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Chapter 94 - Education and Training Services


E. Gelpi*

*Adapted from 3rd edition, “Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety”.

The scope of the teaching profession extends from the nursery school to the postgraduate institution. Teaching involves not only academic instruction but also scientific, artistic and technical training, in laboratories, art studios and workshops, and physical training on sports grounds and in gymnasia and swimming pools. In most countries almost everyone comes at some time under the influence of the profession, and the teachers themselves have backgrounds as diverse as the subjects taught. Many senior members of the profession also have administrative and managerial duties.

In addition, the development of policies and activities to promote life-long education necessitates a reassessment of the conventional concept of teachers within traditional establishments (schools, universities). Members of the teaching profession carry out their tasks using formal and informal educational methods, in basic and continuous training, in educational establishments and institutions as well as outside them.

Apart from pupils of school age and university students, new kinds of students and trainees are coming forward in ever-increasing numbers in a great many countries: young jobseekers, women wishing to return to the employment market, retired persons, migrant workers, the handicapped, community groups and so on. In particular, we find categories of persons who were formerly excluded from normal educational establishments: illiterates and the handicapped.

There is nothing new in the variety of apprenticeship facilities available, and private self-education has always existed; life-long education has always existed in one form or another. There is, however, one new factor: the growing development of formal life-long educational facilities in places not originally intended as places of education and through new means—for example, in factories, offices and leisure facilities and through associations, mass communication media and assisted self-education. This growth and spread of educational activities has resulted in an increasing number of persons engaged in teaching on a professional or voluntary basis.

Many types of activity falling within the field of education may overlap: teachers, instructors, lecturers, promoters and organizers of educational projects, educational and vocational guidance workers, career advisers, adult education specialists and administrators.

Regarding the membership of the teaching profession as represented in employment markets, one finds that in most countries they make up one of the most significant categories of the salaried workforce.

Recently, the importance of teachers’ trade unions has increased continuously, keeping pace with the ever-increasing number of teachers. The flexibility of their working hours has enabled teachers to play a significant role in the political life of many countries.

A new type of educator - those who are not exactly teachers in the previously held conception of the term - can now be found in many systems, where the school has become a centre for permanent or life-long educational facilities. These are professionals from various sectors, including handicrafts experts, artists and so on, who contribute permanently or occasionally to these educational activities.

Educational establishments are opening their doors to diverse groups and categories, turning more and more towards external and extramural activities. Two major tendencies can be observed in this connection: on the one hand, relations have been established with the industrial workforce, with industrial plants and processes; and on the other, a growing relation has been established with community development, and there is increasing interaction between institutional education and community education projects.

Universities and colleges endeavour to renew teachers’ initial training through refresher training. Apart from specifically pedagogical aspects and disciplines, they provide for educational sociology, economy and anthropology. A trend still facing many obstacles is to have future teachers acquire experience by doing training periods in community settings, in workplaces or in various educational and cultural establishments. The national service, which has become general in certain countries, is a useful experience in the field for future teachers.

The immense investments in communication and information are auspicious for different types of individual or collective self-teaching. The relation between self-teaching and teaching is an emerging problem. The change-over from the autodidactic training of those who had not attended school to the permanent self-teaching of young people and adults has not always been correctly appreciated by educational institutions.

These new educational policies and activities give rise to various problems such as hazards and their prevention. Permanent education, which is not limited to school experience, turns various places, such as the community, the workplace, the laboratory and the environment, into training premises. The teachers should be assisted in these activities, and insurance coverage should be provided. In order to prevent hazards, efforts should be made to adapt the various premises for educational activities. There are several instances where schools have been adapted to become open centres for the entire population and have been equipped so as to be not only educational institutions but also places for creative and productive activities and for meetings.

The relationship of teachers and instructors with these various periods in the lives of trainees and students, such as leisure time, working time, family life and the duration of apprenticeships, also requires a considerable effort as regards information, research and adaptation.

Relations between teachers and students’ families are also on the increase; sometimes members of families occasionally attend lectures or classes at the school. Dissimilarities between family models and educational models necessitate a great effort from teachers to reach mutual understanding from the psychological, sociological and anthropological standpoint. Family models influence the behaviour pattern of some students, who can experience sharp contradictions between family training and behavioural models and norms prevailing in the school.

However great the variety, all teaching has certain common characteristics: the teacher not only instructs in specific knowledge or skills but also seeks to convey a way of thought; he or she has to prepare the pupil for the next stage of development and stimulate the pupil’s interest and participation in the process of learning.


Michael McCann

Elementary and secondary schools employ many different types of personnel, including teachers, teachers’ aides, administrators, clerical personnel, maintenance personnel, cafeteria personnel, nurses and many others required to keep a school functioning. In general, school personnel face all the potential hazards found in normal indoor and office environments, including indoor air pollution, poor lighting, inadequate heating or cooling, use of office machines, slips and falls, ergonomics problems from poorly designed office furniture and fire hazards. Precautions are the standard ones developed for this type of indoor environment, although building and fire codes usually have specific requirements for schools because of the large number of children present. Other general concerns found in schools include asbestos (especially among custodial and maintenance workers), chipping lead paint, pesticides and herbicides, radon and electromagnetic fields (especially for schools built near high-voltage transmission power lines). Eye and respiratory complaints related to the painting of rooms and the tarring of school roofs while the building is occupied are also a common problem. Painting and tarring should be done when the building is not occupied.

Basic academic duties required of all teachers include: lesson preparation, which can include the development of learning strategies, copying of lecture notes and the making of visual aids such as illustrations, graphs and the like; lecturing, which requires presenting information in an organized fashion that arouses the attention and concentration of students, and can involve the use of blackboards, film projectors, overhead projectors and computers; writing, giving and grading examinations; and individual counselling of students. Most of this instruction takes place in classrooms. In addition, teachers with specialities in science, arts, vocational education, physical education and other areas will conduct much of their teaching in facilities such as laboratories, art studios, theatres, gymnasiums and the like. Teachers may also take students on class trips outside the school to locations such as museums and zoos.

Teachers also have special duties, which can include supervision of students in hallways and the cafeteria; attending meetings with administrators, parents and others; organization and supervision of after-school leisure and other activities; and other administrative duties. In addition, teachers attend conferences and other educational events in order to keep current with their field and advance their career.

There are specific hazards facing all teachers. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and chicken pox can easily spread throughout a school. Vaccinations (both of students and teachers), tuberculosis testing and other standard public health measures are essential (see table 94.1). Overcrowded classrooms, classroom noise, overloaded schedules, inadequate facilities, career advancement questions, job security and general lack of control over working conditions contribute to major stress problems, absenteeism and burnout in teachers. Solutions include both institutional changes to improve working conditions and stress reduction programmes where possible. A growing problem, especially in urban environments, is violence against teachers by students and, sometimes, intruders. In the United States, many secondary-level students, especially in urban schools, carry weapons, including guns. In schools where violence is a problem, organized violence-prevention programmes are essential. Teachers’ aides face many of the same hazards.

Table 94.1 Infectious diseases affecting day-care workers and teachers


Where found

Mode of transmission



Especially tropics and subtropics

Water and food contaminated with  infected faeces

Use good food and water sanitation.

Chicken pox


Generally person-to-person direct  contact, but also possible by  airborne respiratory droplets

Chicken pox is more serious in adults than children;  risk of birth defects; reportable disease in most  countries.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)


Airborne respiratory droplets; contact  with urine, saliva or blood

Highly contagious; risk of birth defects.

Erythema infectiosum  (Parvovirus-B-19)


Direct person-to-person contact or  airborne respiratory droplets

Mildly contagious; risk to foetus during pregnancy.

Gastroenteritis, bacterial  (Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter)


Person-to-person transmission, food  or water via faecal-oral route

Use good food and water sanitation; require strict  handwashing procedures; reportable disease in  most countries.

Gastroenteritis, viral  (Rotaviruses)


Person-to-person transmission, food or  water via faecal-oral route; also by  inhalation of dust containing virus

Use good food and water sanitation.

German measles (rubella)


Airborne respiratory droplets; direct  contact with infected people

Risk of birth defects; all children and employees  should be vaccinated; reportable disease in most  countries.

Giardiasis (intestinal parasite)

Worldwide, but especially tropics and subtropics

Contaminated food and water; also  possible by person-to-person transmission

Use good food and water sanitation; reportable  disease in most countries.

Hepatitis A virus

Worldwide, but especially Mediterranean areas and developing countries

Faecal-oral transmission, especially  contaminated food and water; also possible  by direct person-to-person contact

Risk of spontaneous abortions and stillbirths; use  good food  and water sanitation; reportable disease  in most countries.

Hepatitis B virus

Worldwide, especially Asia and Africa

Sexual contact, contact of broken skin or mucous membranes with blood or other body  fluids

Higher incidence in institutionalized children (e.g.,  developmentally disabled); vaccination  recommended in high-risk situations; use universal  precautions for all exposures to blood and other  body fluids; reportable disease in most countries.

Herpes Simplex Type I and II


Contact with mucous membranes

Extremely contagious; common in adults and age  group 10 to 20 years.

Human Immune  Deficiency Virus (HIV) infection


Sexual contact, contact of broken skin or mucous membranes with blood or other body  fluids

Leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome  (AIDS); use universal precautions for all exposures  to blood and body fluids (e.g., nosebleeds);  anonymous reporting of disease required in most  countries.

Infectious mononucleosis  Epstein-Barr virus)


Airborne respiratory droplets; direct contact  with saliva

Especially common in age group 10 to 20 years.



Airborne respiratory droplets

Highly contagious; high-risk individuals should get  immunization shots.



Airborne respiratory droplets

Highly contagious, but for adults mostly a risk to  non-immunized individuals working with  unvaccinated children; reportable disease in most  countries.

Meningococcus meningitis bacterial)

Mostly tropical Africa  and Brazil

Airborne respiratory droplets, especially   close contact

Reportable disease in most countries.



Airborne respiratory droplets and contact with saliva

Highly contagious; exclude infected children; may  cause infertility in adults; outbreaks reportable in  some countries.

Mycoplasma infections


Airborne transmission after close contact

A major cause of primary atypical pneumonia;  mainly affects children aged 5 to 15 years.

Pertussis (whooping cough)


Airborne respiratory droplets

Not as severe in adults; all children under 7 years  should be immunized.



Direct skin-to-skin contact

Infectious skin disease caused by mites

Streptococcus infections


Direct person-to-person contact

Strep throat, scarlet fever and community-acquired  pneumonia are examples of infections.

Tuberculosis (respiratory)


Airborne respiratory droplets

Highly infectious; tuberculosis screening should be  conducted for all day care workers; a reportable  disease in most countries.

Teachers in specialized classes can have additional occupational hazards, including chemical exposures, machinery hazards, accidents, electrical hazards, excessive noise levels, radiation and fire, depending on the particular classroom. Figure 94.1 shows an industrial arts metal shop in a high school, and figure 94.2 shows a high school science lab with fume hoods and an emergency shower. Table 94.2 summarizes special precautions, particularly substitution of safer materials, for use in schools. Information on standard precautions can be found in the chapters relevant to the process (e.g., Entertainment and the arts and Safe handling of chemicals).

Figure 94.1 Industrial arts metal shop in a high school

Michael McCann

Figure 94.2 High school science laboratory with fume hoods and an emergency shower

Michael McCann

Table 94.2 Hazards and precautions for particular classes





Elementary Classes


Animal handling

Bites and scratches, zoonoses, parasites

Allow only live, healthy animals. Handle animals with heavy gloves. Avoid animals which can carry disease-transmitting insects and parasites.



Allergies, poisonous plants

Avoid plants which are known to be poisonous or cause allergic reaction.



Skin and eye problems, toxic reactions, allergies

Avoid using toxic chemicals with children. Wear proper personal protective equipment when doing teacher demonstrations with toxic chemicals.



Electrical hazards, safety hazards

Follow standard electrical safety procedures. Ensure all equipment is properly guarded. Store all equipment, tools, etc., properly.



Use only non-toxic art materials. Avoid solvents, acids, alkalis, spray cans, chemical dyes, etc.


Painting and drawing

Pigments, solvents

Use only children’s paints. Do not use pastels, dry pigments.




Do not do photoprocessing. Send out film for developing or use Polaroid cameras or blueprint paper and sunlight.


Textile and fibre arts


Avoid synthetic dyes; use natural dyes such as onion skins, tea, spinach, etc.



Acids, solvents

Use water-based block printing inks.


Cutting tools

Use linoleum cuts instead of woodcuts.




Use soft woods and hand tools only.



Use water-based glues.



Silica, toxic metals, heat, kiln fumes

Use wet clay only, and wet mop.
Paint pottery rather than using ceramic glazes. Do not fire kiln inside classroom.

Secondary Classes




All school laboratories should have the following: laboratory hood if toxic, volatile chemicals are used; eyewash fountains; emergency showers (if concentrated acids, bases or other corrosive chemicals are present); first aid kits; proper fire extinguishers; protective goggles, gloves and lab coats; proper disposal receptacles and procedures; spill control kit. Avoid carcinogens, mutagens and highly toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, cadmium, chlorine gas, etc.


Organic chemistry


Use only in laboratory hood.
Use least toxic solvents.
Do semi-micro- or microscale experiments.


Peroxides and explosives

Do not use explosives or chemicals such as ether, which can form explosive peroxides.


Inorganic chemistry

Acids and bases

Avoid concentrated acids and bases when possible.


Analytical chemistry

Hydrogen sulphide

Do not use hydrogen sulphide. Use substitutes.




Avoid alphabetical storage, which can place incompatible chemicals in close proximity. Store chemicals by compatible groups.



Store flammable and combustible liquids in approved flammable-storage cabinets.




Do not dissect specimens preserved in formaldehyde. Use smaller, freeze-dried animals, training films and videotapes, etc.


Anaesthetizing insects

Ether, cyanide

Use ethyl alcohol for anaesthetization of insects. Refrigerate insects for counting.


Drawing of blood

HIV, Hepatitis B

Avoid if possible. Use sterile lancets for blood typing under close supervision.




Avoid skin contact with iodine and gentian violet.


Culturing bacteria


Use sterile technique with all bacteria, assuming there could be contamination by pathogenic bacteria.

Physical sciences


Ionizing radiation

Use radioisotopes only in "exempt" quantities not requiring a license. Only trained teachers should use these. Develop a radiation safety programme.


Electricity and magnetism

Electrical hazards

Follow standard electrical safety procedures.



Eye and skin damage, electrical hazards

Use only low-power (Class I) lasers. Never look directly into a laser beam or pass the beam across face or body. Lasers should have a key lock.

Earth sciences


Flying chips

Crush rocks in canvas bag to prevent flying chips. Wear protective goggles.


Water pollution

Infection, toxic chemicals

Do not take sewage samples because of infection risk. Avoid hazardous chemicals in field testing of water pollution.



Mercury manometers

Use oil or water manometers. If mercury manometers are used for demonstration, have mercury spill control kit.



Ammonium dichromate

Do not use ammonium dichromate and magnesium to simulate volcanoes.


Solar observation

Infrared radiation

Never view sun directly with eyes or through lenses.

Art and Industrial Arts



Avoid most dangerous chemicals and processes. Have proper ventilation. See also precautions under Chemistry


Painting and drawing

Pigments, solvents

Avoid lead and cadmium pigments. Avoid oil paints unless cleanup is done with vegetable oil. Use spray fixatives outside.



Photochemicals, acids, sulphur dioxide

Avoid colour processing and toning. Have dilution ventilation for darkroom. Have eyewash fountain. Use water instead of acetic acid for stop bath.


Textile and fibre arts

Dyes, dyeing assistants, wax fumes

Use aqueous liquid dyes or mix dyes in glove box. Avoid dichromate mordants. Do not use solvents to remove wax in batik. Have ventilation if ironing out wax.



Alkali, beaters

Do not boil lye. Use rotten or mulched plant materials, or recycle paper and cardboard. Use large blender instead of more dangerous industrial beaters to prepare paper pulp.




Use water-based instead of solvent-based silk screen inks. Clean intaglio press beds nd inking slabs with vegetable oil and dishwashing liquid instead of solvents. Use cut paper stencils instead of lacquer stencils for silk screen printing.


Acids, potassium chlorate

Use ferric chloride to etch copper plates instead of Dutch mordant or nitric acid on zinc plates. If using nitric acid etching, have emergency shower and eyewash fountain and local exhaust ventilation.



Use diazo instead of dichromate photoemulsions. Use citric acid fountain solutions in lithography to replace dichromates.



Woods and wood dust

Have dust collection system for woodworking machines. Avoid irritating and allergenic hardwoods, preserved woods (e.g., chromated copper arsenate treated).Clean up wood dust to remove fire hazards.


Machinery and tools

Have machine guards. Have key locks and panic button.



Reduce noise levels or wear hearing protectors.



Use water-based glues when possible. Avoid formaldehyde/resorcinol glues, solvent-based glues.


Paints and finishes

Use water-based paints and finishes. Use shellac based on ethyl alcohol rather than methyl alcohol.



Lead, silica, toxic metals, kiln fumes

Purchase wet clay. Do not use lead glazes. Buy prepared glazes rather than mixing dry glazes. Spray glazes only in spray booth. Fire kiln outside or have local exhaust ventilation. Wear infrared goggles when looking into hot kiln.



Silica, plastics resins, dust

Use only hand tools for stone sculpture to reduce dust levels. Do not use sandstone, granite or soapstone, which might contain silica or asbestos. Do not use highly toxic polyester, epoxy or polyurethane resins. Have ventilation if heating plastics to remove decomposition products. Wet mop or vacuum dusts.



Soldering fumes, acids

Avoid cadmium silver solders and fluoride fluxes. Use sodium hydrogen sulphate rather than sulphuric acid for pickling. Have local exhaust ventilation.



Lead, burns, infrared radiation

Use only lead-free enamels. Ventilate enameling kiln. Have heat-protective gloves and clothing, and infrared goggles.


Lost wax casting

Metal fumes, silica, infrared radiation, heat

Use 50/50 30-mesh sand/plaster instead of cristobalite investments. Have local exhaust ventilation for wax burnout kiln and casting operation. Wear heat-pro tective clothing and gloves.


Stained glass

Lead, acid fluxes

Use copper foil technique rather than lead came. Use lead- and antimony-free solders. Avoid lead glass paints. Use acid- and rosin-free soldering fluxes.



Metal fumes, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, electrical and fire hazards

Do not weld metals coated with zinc, lead paints, or alloys with hazardous metals (nickel, chromium, etc.). Weld only metals of known composition.


Commercial art

Solvents, photochemicals, video display terminals

Use double-sided tape instead of rubber cement. Use heptane-based, not hexane rubber cements. Have spray booths for air brushing. Use water-based or alcohol- based permanent markers instead of xylene types.
See Photography section for photoprocesses.
Have proper ergonomic chairs, lighting, etc., for computers.

Performing Arts


Solvents, paints, welding fumes, isocyanates, safety, fire

Use water-based paints and dyes. Do not use polyurethane spray foams. Separate welding from other areas. Have safe rigging procedures. Avoid pyrotechnics, firearms, fog and smoke, and other hazardous special effects. Fireproof all stage scenery. Mark all trap doors, pits and elevations.



Acute injuries Repetitive strain injuries

Have a proper dance floor. Avoid full schedules after period of inactivity. Assure proper warm-up before and cool-down after dance activity. Allow sufficient recovery time after injuries.



Musculoskeletal injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)

Use proper sized instruments. Have adequate instrument supports. Allow sufficient recovery time after injuries.



Keep sound levels at acceptable levels. Wear musician’s ear plugs if needed. Position speakers to minimize noise levels. Use sound-absorbing materials on walls.


Vocal strain

Assure adequate warm-up. Provide proper vocal training and conditioning.

Automotive Mechanics

Brake drums


Do not clean brake drums unless approved equipment is used.




Use water-based detergents. Use parts cleaner


Car motors

Carbon monoxide

Have tailpipe exhaust.




See above.



Solvents, pigments

Spray paint only in spray booth, or outdoors with respiratory protection.

Home Economics

Food and nutrition

Electrical hazards

Follow standard electrical safety rules.


Knives and other sharp utensils

Always cut away from body. Keep knives sharpened.


Fire and burns

Have stove hoods with grease filters that exhaust to outside. Wear protective gloves with hot objects.


Cleaning products

Wear goggles, gloves and apron with acidic or basic cleaning products.

Teachers in special education programmes can sometimes be at greater risk. Examples of hazards include violence from emotionally disturbed students and transmission of infections such as hepatitis A, B and C from institutionalized, developmentally disabled students (Clemens et al. 1992).


Gary Gibson

The teaching of trades through the apprenticeship system dates at least as far back as the Roman Empire, and continues to this day in classic trades such as shoemaking, carpentry, stone masonry and so forth. Apprenticeships can be informal, where a person desiring to learn a trade finds a skilled employer willing to teach him or her in exchange for work. However, most apprenticeships are more formal and involve a written contract between the employer and the apprentice, who is bound to serve the employer for a given time in return for training. These formal apprenticeship programmes usually have standard rules regarding qualifications for completing the apprenticeship that are set by an institution such as a trade union, guild or employer organization. In some countries, trade unions and employer organizations run the apprenticeship programme directly; these programmes usually involve a combination of structured on-the-job training and classroom instruction.

In today’s technological world, however, there is a growing need for skilled labour in many areas, such as laboratory technicians, mechanics, machinists, cosmetologists, cooks, service trades and many more. The learning of these skilled trades usually takes place in vocational programmes in schools, vocational institutes, polytechnics, colleges with two-year programmes and similar institutions. These sometimes include internships in actual work settings.

Both the teachers and the students in these vocational programmes face occupational hazards from the chemicals, machinery, physical agents and other hazards associated with the particular trade or industry. In many vocational programmes, students are learning their skills using old machinery donated by industry. These machines often are not equipped with modern safety features such as proper machine guards, fast-acting brakes, noise-control measures and so forth. The teachers themselves often have not had adequate training in the hazards of the trade and appropriate precautions. Often, the schools do not have adequate ventilation and other precautions.

Apprentices often face high-risk situations because they are assigned the dirtiest and most hazardous tasks. Often they are used as a source of cheap labour. In these situations, it is even more likely that the apprentice’s employers have not had adequate training in the hazards and precautions of their trade. Informal apprenticeships are usually not regulated, and there is often no recourse for apprentices facing such exploitation or hazards.

Another common problem with both apprenticeship programmes and vocational training is age. Apprenticeship entry age is generally between 16 and 18 year of age. Vocational training can begin at elementary school. Studies have shown that young workers (aged 15 to 19 years) account for a disproportionate percentage of lost-time injury claims. In Ontario, Canada, for the year 1994, the largest proportion of injured young workers were employed in the service industry.

These statistics indicate that students entering these programmes may not understand the importance of health and safety training. Students also can have different attention spans and comprehension levels than adults, and this should be reflected in their training. Finally, extra attention is needed in sectors such as service industries, where health and safety has generally not received the attention found in other industries.

In any apprenticeship or vocational programme, there should be built-in safety and health training programmes, including hazard communication. The teachers or employers should be properly trained in the hazards and precautions, both to protect themselves and to teach the students properly. The work or training setting should have adequate precautions.


Susan Magor

The large number and wide variety of operations and hazardous materials involved in teaching, research and support service activities present a challenge to health and safety management in colleges and universities. The very nature of research implies risk: challenging the limits of current knowledge and technology. Many research activities in science, engineering and medicine require sophisticated and expensive facilities, technology and equipment which may not be readily available or have yet to be developed. Research activities within existing facilities may also evolve and change without the facilities being modified to contain them safely. Many of the most hazardous activities are performed infrequently, periodically or on an experimental basis. Hazardous materials used in teaching and research often include some of the most dangerous substances and hazards with unavailable or poorly documented safety and toxicity data. These are commonly used in relatively small quantities under less than ideal conditions by poorly trained personnel. Health and safety hazards are not always easily recognized or readily acknowledged by highly educated academics with specialized fields of expertise who may have a poor regard for legislative or administrative controls when these are perceived to limit academic freedom.

Academic freedom is a sacred principle, fiercely guarded by academics, some of whom may be experts in their disciplines. Any legislative or institutional constraints which are perceived as encroaching on this principle will be fought and may even be disregarded. Methods for the identification and control of health and safety hazards associated with teaching and research activities cannot be readily imposed. Academics need to be persuaded that health and safety policies support and enhance the primary mission rather than confine it. Policies, where they exist, tend to protect the academic mission and the rights of individuals, rather than to conform with external regulations and standards. Liability and accountability issues affecting teachers and researchers directly may have more effect than rules.

Most health and safety legislation, standards and guidance criteria are developed for industry with large quantities of relatively few chemicals, well documented hazards, established procedures and a stable workforce within a well defined management system. The academic environment differs from industry in almost every aspect. In some jurisdictions academic institutions may even be exempt from health and safety legislation.

Academic institutions are generally hierarchical in their management systems, with academics at the top followed by non-academic professionals, technicians and support staff. Graduate students are often employed on a part-time basis to perform a variety of teaching and research functions. Academics are appointed to senior management positions for specific terms with little management experience or training. Frequent turn-over may result in a lack of continuity. Within this system, senior researchers, even within large institutions, are granted relative autonomy to manage their affairs. They are usually in control of their own budgets, facility design, purchasing, organization of work and hiring of personnel. Hazards may be overlooked or go unrecognized.

It is common practice for researchers in academic institutions to employ graduate students as research assistants in a master/apprentice relationship. These individuals are not always protected under health and safety laws. Even if covered by legislation, they are frequently reluctant to exercise their rights or to voice safety concerns to their supervisors who may also be responsible for evaluating their academic performance. Long hours under great pressure, overnight and weekend work with minimal supervision and skeleton support services are routine. Cost saving and energy conservation efforts may even reduce essential services such as security and ventilation during nights and weekends. Though students are not usually protected by health and safety legislation, due diligence requires that they are treated with the same level of care as is provided for employees.

Potential Hazards

The range of hazards can be extremely broad depending upon the size and nature of the institution, the type of academic programmes offered and the nature of research activities (see table 94.3). Small colleges offering only liberal arts programmes may have relatively few hazards while comprehensive universities with schools of medicine, engineering and fine arts and extensive research programmes may have a complete range, including some very serious hazards, such as toxic chemicals, biohazards, reproductive hazards, ionizing and non-ionizing radiations and various other physical agents.

Table 94.3 Summary of hazards in colleges and universities

Type of hazard



Toxic chemicals  (carcinogens, teratogens, caustics,  heavy metals, asbestos, silica)

Lab chemicals, solvents, degreasers, glues, art supplies,  manometers, thermometers, photochemicals, dyes,  hazardous waste

Laboratories, art studios, workshops, health care facilities, maintenance operations, machine shops, theatres, darkrooms, engineering, hockey arenas

Flammables and explosives

Lab chemicals, cleaning agents, solvents, fuels

Laboratories, maintenance operations, workshops, art studios, construction sites


Fumigation, rodent and pest control, disinfectants

Housekeeping, groundskeeping, greenhouse, agriculture

Biological agents

Animal handling, cell and tissue cultures, blood and  body fluids, diagnostic specimens, contaminated sharps,  solid waste

Animal care facilities, health care, housekeeping, laboratories

Non-ionizing radiation

Lasers, microwaves, magnets, electronics, ultraviolet light

Laboratories, electrical operations, health care facilities, workshops, technical operations

Ionizing radiation

Radioisotopes, gas chromatography, x rays, calibration,  reactors, neutron generators, waste management

Laboratories, medical facilities, engineering


Materials handling, office work, computers

Libraries, offices, maintenance operations, movers, truck drivers, food services


Outdoor work, overexertion

Groundskeeping, public safety, maintenance, field work, agriculture and forestry


Machinery, boilers and pressure vessels, computers,  construction and maintenance, ventilation systems

Boiler rooms, print shops, maintenance and grounds, construction  operations, computer rooms, labs, machine shops, art studios


Internal community, external community, domestic  disputes, civil disobedience

Classrooms, places of assembly, accounts, stores, food service, personnel department, security operations


Electrical equipment, construction and maintenance  operations, amateur wiring jobs, special events

Laboratories, workshops, maintenance shops, construction sites, electronic shops, residences, theatre, special events

Compressed gases

Laboratory equipment and operations, welding operations,  coolants, ice-making equipment, construction

Laboratories, metal shops, construction sites, machine shops, hockey arenas

Machine hazards

Materials handling, robots, maintenance and construction  work

Printing shops, maintenance and grounds operations, engineering, science and technical laboratories, machine shops

Sharp objects

Broken glass, cutting instruments, needles, lab vessels,  test tubes

Housekeeping, laboratories, health care, art studios, workshops

Maintenance and groundskeeping, hazardous materials handling, machine and motor vehicle operations and office work are common to most institutions and comprise hazards which are covered elsewhere in this Encyclopaedia.

Workplace violence is an emerging issue of particular concern for teaching staff, front-line personnel, money handlers and security personnel.

Large institutions may be compared to small towns where a population lives and works. Issues of personal and community safety interface with occupational health and safety concerns.

Control of Hazards

Hazard identification through the usual processes of inspection and incident and injury investigation need to be preceded by careful review of proposed programmes and facilities prior to the start up of activities. The occupational and environmental risk aspects of new research projects and academic programmes should be taken into consideration in the earliest stages of the planning process. Researchers may not be aware of legislative requirements or safety standards applicable to their operations. For many projects, researchers and safety professionals need to work together to develop the safety procedures as the research proceeds and new hazards emerge.

Ideally the safety culture is incorporated into the academic mission - for example, through inclusion of relevant health and safety information into course curricula and laboratory and procedure manuals for students as well as specific health and safety information and training for employees. Hazard communication, training and supervision are critical.

In laboratories, art studios and workshops, general ventilation control needs to be augmented by local exhaust ventilation. Containment of biohazards and isolation or shielding of radioisotopes are necessary in certain cases. Personal protective equipment, while not a primary prevention method in most situation, may be the option of choice for temporary set-ups and some experimental conditions.

Hazardous materials and waste management programmes are usually required. Centralized purchasing and distribution of commonly used chemicals and micro-scale experiments in teaching prevent the storage of large volumes in individual laboratories, studios and workshops.

The maintenance of an emergency response and disaster recovery plan in anticipation of major events which overwhelm the normal response capabilities will mitigate the health and safety effects of a serious incident.


Ted Rickard

Health and safety problems in art programmes can be similar in educational institutions ranging from junior high schools to universities. Arts programmes are a special problem because their hazards are not often recognized and, especially at the college level, can be semi-industrial in scale. Hazards can include inhalation of airborne contaminants; ingestion or dermal absorption of toxins; injury from machinery and tools; slips, trips and falls; and repetitive strain and other musculoskeletal injuries. Precautions include the provision of adequate ventilation (both dilution and local exhaust), the safe handling and storage of chemicals, machine-guarding and competent maintenance of machinery, efficient clean-up, good housekeeping and adjustable work stations. A key precaution in avoiding occupational safety and health problems of all kinds is adequate and mandatory training.

Elementary and Secondary School Teachers

Hazards at the elementary and secondary school levels include practices such as spraying and unsafe use of solvents and other chemicals and poor ventilation of processes. There is frequently a lack of proper equipment and sufficient knowledge of materials to ensure a safe workplace. Precautions include efficient engineering controls, better knowledge of materials, the elimination of hazardous art supplies from schools and substitution with safer ones (see table 94.2). This will help protect not only teachers, technicians, maintenance workers and administrators, but also students.

College and University Teachers

Hazards at the college and university levels include, in addition to those mentioned above, the fact that students, teachers and technicians tend to be more experimental and tend to use more potentially dangerous materials and machinery. They also often work on a larger scale and for longer periods of time. Precautions must include education and training, the provision of engineering controls and personal protective equipment, written safety policies and procedures and insistence on compliance with these.

Artistic Freedom

Many art teachers and technicians are artists in their own right, resulting in multiple exposures to the hazards of art materials and processes which can significantly increase their health risks. When confronted with hazards in their field about which they have not known or which they have ignored, many teachers become defensive. Artists are experimental and frequently belong to an anti-establishment culture which encourages defiance of institutional rules. It is important, however, for the school administration to realize that the quest for artistic freedom is not a valid argument against working safely.

Liability and Training

In many jurisdictions teachers will be subject to both a personal and a school liability for the safety of their students, particularly the younger ones. “Because of the age, maturity, and experience limitations of most students, and because teachers stand in loco parentis (in the place of a parent), schools are expected to provide a safe environment and establish reasonable behaviour for the protection of students” (Qualley 1986).

Health and Safety Programmes

It is important that schools take the responsibility for training both art teachers and school administrators in the potential hazards of art materials and processes and in how to protect their students and themselves. A prudent school administration will ensure that there are in place written health and safety policies, procedures and programmes, compliance with these, regular safety training and a real interest in teaching how to create art safely.


Steven D. Stellman and Joshua E. Muscat

Teachers comprise a large and growing segment of the workforce in many countries. For example, over 4.2 million workers were classified as preschool through high school teachers in the United States in 1992. In addition to classroom teachers, other professional and technical workers are employed by schools, including custodial and maintenance workers, nurses, food service workers and mechanics.

Teaching has not traditionally been regarded as an occupation that entails exposure to hazardous substances. Consequently, few studies of occupationally related health problems have been carried out. Nevertheless, school teachers and other school personnel may be exposed to a wide variety of recognized physical, chemical, biological and other occupational hazards.

Indoor air pollution is an important cause of acute illnesses in teachers. A major source of indoor air pollution is inadequate maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC). Contamination of HVAC systems can cause acute respiratory and dermatological illnesses. Newly constructed or renovated school buildings release chemicals, dusts and vapours into the air. Other sources of indoor air pollution are roofing, insulation, carpets, drapes and furniture, paint, caulk and other chemicals. Unrepaired water damage, as from roof leakage, can lead to the growth of micro-organisms in building materials and ventilation systems and the release of bioaerosols that affect the respiratory systems of teachers and students alike. Contamination of school buildings by micro-organisms can cause severe health conditions such as pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, asthma and allergic rhinitis.

Teachers who specialize in certain technical fields may be exposed to specific occupational hazards. For example, arts and craft teachers frequently encounter a variety of chemicals, including organic solvents, pigments and dyes, metals and metal compounds, minerals and plastics (Rossol 1990). Other art materials cause allergic reactions. Exposure to many of these materials is strictly regulated in the industrial workplace but not in the classroom. Chemistry and biology teachers work with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and other biohazards in school laboratories. Shop teachers work in dusty environments and may be exposed to high levels of wood dust and cleaning materials, as well as high noise levels.

Teaching is an occupation that is often characterized by a high degree of stress, absenteeism and burnout. There are many sources of teacher stress, which may vary with grade level. They include administrative and curriculum concerns, career advancement, student motivation, class size, role conflict and job security. Stress may also arise from dealing with children’s misbehaviours and possibly violence and weapons in schools, in addition to physical or environmental hazards such as noise. For example, desirable classroom sound levels are 40 to 50 decibels (dB) (Silverstone 1981), whereas in one survey of several schools, classroom sound levels averaged between 59 and 65 dB (Orloske and Leddo 1981). Teachers who are employed in second jobs after work or during the summer may be exposed to additional workplace hazards that can affect performance and health. The fact that the majority of teachers are women (three-fourths of all teachers in the United States are women) raises the question of how the dual role of worker and mother may affect women’s health. However, despite perceived high levels of stress, the rate of cardiovascular disease mortality in teachers was lower than in other occupations in several studies (Herloff and Jarvholm 1989), which could be due to lower prevalence of smoking and less consumption of alcohol.

There is a growing concern that some school environments may include cancer-causing materials such as asbestos, electromagnetic fields (EMF), lead, pesticides, radon and indoor air pollution (Regents Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality in Schools 1994). Asbestos exposure is a special concern among custodial and maintenance workers. A high prevalence of abnormalities associated with asbestos-related diseases has been documented in school custodians and maintenance employees (Anderson et al. 1992). The airborne concentration of asbestos has been reported higher in certain schools than in other buildings (Lee et al. 1992).

Some school buildings were built near high-voltage transmission power lines, which are sources of EMF. Exposure to EMF also comes from video display units or exposed wiring. Excess exposure to EMF has been linked to the incidence of leukaemia as well as breast and brain cancers in some studies (Savitz 1993). Another source of concern is exposure to pesticides that are applied to control the spread of insect and vermin populations in schools. It has been hypothesized that pesticide residues measured in adipose tissue and serum of breast cancer patients may be related to the development of this disease (Wolff et al. 1993).

The large proportion of teachers who are women has led to concerns about possible breast cancer risks. Unexplained increased breast cancer rates have been found in several studies. Using death certificates collected in 23 states in the United States between 1979 and 1987, the proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) for breast cancer were 162 for White teachers and 214 for Black teachers (Rubin et al. 1993). Increased PMRs for breast cancer were also reported among teachers in New Jersey and in the Portland-Vancouver area (Rosenman 1994; Morton 1995). While these increases in observed rates have so far not been linked either to specific environmental factors or to other known risk factors for breast cancer, they have given rise to heightened breast cancer awareness among some teachers’ organizations, resulting in screening and early detection campaigns.


Susan Magor

Educational institutions are responsible for ensuring that their facilities and practices are in conformity with environmental and public health legislation and comply with accepted standards of care towards their employees, students and the surrounding community. Students are not generally covered under occupational health and safety legislation, but educational institutions must exercise diligence towards their students to at least the same degree as is required by legislation designed to protect workers. In addition, teaching institutions have a moral responsibility to educate their students on matters of personal, public, occupational and environmental safety which relate to them and to their activities.

Colleges and Universities

Large institutions such as college and university campuses may be compared to large towns or small cities in terms of the size of the population, geographic area, type of basic services required and complexity of activities being carried out. In addition to the occupational health and safety hazards found within such institutions (covered in the chapter Public and government services), there is a vast range of other concerns, relating to large populations living, working and studying in a defined area, that need to be addressed.

Waste management on campus is often a complex challenge. Environmental legislation in many jurisdictions requires stringent control of water and gas emissions from teaching, research and service activities. In certain situations external community concerns may require public relations attention.

Chemical and solid waste disposal programmes must take into consideration occupational, environmental and community health concerns. Most large institutions have comprehensive programmes for the management of the wide variety of wastes produced: toxic chemicals, radioisotopes, lead, asbestos, biomedical waste as well as trash, wet garbage and construction materials. One problem is the coordination of waste management programmes on campuses due to the large number of different departments, which often have poor communication with each other.

Colleges and universities differ from industry in the amounts and types of hazardous waste produced. Campus laboratories, for example, usually produce small amounts of many different hazardous chemicals. Methods of hazardous waste control can include neutralization of acids and alkalis, small-scale solvent recovery by distillation and “lab” packing, where small containers of compatible hazardous chemicals are placed in drums and separated by sawdust or other packing materials to prevent breakage. Since campuses can generate large quantities of paper, glass, metal and plastic waste, recycling programmes can usually be implemented as a demonstration of community responsibility and as part of the educational mission.

A few institutions located within urban areas may rely heavily upon external community resources for essential services such as police, fire protection and emergency response. The vast majority of medium-size and larger institutions establish their own public safety services to service their campus communities, often working in close cooperation with external resources. In many college towns, the institution is the largest employer and consequently may be expected to provide protection to the population which supports it.

Colleges and universities are no longer entirely remote or separate from the communities in which they are located. Education has become more accessible to a larger sector of society: women, mature students and the disabled. The very nature of educational institutions puts them at particular risk: a vulnerable population where the exchange of ideas and differing opinions is valued, but where the concept of academic freedom may not always be balanced with professional responsibility. In recent years educational institutions have reported more acts of violence toward educational community members, coming from the external community or erupting from within. Acts of violence perpetrated against individual members of the educational community are no longer extremely rare events. Campuses are frequent sites for demonstrations, large public assemblies, political and sports events where public safety and crowd control need to be considered. The adequacy of security and public safety services and emergency response and disaster recovery plans and capabilities needs to be constantly evaluated and periodically updated to meet community needs. Hazard identification and controls must be taken into consideration for sports programmes, field trips and a variety of sponsored recreational activities. Emergency medical service needs to be available even for off-campus activities. Personal safety is best managed through hazard reporting and education programmes.

Public health issues associated with campus life, such as control of communicable diseases, sanitation of food services and residence facilities, provision of fresh water, clean air and uncontaminated soil, must be addressed. Programmes for inspection, evaluation and control are required. Education of students in this regard is usually the responsibility of student service personnel, but occupational health and safety professionals are often involved. Education regarding sexually transmitted diseases, drug and alcohol abuse, blood-borne pathogens, stress and mental illness is particularly important in a campus community, where risky behaviour may increase the probability of exposure to associated hazards. Medical and psychological services must be available.

Elementary and Secondary Schools

Grade schools have many of the same environmental and public health issues as colleges and universities, only on a smaller scale. Often, however, schools and school districts do not have effective waste management programmes. A serious problem faced by many schools is the disposal of explosive ether and picric acid that have been stored in school laboratories for many years (National Research Council 1993). Attempts to dispose of these materials by unqualified personnel have caused explosions in several instances. One problem is that school districts can have many schools separated by several miles. This can create difficulties in centralizing hazardous waste programmes by having to transport hazardous waste on public roads.


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