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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 3, November/December 2004

Health and Safety
10 gems from the members’ guide

by Maureen L. MacDonald

The Members’ Guide to the BCTF contains all the Federation’s policies and procedures adopted since 1953, the goals, the local and provincial fees, the Code of Ethics, the Simplified Rules of Order, and lots more. The whole book is a treasure trove of information, well worth reading. Here are 10 of my favourite policies about health and safety.

1. 39.59, p. 142—That custodial staff be provided at all times that schools are in session and that sufficient custodial time be provided each day for thorough cleaning of school facilities and grounds. – 2001 AGM

Biohazardous materials need to be removed right away. It’s the law. No one wants to walk through goose droppings on the front steps of the school, or step around vomit that the custodian will clean up in the evening. Teachers are not required to do the cleaning. That’s one reason each school has an administrator.

2. 40.01, p. 142—That students and teachers have the right to a learning and working environment free from sexual harassment. – 1982 AGM

Too many teachers have used their sick leave to avoid the distress of being harassed. Some have gone on to use the Salary Indemnity Plan that all members pay for.

Don’t put up with harassment. Grieve using the provisions of the collective agreement. Report the harassment to the Joint Occupational Health & Safety (JOH&S) Committee at your worksite. There’ll be an investigation.

3. 53.A.15, p. 156—That the BCTF urge the Ministry of Education to ensure that every teacher has access to in-service training necessary to teach violence-prevention programs. – Dec. 1993 Ex.

This request has not been dealt with adequately by a long list of ministers of education. Let’s try to fix that on May 17, 2005.

4. 53.A.29, p. 156—That no student new to a school be in attendance at school until a background check has ascertained that the student poses no risk or until a plan has been written and communicated to all staff likely to have contact with the student and adequate resources are in place which eliminates or minimizes the risk of violence and which includes a response-to-critical-incidents strategy detailing roles and responsibilities. – AGM 2001

Risk-assessment procedures for violence in the workplace are found in WCB Regulation 4.28–4.31. Some schools now delay entry of new students for at least one day, pending the arrival of more information and giving staff a bit of time to make the right placement. Raise this with your JOH&S committee. One day is a start, but is it enough?

5. 13.D.09, p. 97—That locals and district health and safety committee members (a) encourage all health and safety representatives to utilize their entitlement to an eight-hour annual education leave under S. 135 of the Workers Compensation Act, and (b) request the BCTF/WorkSafe course as the content for the educational leave. – Nov. 2000 RA

All members of all JOH&S committees are entitled by law to release time annually for eight-hour training. That means all teacher reps, all support staff union reps, and all employers’ reps. The BCTF offers excellent, extensive tripartite training under the auspices of the WCB WorkSafe program. Get your committee to request it, and tell your local H&S rep.

6. 39.51, p. 141—That instruction in hand washing be given in schools. – 2001 AGM

Delegates to the 2001 AGM poked fun at the idea of singing "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" while washing their hands, but they knew that hand washing is the best defence against contagious diseases. Teach it to your students, young and old. Download a copy of the hand-washing poster from the BCTF web site www.bctf.ca/education/health/.

7. 12.09, p. 82—That only nutritious foods should be sold in school cafeterias." – 1974 AGM, Oct. 1980 RA

12.35, p. 84—That the Ministry of Education provide monetary incentives to schools to ban the sale of junk food and drinks from their premises. – May 2004 RA

It is as if the headlines were snatched right out of our policies!

8. 13.D.13, p. 97—That a safety plan for working alone as required by OH&S Regulation 4.21 be provided by the employer for all BCTF members who work alone. – 2001 AGM

School districts in which teachers have keys to schools have procedures such as phoning a central number to state the expected time to be spent in school on evenings or weekends, and phoning back to check out. Others have a buddy system in place so a teacher is never working alone.

Reporting time is coming. If you teach in a portable or an isolated classroom meet parents in the library or the office for safety.

9. 13.D.12, p. 98—That all schools and worksites be non-smoking areas. – 1987 AGM, 2004 AGM

Did you know that there are still some schools where students smoke on the property? Staff members haven’t done that for years now! Last year, some teachers declined to supervise the smoking students, saying that it is unsafe work. Administrators took over the duty. Let’s encourage school boards to go a step further.

10. 39.01.6., p. 140—That construction protocols must be in place before any renovations or alterations, including painting, start. – Jan 2003 Ex

The BCTF Construction/Renovation/Maintenance/Repair Protocol is found at bctf.ca/education/health/ConstructionProtocol.html. Refer to it in discussions about changes to your school facilities. You don’t have to be allergic to paint fumes to care about the noise levels, the safe passageways, and the visitors’ identification badges.

What do you think?
Did I pick your favourites? Do you have others? Let me know. Or write a letter to the editor.

Will you help?
All the above statements are policies, not procedures. They deal with matters over which the BCTF does not have complete control. By promoting BCTF policies at every opportunity, members increase the chance of implementing them. At least we’ll feel better for trying. Be safe out there.

Maureen MacDonald is the prevention officer in the Health and Safety Department.

To put your name on the BCTF occupational health and safety e-mail list, e-mail your request to Whitney Burgess, wburgess@bctf.ca.

NOTE: The Members’ Guide to the BCTF is sent to all schools on a two-copies-per-staffroom basis, and distributed to other members on request.