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Who is In Charge of Workplace Safety in NYC Schools?

We think of schools as places where children congregate, and the New York City Department of Education works hard to make the learning environment safe and secure. But what of the adults who are charged with teaching, overseeing and supporting educational programs? Who keeps them safe in the workplace?

It turns out that there is an agency specifically charged with keeping employees who work in the New York City public schools safe and secure. The Office of Occupational Safety and Health (OOSH) was created in 1990. Its charge was to provide the Department of Education with expertise needed to keep the school system in compliance with all government health and safety regulations. Under the law, each employer (school or program) has the responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy environment by:

  • Educating managers, supervisors and employees about the requirements of the law and associated regulations
  • Helping departments comply with federal, state and city health and safety rules
  • Assessing safety and health hazards in the workplace
  • Developing training programs required by the New York State Department of Labor, Public Employee Safety and Heal (PESH)

The state requires the city to provide training and assistance with workplace safety concerns such as bloodborne pathogens and laboratory safety.

A recent lab fire and the severe burning of a student underscore the dangers faced by teachers and students alike in our city's school system. Providing an adequate education entails risks, and both teachers and students must be protected.

Source: NYC Department of Education, Employee Safety: Occupational Health and Safety (OOSH), 2014.