Canadian Occupational Safety

March/April 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 28 of 35 29 how much training you've had, you cannot do it all, it's not possible," Bruckert says. Bannister-Clarke notes that both teachers and administrators need training on the basic requirements of occupational health and safety legislation, including how to conduct risk assessments and summon immediate assistance. An identification system for students with a history of violence could also be helpful when they are transferred throughout a school board or district, Bannister-Clarke says. "When they are transferred, the teacher may not have the history. That happens often. That's basic, but those things are overlooked," she says, adding that an identification system would be especially helpful to supply teachers. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not something you would expect to find in a classroom, but it's there in many forms. Whether it be Kevlar gloves or protective sleeves, padded jackets, leg guards or helmets and reinforced caps, educators across the country are supplied with protective apparel. It's more commonly the educational assistants and those working with students with special needs who are wearing the PPE. "When you've gone home four times in a year because you've lost a quarter-pound of flesh because a kid's bitten a chunk out of your arm and you have infections and you've missed three months of work, it should stand to reason that you should be instantly supplied with protective equipment from preventing that from happening again," says Wozney, explaining that PPE is not often made available to the educators who need it. Time to start talking It's important for safety professionals to get the conversation going about violence in the classroom and increase awareness, says Bruckert. Violence and harassment need to be clearly defined and educators need to understand that this is not something they should simply tolerate. "Educators themselves are starting to see it as part of the job. They are being told sometimes, 'It's part of your job. You know what you signed up for.' It's on every professional involved in this to break that narrative and make it clear this is not part of the job and this is what violence looks like," she says. Safety professionals are very familiar with the right to refuse unsafe work, but it's difficult for teachers to exercise this right. "It's so hard because it competes with their duty of care," says Bruckert. "They are responsible for the children, so they would have to refuse to work before the day starts to ensure provisions are made for the supervision and instruction of their students. It's their right, but then the responsibility for the children under the Education Act appears to trump their ability to exercise that right." Although it is challenging, there have been some successes with teachers exercising this right in Peel region, says Bannister-Clarke. "We have had it where teaches are working with our vice-presidents in the office and our health and safety teacher advisor and they will say what the ongoing issues have been. We start by ensuring that there is a safety plan in place. Sometimes, there isn't anything at all or we haven't reassessed the risk of violence following a violent incident… But it doesn't prevent behaviour from occurring," Bannister-Clarke says. "So, then teachers have said, 'This is unsafe conditions,' and they have refused work." There are more instances of educational assistants refusing unsafe work because they don't have primary responsibility for all the children in a classroom. Even with the right to refuse unsafe work, it is very hard for teachers to personally do this because they take their responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of their students very seriously, says Bruckert, adding that it's precisely this notion that increases their vulnerability to violence. "In order to protect a child from another child who is throwing something, they put their bodies in the way in order to prevent child B from getting hurt. They are trying to protect the child, but they take the brunt of whatever projectile is in the air, or of a fist or whatever — and there are many, many stories of that," she says. "Teachers care deeply." ALTAIR® io360 Gas Detector One site or many, local or remote monitoring, the ALTAIR io360 Gas Detector eortlessly scales to meet your needs, increasing safety on your jobsite and for your workers. 08-6241-MCP / 02.2020

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