safety strategies

Risk Management Summer Safety Strategies

Annette Satterly, Risk Management Associate, CPSI and  Harry Cheff, Risk Management Associate, CPSI

With the school year coming to an end and summer maintenance gearing up, there are a number of projects that Districts across the state will need to tackle.  When focusing on ways to make the district and workplace safer, MSGIA invites custodial, maintenance, and grounds personnel to consider the following topics. 


Playground Maintenance:

In most districts, the community accesses the school playground over the course of the summer.  Fill is thus a top safety priority.  Here, then, are the fall-height and minimum depth-of fill requirements:


National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)



(Loose-Fill Materials)

Protects to

Fall Height (feet)



Shredded/Recycled Rubber










Pea Gravel





Wood Mulch (non-CCA





Wood Chips



(*) Shredded/recycled rubber loose-fill surfacing does not compact in the same manner as other loose-fill materials.  However, be sure to maintain a constant depth, as displacement of fill may occur.

Additional precautions staff should take when making the playgrounds safe include:

  • Ensuring all clasps, clamps, and brackets are tightened and not showing wear. A dime should not be able to fit in the opening.
  • Analyzing the number of threads showing on bolts that point up or out from the equipment. If there are more than two, it is a hazard that needs to be remedied.
  • Documenting regular inspections of the equipment, and, if available, scheduling inspections with a CPSI.

Ladder Safety:

The most important rule in ladder safety is making sure you use the correct ladder for the job.

  • Ensure that the ladder is positioned against a support that can assist with the stability of the ladder and that will not assist in the motion of the ladder. Do not set up a ladder against a support that is thinner than the ladder, such as a flagpole, power pole, etc.
  • When using a straight ladder to access a roof, ensure that there is enough above the edge of the roof to assist in getting on and off the ladder (refer to the picture above).
  • All ladders should be tied off to assist with stabilization and to ensure the ladder does not fall out from under the user.
  • When working at a height of 6 feet or higher, the employee is also required to be tied off. This will likely mean that the employee is using a harness.

Chemical Maintenance

During summer cleaning, many chemicals are used. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s directions as well as the standards regulating chemical use.  All employees need to be trained on the safe use of chemicals.  Many districts buy materials in bulk and put the material in smaller containers for easier use. If this is the practice, the smaller containers must have labels that contain the following information:

  • Product identifier or name of the product or chemical.
  • A Signal Word. It will be either “Danger” or “Warning” and will be found on the original label.
  • A Hazardous and Precautionary Statement along the lines of, “This item causes eye irritation; use goggles when applying this chemical.” This type of warning will also be on the original label.
  • A Pictogram, commonly displayed with a white background and a red border.
  • Contact information for the chemical manufacture, including name, address, and phone number.

Training can be conducted by a qualified person, such as someone on staff, including the head of maintenance (if this is within their comfort zone). MSGIA is available to assist with this training. There are 2 great courses available through Safe Schools. Also, the chemical sales crew may help with this training.

Stripping and Waxing Gyms, Hallways, Classrooms, and other Floors

Stripping and waxing floors is commonly a time-consuming task and one wherein injuries are filed annually to MSGIA. In fact, the incidence rate is so high that many districts now contract the refinishing of the gym floors.  As Risk Managers, we highly encourage this practice of contracting out the work if it can be scheduled and fits in the budget. By doing so, you pass the liability and lessen the chance of your own staff sustaining injury. 

In event that contracting with outside services is not an option, please, consider these safety precautions when undertaking this type of maintenance work:

  • Ensure that items are off the floor and that plugs and windows may be accessed, etc.
  • Use dust masks and be extra careful when working with asbestos-containing floor tile. When asbestos is present, use a wet process and do not go through the wax to the floor tile. (Contact Annette Satterly if this is a concern.)
  • Ensure that there is adequate ventilation when refinishing floors.
  • Wear non-slip shoes when refinishing floors, as they help reduce slips and. Alternately, workers can wear “wax socks” or “booties” over their own shoes. That said, all such aids have all been met with mixed reviews, and thus the best precaution is to SLOW DOWN when doing this type of work.
  • In terms of process and approach, start from the corner furthest from the door and work toward the exit of the room. (Although it goes without saying, it’s worth noting that employees who use machines for this kind of work must be properly and thoroughly trained.)
  • After applying the new finish/wax to the floors, block off the area to ensure that the material sets/dries properly and to prevent anyone from walking on the floors before they are cured. 

As always, please contact us with questions, to set up training and inspections and for assistance with setting up and accessing the Safe Schools tool. You may reach us at:

Annette Satterly – 1-406-457-4410 or

Harry Cheff – 1-406-457-5315 or

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