How School Employees Can Protect Themselves From Health Risks
K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions have grappled with how to keep faculty, staff, and students safe from transmitting viruses and illnesses like COVID-19, especially in classrooms and other shared spaces.
While many teachers and professors have introduced remote and distanced learning capabilities like all-virtual classes or rotating schedules to distance students, there are ongoing health risks for all school faculty that require them to take precautions when conducting in-person work. These health risks also extend to school libraries, posing similar challenges for librarians.
Protecting Teachers, Faculty, and Students From Health and Safety Risks
There are many key questions that must be considered when exploring how to safely teach and conduct school business given the ongoing risks of illness, including:
How can we protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and teachers?
How do we assure students and their parents that we are doing all we can to prevent the spread of illness?
What do we do if a student or staff member comes in contact with someone who has a positive or suspected case of COVID-19?
What steps can teachers and professors take to disinfect and clean classrooms and shared spaces?
With these questions in mind, AIHA has created three guidance documents—which you will find in the below ‘Resources’ section under ‘Support Documents’—to help K-12 school and college employees protect their well-being at work:
All of the guidance documents borrow from the latest advice given by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and expert advice from other leading health, government, and academic organizations.
The guidelines share actionable steps and recommendations to protect K-12 and college staff and students, including information on the following key areas:
How school employees can protect themselves and their students from health risks:
Best practices for limiting the risk of COVID-19 or similar virus transmission in classrooms or other instruction and learning environments, including recommended room layouts, staggered schedules, and the avoidance of shared objects
Enhanced cleaning practices for school facilities and college campuses, including how to disinfect classrooms, labs, and other shared spaces
Recommended communications for students and parents to educate them on how to limit the risk of transmitting COVID-19
How to perform a student wellness check, including temperature screening and visual signs to look for
Self-monitoring practices and the necessary personal protective equipment for teachers, professors/lecturers, and students
Ways to safely use college common spaces, like a library or cafeteria
Indoor Air Quality Resources for Healthy Schools
A top priority of the Biden-Harris Building Better School Infrastructure Action Plan is to improve the health of our schools, and AIHA is recognized as an EPA resource in the action plan and reference guide for better air quality in schools.
Considering that students, teachers and staff spend approximately one third of their day at school—and 90% of that time is spent indoors—indoor air quality should be a priority for all faculty and employees. Outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can all present invisible hazards to students and teachers, as well as off-gassing of construction materials and interior furnishings.
To help school administrators and facilities managers understand these risks and improve the air quality in their buildings, please see the below “Resources by Type” that are marked “Healthy Schools” and visit our Indoor Air Quality hub for more information.
Facility Manager Checklist
Additional School Employee Safety Resources
To access more help and resources to understand and avoid health risks in educational environments, we recommend you explore the following resources and networks.
Resources by Type
Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls (Healthy Schools)
(Supplement) Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls (Healthy Schools)