Risk factors for occupational injuries in schools among educators and support staff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: School districts employ a large number of employees who work in educational (e.g., teachers) or other support roles, including educational assistants, custodians, food service, bus drivers, and community and recreation workers. District employees perform a wide array of job tasks and experience a wide spectrum of work-related risks and injuries. Methods: Workers’ compensation data were coupled with Minnesota Department of Education district employee denominator data to evaluate risk factors for injury and severity. Variables included district location and type, employee job classification, age, and gender. Rates of injury and rate ratios were calculated to measure comparative injury risk using negative binomial regression and 95% confidence internals. Incidence and frequency of injury cause, nature, and body part we calculated. Results: Saint Paul and Minneapolis metropolitan area (versus non-metro) districts had higher risk (RR = 1.35, 95%CI = 1.18–1.54) of employee injuries. All job classifications in support roles had increased risk of injury claims versus educators, however food service (RR = 5.14, 95%CI = 4.61–5.74), custodial (RR = 3.85, 95%CI = 3.41–4.34), and transportation (RR = 4.15, 95%CI = 3.38–5.10) exhibited the highest comparative risk to educators; significant risk of lost-time injury was also present in these workers. Males and females had similar risk of injury for all claims, however males had elevated risk of lost-time injury (RR = 1.46, 95%CI = 1.26–1.69) versus females. All age groups >41-years-old exhibited increased risk of injury as compared to 31–40-year-olds. The magnitude of lost-time injury risk also increased with age. Falls and slips (29.1%), strains/sprains/ruptures (45.2%), and upper extremities (31.3%) most frequent cause, nature, and body part injured, respectively. Conclusions: Characteristics of districts, schools, workers, and their jobs tasks and hazards vary. Many categories of support staff in schools have elevated risk of injury, including lost-time injury, as compared to educators. Practical Applications: Injury prevention in schools should be approached by targeting job classifications; high risk jobs can be prioritized for prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a Pilot Project Grant through the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (MCOHS) Education and Research Center, University of Minnesota (UMN), Subaward NIOSH P004312501. The content of this work is solely the responsibility of the authors, and does not necessarily represent the official views of the University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Minnesota, SFM, MCOHS, NIOSH, or the Minnesota Department of Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Age and gender
  • Education
  • Nonfatal injuries
  • Occupational safety and health
  • Workers’ compensation insurance

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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