BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota, November 14, 2017—Educational assistants are at a significantly higher risk for student-inflicted injuries than licensed educators, according to research published recently in the journal Injury Prevention .
Educational assistants working in special education classrooms had the highest rate of student-related injuries — 4.54 per 100 full-time equivalent employees, according to the research. General education assistants had the second highest rate, with 1.59 per 100 full-time equivalent employees. This compares with a rate of .8 per 100 full-time equivalent employees for licensed educators.
Past research on student-related injuries had focused more on educators, but co-author Katherine Schofield, said her experience working with school districts as an SFM loss prevention representative showed her there was a need to study injury rates among paraprofessionals and other non-licensed staff.
“These injuries are frequent and can be severe,” Schofield said. “Hopefully this is the foundation for further research into how changes to the physical school environment or policy changes can help reduce these types of injuries, as well as discussions in school districts about other ways to mitigate these risks.”
Researchers broke down student-related injuries into the following categories:
- Students acting out
- Breaking up fights
- Unintentional interactions like trips and falls
- Assisting with toileting, transfers and lifting
- Staff participating in physical play with students
While acting out occurred most frequently, accounting for 45.4 percent of the claims, play injuries were the most severe, with 17.7 percent of injuries resulting in more than three calendar days off work.
“Teachers and school staff can be seriously injured when they jump in and participate in sports or other physical activities with students,” said SFM Large Accounts Business Manager Craig Stroinski, one of the study’s co-authors. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen many of these types of claims, so we try to encourage school employees just to coach and instruct, not participate.”
Lifting, transfers, toileting and helping with other “daily life” needs also led to severe injuries, with 12.6 percent resulting in more than three calendar days off work. This suggests districts may want to think about safety with more of a “safe-patient handling” mindset, which could mean using lifts and other tools more commonly associated with healthcare facilities, Schofield said.
The study is based on workers’ compensation claim data from 138 independent school districts in Minnesota from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2015.