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Schools can be dangerous environments. Unlike adults, most children do not have a strong awareness of risk or personal safety. It is the responsibility of all teachers and administrators to create a safe environment for the entire school community. Reviewing every classroom for safety hazards is a good way to share the responsibility of personal security with children and provide helpful reminders to adults.
Chemicals, tools and instructional materials
Although it is rare that the average classroom contains burners, flammable chemicals, or other obvious hazards, science teachers are likely to be exposed to this kind of environment on a daily basis. Classroom demonstrations and hands-on learning rely on the availability of these instructional materials. Follow all necessary precautions when handling chemicals, metals and fire. Wear gloves, have first aid kits nearby, work near a chemical rinse, wear goggles, as directed by the warning labels on each item.
Every school must pass regular safety inspections to remain open. As part of this process, administrators ensure that furniture and fixtures do not interfere with doorways, windows, light fixtures, and fire exits. Many of these restrictions are inconvenient and educators accidentally or knowingly violate these rules, which is a huge safety risk. These regulations are in place to make the workplace safer. Ignoring the rules and trying to cheat the system defeats the point.
Poorly maintained electrical appliances and overloaded power sockets or surge protectors can cause fires. A loose cable, too many computers in one room, not using a surge protector, and damaged appliances can all be identified with a visual inspection and brief test. Take the time to maintain and repair electronics.
Furniture and storage
Secure large pieces of furniture, shelving and storage units well. Remove heavy objects from high shelves. Remove unnecessary items from the classroom entirely. Ensure lesson materials that require adult supervision for use are stored in locked cabinets. Make sure any hanging objects do not sway dangerously. Check desks for loose bolts and screws quarterly. Ensure chairs that tip backwards or rock unevenly are a safe distance from walls and other furniture; or have them removed from the room. Check that clocks, posters and other hanging items are firmly attached.
Failure to prepare
This goes far beyond having a first aid kit. Post your classroom's evacuation procedure with a mapped route to your meeting place. This is for the benefit of pupils, parents, colleagues and yourself. Make sure that you are ready to evacuate, shelter in place, and contact emergency services from your room. Being prepared for handling emergencies makes classrooms safer places.
- Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images