Today, it isn’t just safety measures and procedures that seem to have a bearing on every area of modern life, but compliance with official safety regulation too. To differing extents, any situation where the public gathers need to comply with some form of safety regulation. Only the private home is perhaps exempt – but even here there is a well-developed system of guidelines pertaining to things like fire and structural safety which are usually deferred to.
The fundamental distinction, however, between a private home and, say, a place of work is that, while private individuals can take personal responsibility for themselves and their families, an employer cannot do the same thing with their employees, a business cannot do the same thing with its customers, and a school certainly cannot do the same thing with its pupils.
Indeed, in such cases safety must be regulated by an official authority, and nowhere is this more important than in schools, where the safety of pupils is of paramount importance. But, as well as ticking the right boxes and being compliant with the relevant authorities, safety can always be optimised and improved even further. This is something as true of the classroom as it is of the warehouse, the factory, the office, and the shop floor.
And despite what you might initially expect, diligent deference to optimising safety in schools does not expend energy that would be better spent on education after the bare minimum has been achieved. Instead, going above and beyond when it comes to classroom safety involves some initial effort, yes, but afterwards full attention can be paid to education, with school staff safe in the knowledge that school safety is taken care of.
Accordingly, it might be a good idea to build up some tips on how to optimise classroom safety. For sure, the biggest tip of all must be “comply with all the relevant demands”. You should certainly have your fire exits marked, any damaged infrastructure cordoned off with ISO compliant hazard signs, the fire alarms regularly tested, and so on. However, the precise safety infrastructure of any given school will always have elements that are specific to that place. We can see that this is so simply by considering the range of buildings that could potentially host a school, as well as the diversity of classroom layouts.
Tips for Classroom Safety
Research conducted in the U.S. has revealed some sobering statistics where classroom safety is concerned – over four million students are injured at school every year, and there are over 4,000 school fires every year in the U.S. alone. Accordingly, school safety is far from some abstract compliance with bureaucracy but in fact something which is self-evidently necessary.
We cannot fathom how many more accidents and fires there would be if current safety regulations were not in place but, just as we can imagine how much worse things would be, we can also appreciate how much better they can be if we go beyond compliance and truly try to optimise classroom safety.
So, with that in mind and with a reminder that regulation compliance is the first step to optimal classroom safety, here follows some more general advice on how to make the classroom as safe as possible for pupils. Of course, it should be noted that this advice is only general and the specifics of each classroom will always have to be taken into account.
Combine the general advice with the specifics of each teaching situation and you are well on your way to creating a classroom safety infrastructure that satisfies the law and provides optimal safety for the classroom in question.
Keep a First-Aid Kit on Hand (And Make Sure it is a Good One)
Having an emergency room and a first-aid kit somewhere in the school is the bare minimum of classroom safety, but it doesn’t really cut it. For optimal safety, you should have a first aid kit available right there in the classroom – and it should be a well-stocked one. From surgical gloves and plasters to gauze and alcohol wipes, this first aid kit should be stocked with everything you require for typical classroom accidents. Classroom accidents tend to be of a kind, so consulting a classroom first aid kit checklist is a great way to ensure you have everything you need to deal with an accident.
Instruct the Pupils
In most schools, a semi-regular fire drill is the only instructions school children get on what to do when they hear the fire alarm. While fire is the greatest safety hazard in schools and this is therefore probably the most important thing for pupils to know, it is not the only safety response that you can instruct them on. You can give the pupils instructions on specific scenarios if you think they present a significant risk, and you can also instruct them with some general safety procedure that can be applied in the case of any safety hazard. This could include things like staying calm and learning how to apply basic first aid (all depending, of course, on the age of the pupils in question).
Keep Floors and Walkways Clear
This is a point of safety that is usually mandated by official school safety guidelines. However, it is one of those instructions that contains a somewhat imprecise instruction (what constitutes “clear”) and accordingly it is one which is often not followed. Naturally, any large obstructions to doorways and exits should be cleared, but so too should cables be taped in place and pupils actually instructed not to run around school equipment such as computers. Also, all trip hazards should be identified and dealt with.
Encourage Proper Hygiene
Hygiene regulations for classrooms are very underdeveloped. It is merely encouraged that children wash their hands. And with the Covid pandemic has come a whole new set of specially designed regulations, but few specific to school. Accordingly, you can take it upon yourself to ensure that proper hygiene is encouraged among pupils, including the use of hand sanitizers before using shared equipment.
Ultimately, classroom safety is very much a realm of its own and compliance with the strictest regulation does not always mean optimal classroom safety. But by covering a few of these bases yourself, you can create a classroom where safety is taken care of and learning is the order the day. This, after all, is exactly as things should be.