key hazards in the education sector (Industrial Sector Plan 2023-2024).
- activities that may lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
- exposure to chemicals and designated substances (such as isocyanates, silica, asbestos)
- environmental hazards (such as poor indoor air quality)
- exposure to infectious agents (such as mold, bacteria, viruses)
- machine (and powered equipment) hazards such as improper lockout and unguarded equipment
- material handling hazards (such as workers being struck by objects, caught or crushed between objects)
- slips, trips and falls
- workplace violence and workplace harassment
Report health and safety concerns to your principal. Get further assistance from your ETFO local. The sooner health and safety concerns are reported and dealt with, the sooner protections can be put in place to prevent injury or illness.
Fresh eyes on the job
As you get ready for the new school year, what do your well-rested summer senses tell you about your working environment? Take a fresh look at your classroom and the school for conditions that could be unsafe or unhealthy. Report health and safety concerns to your principal. A quick email can be a good first step. If there is a summer construction project racing to the finish line, there may be dust, fume and noise issues. New computer equipment and Smart Boards may be just where you want them, but is the wiring safe? Are you expected to start the school year with a student who has a history of violence, but the Safety Plan hasn’t been developed? Has the school’s Risk Assessment been updated this year? Have you been assigned to a portable that has a musty smell and water damage? Report concerns to the principal. Update your steward. Get support from your ETFO local. Fresh eyes can spot potential hazards before the school year takes over. Take a moment, what do you see?
Report construction hazards to your principal
Some construction projects at Ontario schools will continue into the school year. It is important that the health and safety of staff and students are protected from construction site hazards such as machinery, noise, dust and fumes. If you are concerned about hazards relating to construction work at your school, then report your concerns in writing to the principal. Tell your steward and your health and safety representative. Get in touch with your ETFO local for more support. Click on Construction for more information.
Report concerns about site security to the principal
Site security concerns could include lack of access to the classroom key; a faulty door lock; a PA system that doesn’t work; or an absence of information. Each of these factors could be a serious weakness in an emergency. Report security concerns to you principal. If you need help making that report or getting results, talk to your steward and get in touch with your ETFO local for support. Click on Emergency Procedures for more information.
The quick way to report a workplace hazard
A broken floor tile can be a slip, trip and fall hazard. The adhesive used to repair the broken floor tile could give you headache. Frustrating? Absolutely. But reporting these workplace hazards is not only common sense, it’s a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In turn, the school board and the principal are literally duty bound to investigate and deal with your concern. The action of making the report can be simple and quick. When you spot a workplace hazard, take the time to report it. Your board may have a health and safety hazard reporting form or online report, but even if you can’t find the form, make your own report. Here’s how:
- Name the report At the top of a piece of paper or an email write, “Health and safety concern.” Add the date and don’t forget to sign it. If you don’t feel comfortable making the report yourself, then ask your steward to help you.
- Describe the hazard The hazard might be something that could happen (someone could get cut on the broken equipment). The hazard might be something that has already happened (I tripped in the parking lot because the ground is uneven).
- Ask the principal to investigate and deal with the hazard The principal has a duty to ensure a safe and healthy school. This is part of the principal’s job.
- Make copies of your report Copy your steward and your health and safety representative. Keep a copy for yourself.
- Follow up If your report is not being investigated then talk with your steward and get support from your Local. The “internal responsibility system” of reporting to your supervisor and/or health and safety representative should be used first but if the concern isn’t being addressed, complaints can be reported directly to the Ministry of Labour.
- Gone for good Sometimes we get so used to workplace hazards that they become “normalized.” We walk around the pothole in the school yard. We take a couple of Tylenol because the fumes from the renovation work give us a headache. Putting up with workplace hazards only increases our risk of harm. Reporting workplace hazards is a first step to making them gone for good.
If an issue is not being addressed by the employer
through the Internal Responsibility System,
an issue can be reported to the Ministry of Labour.