School teachers face a variety of unique workplace hazards that put them at risk for serious injuries and illnesses like stress-related mental disorders, serious disease, repetitive stress injuries and workplace violence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, educational service is on the list for the most dangerous industries in America.
School Teachers Face Workplace Dangers
Whether working with elementary-age children, high school students or college students, school teachers are at risk for on-the-job injuries on a daily basis.
Disease and Illness
School teachers work closely with students, other teachers and parents every day. In a confined classroom environment, teachers are more susceptible to contagious diseases and bacterial and viral infections than people in other occupations. Studies show that teachers have a higher incidence of colds, sinus infections, laryngitis, bronchitis, and the flu than other workers. Teachers who work with kindergarten and elementary-age children are at greatest risk of contagious diseases and illnesses.
Stress is an everyday occurrence for school teachers due to large class sizes, unmotivated and disorganized students, difficult parents, lack of professional recognition and respect, and low salaries. Teachers often exhibit signs of anxiety, depression, irritability, mood disorders, social withdrawal, sleep problems, and fatigue. Although people react to stress in different ways, studies show that teachers experience stress-related mental disorders at a high rate.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
In many workplaces, employers prioritize ergonomic principles to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries. However, school classrooms rarely address these issues due to small school budgets. Teachers spend many daily hours standing, stretching, lifting and bending, putting them at risk for torn ligaments, pulled muscles, sprains and strains, and back injuries. Teachers who spend a lot of time on a computer often develop carpal tunnel syndrome, a common complaint seen by a workers compensation attorney.
Workplace violence is a major concern in schools. Teachers face safety hazards presented by students who bring guns, knives and other weapons to school for self-protection or with the intention of causing harm. According to the American Psychological Association, at least seven percent of U.S. school teachers are threatened with bodily harm every year by unstable or disgruntled students. Threats and on-the-job injuries occur most frequently in urban high schools, and female teachers get twice as many threats as male teachers.