School teachers at elementary schools, high schools and colleges faced the risk of being seriously injured while on their job. While teaching students is not considered a particulate injury-prone job, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that teachers do suffer injuries at the rate of 108 injuries for every 10,000 employees totaling over 56,000 injuries that occurred in 2012.
Every day, teachers in the United States face unprecedented challenges that risk their lives, health, and well-being including toxic exposure, hostile work environment, stress-related issues, and violence on the campus.
Toxic Exposure Injures Teachers
Exposure to a toxic and enclosed environment can cause significant harm. In a school environment, teachers, students and other school employees are exposed to toxic contamination including:
- Excessive dirt and dust
- Insects, pests, and critters
- Moisture damage
- Mold, mildew, and musty smells
- Foul Odors
- Infectious spores
- Polluted fumes
Teachers are easily injured by swallowing (ingesting) toxins, breathing toxins into the lungs, and absorbing toxins through the skin or eyes. While some teachers’ health conditions are acutely (immediately) affected by toxic exposure other suffer long-term chronic conditions that produce various side effects that might not easily identify the causation. The side effects include:
- Frequent bloody nose
- Blurred vision
- Severe headache
- Muscle cramps
- Irritation of the throat, nose, or ear
- Loss of memory
- Lack of mental focus
- Persistent skin rash
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stomach plan
- Birth defect
- Catastrophic illness
- Wrongful death
One or more of the signs above are not always indicative of being exposed to highly contaminated toxins until the problem exacerbates and results in a congenital disability should or cancerous condition. In some cases, the teacher remains unaware that they can file a Worker’s Compensation claim to obtain financial recovery for their injuries if the damages caused by a work-related problem.
Also, if the toxic exposure was caused by anyone other than the teacher's employer, he or she may be able to maximize their financial compensation claim. However, these cases can be complex and required the skills of an experienced Worker’s Compensation lawyer who can strengthen the Workmen’s Comp. case by adding a third-party lawsuit against defendants that might include construction contractors working at the school.
Acts of Violence Injured Teachers
Most teachers in the United States don’t choose their field of occupation for the money, but for the opportunity to share their passion for learning by educating students. Most teachers new when they excepted their position that they would do more than just educate but serve as a role model or mentor to others. However, in recent years, a serious national crisis has arisen where perpetrating students, and others act violently toward teachers who become victims of stabbings, shootings, assaults, injuries, the threat of injury, property damage, lockdown, and wrongful death.
While teaching remains a noble profession, the risk of being injured or killed while educating others is an ongoing potential jeopardy to even the bravest educators in America. In many cases, had the school or college take appropriate measures to protect the teacher, he or she might not have been injured or killed if there had been appropriate security measures taken.
Any teacher injured on the job through an act of violence has the legal right to seek financial compensation from the perpetrator, employer, and possibly others. However, obtaining financial recompense can be difficult, and require the services of a reputable personal injury attorney.
On the Job Stress Injuries
Workers in every occupation can live stressful lives. Teachers are no exception. Stress is one of the main factors of workplace injuries that occur in school environments when the teacher plays numerous roles including educator, coach, security guard, role model, babysitter, and nurse.
The teacher may experience stress from various factors in his or her surroundings including a hostile work environment, shortage of materials, overcrowding, poor ergonomics, aging school properties, lack of support from the administration, or discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Also, teachers who lack sufficient time to prepare or planned classes due to shortened school hours can also fill overwhelmed by on-the-job stress.
Stress, like any other on the job injury, might be covered under the Workmen’s Compensation system. However, filing a claim can be complicated because the injured worker must meet certain criteria including:
- The injured teacher’s condition must be per dominantly caused by work-related stress.
- The injured teacher must be a working educator in the state for a minimum of six months.
A good attorney working on behalf of their injured client can build the case around the injury, and not necessarily a specific event. This is because some injuries are caused by cumulative trauma that develops into gastrointestinal issues, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, or others.
Who Is More at Risk?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers who are 50 years and older and males have a greater potential risk of suffering an injury on the job compared to other employees at the school. On average, teachers and other school employees are likely to be injured from one of the numerous potential events including:
- Trip, slip or fall injury
- Being struck
- Strains and sprains
- Scrapes, punctures, and cuts
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and hazardous materials
Studies reveal that most of these injuries occur when:
- Students are acting out (46%),
- Incidental accidents (60%),
- Restraining or holding a student (15%),
- Transferring or assisting a student (12%),
- Playing around (8%),
- Through an act of violence like breaking up a fight (3%).
The study also revealed that most of the time a teacher missed work caused by a student -related injuries involved students acting out.
Most injuries occur when the teacher is monitoring the school children while performing bus duty where cars and school buses drop and saw in the morning and pick them up at the end of the school day. Others are injured through slip and fall accidents when the janitorial staff fails to clean up mud tracks and melting snow in the hallway. Other teachers suffer serious injuries when attempting to handle the situation with an unruly student who may be attempting to injure themselves or others.
How to Avoid an Injury
Some school districts and colleges have taken the initiative to prevent many of the injuries that are common to employees, especially teachers. Some of the steps include:
- Focus When Playing – Many teachers suffer injuries when they are participating in school-related physical activities including as a coach. The school encourages coaches and other teachers who are physically active at school that they are responsible for maintaining their safety.
- Remain Hands-Off When Possible – Encouraging hands-off approach when students are acting out, fighting or violently interacting with others can also be effective when the escalating serious and violent problems at school.
- Avoid Slips and Falls – Slippery conditions including snow and ice are one of the main reasons that teachers are injured on the job. Schools and colleges reminder employees that the winter and rainy months of the year increased the potential risk of falling on a slippery surface. Some schools have developed educational campaigns for preventing accidents throughout the cold season.
- Get Moving – Throughout the day, most teachers remain in a static position which can increase the potential risk for developing a sprain or strain injury. Many schools are encouraging teachers to take short breaks during the workday and get up and move around. Stretching muscles and warming up is a simple solution for avoiding strains and other serious multiple injuries.
- Remain Fit and Exercise – Teaching does not have to be a sedentary job. Many educators maintain their physical fitness by performing routine exercise 3 to 4 times every week to minimize the potential of suffering a strain, sprain or another muscle injury.
The level of violence in school settings has risen dramatically in the last few decades. The horrific incidents at Columbine and Newtown reveal exactly how teachers, teacher’s assistants, and others are threatened with acts of violence by those who have no regard for human life.
Chicago Teachers Union
Many educators in the Chicago metropolitan area belonged to the Chicago Teachers Union, which represent about 30,000 educational support personnel and teachers that work in the Chicago public school system. The Union is affiliated with the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), IFT (Illinois Federation of teachers), CFL (Chicago Federation of labor), ISFL-CIO (Illinois State Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), and the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations).
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union can contact the organization by mail, telephone, fax, or email at:
1901 West Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 329-9100 (telephone)
(312) 329-6200 (fax)
Illinois Teachers Worker’s Compensation
The Illinois Education Association states that “to qualify for benefits under the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act, the employee must establish [that] they were injured in the course of employment by a risk that our arises out of such employment. The employee must timely notify the employer of the injury.” Eligibility for the major benefits provided by Workmen’s Compensation include:
- One hundred percent of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses are paid your Workmen’s Compensation medical benefits.
- Two-thirds of a teacher’s average weekly wage (AWW) are available through weekly benefits provided by Workmen’s Compensation for the duration the teacher cannot work.
- Total or partial, temporary or permanent disability benefits are available to their wage loss program and death benefit.
Unfortunately, since some Illinois school districts and insurance companies cheat teachers out of their average weekly wages that should be paid through an Illinois Worker’s Compensation claim. Because of that, some teachers and Illinois state school employees will hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in Worker’s Compensation cases.
Hiring an Attorney
If you are an educator in the State of Illinois and suffered a work-related injury or illness, its crucial to work with a law firm that specializes in teacher representation in state and federal courts. The Worker’s Compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have years of experience in successfully resolving compensation cases for teachers who are under appreciated when injured on the job.
Our law firm offers a “No Win/No Pay” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf through a jury trial or negotiated an out-of-court settlement, you pay nothing. Call us today to discuss your case and allow us the opportunity to present all available legal options on how to obtain the monetary recompense you deserve.