Safety Tip of the Week: Remember safety when using coffee makers

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about coffee maker safety.

Coffee cup being filled by glass coffee pot decanter filled with black coffeeBrookhaven National Laboratory Fire Safety Engineering Group reports that there have been several coffee pot “meltdowns” over the years. All were due to the coffee maker being left plugged in, the coffee evaporating out, and the over-temperature sensor failing to limit the hotplate’s temperature. Fortunately, none of these meltdowns has resulted in significant fires. It is important that if we have a coffee maker in our workspace that we check it often.

Here is a summary of rules for safe electric coffee maker operation:

  1. Electric coffee makers should be UL listed. If it is an older pot, check the
    Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see if it has a recall. When purchasing a new coffeemaker, choose a model with an automatic shutoff feature. It is very important for the safety of students and staff that all coffee makers have this shutoff feature to reduce the potential for fire, injury and property loss.
  2. Place the coffee maker on a noncombustible surface, and keep combustibles away from it (ex. draper, paper towels).
  3. Ensure coffee makers are turned off at the end of the work day (even those with automatic shutoffs). Assigning a person to unplug it from the electrical outlet is the best method of ensuring that it is off. Use of timers is not a guaranteed safety improvement. It is important to know that timers can turn equipment on after-hours, they do not adjust for holidays, and they are affected by power outages.
  4. Now is a good time to check the GFCI receptacle to ensure it works. If coffee makers cause the circuit breaker to trip, disconnect power loads on the circuit immediately. Have the power circuits examined by the maintenance department prior to using again.
  5. Many staff enjoy a cup of coffee periodically throughout the day. We need to all take responsibility for using this convenient piece of equipment by making sure it is in good working order and has the safety features identified above. In addition, it is a good work practice to unplug your coffee maker during the weekends and over holidays to reduce the potential for a fire hazard.

Safety Tip of the Week: Limited space in the classroom? Organization is key

Four binders filled with papers and stacked on a desk

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about how to create a safe classroom, even with limited space.

One of the biggest hazards to safety is clutter. You may find you need many items in your classrooms for activities and lessons but are not sure what to do with it all. Like last week’s blog on organizing your storage or workspace closet your room or workspace needs to be just as organized. Not only does clutter put a stop to the efficient flow of lessons and activities, but also it adds new opportunity for danger to any task. Having clutter could very easily hurt an employee or student. Having floors strewn with backpacks or binders can lead to injuries. Anything you can do to minimize this hazard and keep these areas clear will improve the overall safety, quality and efficiency of anyone working or learning in these areas.

Backpacks and binders

I know you have heard this before but utilizing bins and containers can transform a space from a cluttered mess into a streamlined learning area. Loose items such as backpacks, binders, coats and extra clothes can be put into bins or hung up in designated areas. This is not just good organization, but a good safety practice as well. Uncontained items can easily move into walking paths that may block things like safety equipment or exits.

This allows you and your students to move freely around the room without the potential from falling over items left on the floor or which have been kicked out into the aisle way.

Coats and clothing

Coats and extra clothing like umbrellas and extra P.E. clothes can also add to the clutter. Is there a place for students to safely place their items during class? Do they have to put them under their desk or beside their desk? Can they be stored on hangers on the wall nearby? It is important to think about how these items can affect the safety of the people in the room when planning storage options. Another thing to think about is if the OSD warehouse has storage closets or bins that are available to help store these items in your class.

Desks and chairs

Are desks and chairs arranged in the classroom so that you and your students can move freely between them without having to “squeeze” by? It is important that the chairs and tables are arranged in a fashion that best utilizes the space safely. Making sure the students tuck in their chairs when they leave the classroom helps create a safer space.

Let’s share!

Being organized is never easy and getting organized with 20 plus students can be even harder. Let’s help each other out! Do you have something organizational that has worked for you in your classroom or work space? If you have ideas that you can share with other staff please forward them to so that your organizational ideas can get out to others who may find them useful. I will compile shared ideas and send them out to all staff. This can help everyone find a way to organize his or her space for safety and efficiency.

Safety Tip of the Week: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month


This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the dangers of distracted driving.

The National Safety Council states that distracted driving is a public health issue that affects everyone. The latest statistics show motor vehicle fatalities are up 6% from 2015. More than 40,000 people were killed on our nation’s roadways last year, and distracted driving is a major contributor.

Each death is 100% preventable. From cell phones to dashboard infotainment systems to evolving voice command features –- all pose a threat to our safety. Just one second of your attention is all it takes to change a life forever.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April is a united effort to recognize and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving. Join the National Safety Council at Distracted Driving Awareness Month for more resources.

According to the Center for Disease Control, each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

What are the types of distraction?

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road.
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving.

Distracted driving activities

Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. Any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph.

Take the pledge!

Take the pledge to be an attentive driver at Distracted Driving Pledge at the National Safety Council Web page.

Safety Tip of the Week: April showers bring May flowers … and wet floors!

Close up of two feet jumped in a puddle of water

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about how to maintain your safety and the safety of coworkers and students when there are wet floors.

April showers may bring May flowers, but lots of rain or other liquid tracked inside from melting snow or mopped floors may also cause wet floors inside a school or support building.

Remember that wet floors, no matter what the reason, can be extremely dangerous. Wet floors are a major contributor to slips and falls where serious injuries are the result.

Review these wet floor safety tips to help maintain your safety and the safety of your coworkers and students:

Hazards of wet floors:

  1. Slips with rearward falls: Rearward falls produce injuries to the head, back and pelvis.
  2. Employees or students could fall into another person or onto a sharp object like a desk, table or filing cabinet creating a serious injury.
  3. Falls from a standing position can be fatal — for example, slipping on water and falling down stairs or hitting your head on the sidewalk.

Making safety a priority:

  1. Keep floors clean and dry.
  2. Place warning signs in wet areas.
  3. When mopping a hallway or entrance way, mop only one side at a time so employees and students won’t be forced to walk through the mopped area. Do not walk through a freshly mopped area.
  4. Block off areas with wet floors.
  5. Maintain good drainage.
  6. Clean up spills immediately.
  7. Wear footwear that limits slips on wet surfaces.
  8. Place fans to help dry the floor surface quickly if needed.
  9. Do not run on wet floors.

Ever wonder how to safely and efficiently mop a floor? Check out this Safe and Efficient Mopping Techniques handout by Solutions 1.

Wet floors are a hazard at work and at home, so take safety home with you!

Safety Tip of the Week: Organizing storage closets for safety

Poster that says Think Keep This Workplace Safe and Clean

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the importance of organizing storage closets for safety.

Organizing Storage Closets for Safety

Have you ever opened the door to a closet that cannot possibly hold one more thing or it will burst the door off its hinges?

Having everything on hand is important, but it can be overwhelming. There needs to be space for everything and a way to find it quickly. It is important to find the right kind of organizing system. We can improve safety and reduce injuries by properly organizing the storage rooms in the district. Consider the following important details when planning how to effectively arrange your classroom or workspace storage area.

Bin Storage

Utilizing storage bins and containers can transform the storage space from a cluttered mess into a streamlined storage area. Loose items such as hardware, office supplies, rolls of tapes and wire and small tools can be placed into bins. This is not just good organization, but a good safety practice as well. Small, uncontained items not kept in bins can easily fall in walking paths or cause clutter that may block things like safety equipment or exits. Therefore, always keep your smaller items in their proper containers.

Bins come in many different shapes and sizes to fit several different needs. Some bins are designed to be nested. Stacking bins vertically makes the most of the storage space. There are also shelf bins, which sit on the shelf open, allowing for easy access. These are a good choice for smaller items that are used frequently.


Shelves seem like a simple thing, but the wrong type or size shelving may cause unnecessary issues. Shelves need to accommodate the items that are being stored. Check the school district warehouse for possible surplus shelves that may suit your storage needs.


When thinking about storage, do not overlook labeling. The best storage system can fail if you do not know what is inside the container, or on the shelf. When organizing a storeroom, be sure to include all the pertinent information you need to find what you are looking for quickly. For example, product names and descriptions, and even pictures can save time and effort when trying to locate an item.

The best way to care for the things kept on hand is to store them in a safe, organized, easy-to-understand fashion. This can protect from damage, clutter and save time while selecting items. Most of all, it helps keep track what is available; consequently there is a better idea of what may be needed.

Safety Tip of the Week: Understanding seasonal allergies

Field of yellow flowers in bloom against a blue sky with white clouds

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about seasonal allergies.

Are you sneezing and coughing? Are your nose and eyes itchy and running? During certain times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. Tree, grass and weed pollen are common triggers of seasonal allergies.

In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer. Ragweed blooms in the late summer and fall. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early, and a rainy spring can promote plant growth and lead to an increase in mold and allergy symptoms.

The most common culprit for allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November.

Other plants that trigger allergies include:

  • Alder, Ash, Cedar and Cottonwood (Trees).
  • Bermuda, Rye and Timothy (Grass).
  • English Plantain, Lamb’s Quarters, and Redroot Pigweed (Weeds).

The following environmental factors also influence how bad your symptoms might be when the pollen counts are at their highest:

  • Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
  • Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
  • Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
  • Rain washes pollen away, but pollen counts can soar after rainfall.
  • On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
  • When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.

Avoiding allergy triggers can help with managing allergy symptoms. Call your doctor if you cannot avoid your allergy triggers and you need help managing them. Your doctor can refer you to an allergy specialist who will help identify your allergy triggers and create a suitable treatment plan for you.

Check the pollen count here.

Safety Tip of the Week: What is ‘Safe and Well’ for disaster recovery?

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the “Safe and Well” website.

Two women hugging

“Safe and Well” is a website designed to help make communication with loved ones easier during a disaster emergency. At this website, provided and sponsored by the American Red Cross, people can register and list themselves as “Safe and Well.” This resource helps people who may be concerned about a loved one during a disaster search for them. Once the person in the affected zone is registered, others can look them up and see if they are listed. In emergencies, telephone communications may not be available for many hours.

After a disaster, letting your family and friends know you are safe and well can bring them peace of mind. Learn more about this service.

I found that reading through the “help” section of the Safe and Well site was very helpful as a tutorial on what to do, how to register and how it can be used as a resource. There is also a page of frequently asked questions on the site to help explain what Safe and Well can and can’t do.

This resource is provided as a communication tool for people in an affected disaster area to get messages to loved one outside the area. Here is a list of the types of messages a person may be able to post for someone searching for them:

  • I am safe and well.
  • Family and I are safe and well.
  • Currently at a shelter.
  • Currently at home.
  • Currently at a friend/family member/neighbor’s house.
  • Currently at a hotel.
  • Will make phone calls when able.
  • Will make emails when able.
  • Will mail letter or post card when able.

It is important that the information that is requested be filled out in full and as accurately as possible since this is a search for a specific person. There are privacy regulations which limit the information about the listed person which can be publicly displayed on the website. Your loved ones will need to know your current address, phone number or email to search for you. In the event of an emergency, it is important that these types of resources are utilized.