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Safety and health

Below you’ll find information about your role as chapter leader in injury in the line of duty situations, school safety planning, environmental safety and health, and renovation and construction projects.

Injury in the line of duty

When a pedagogue is injured in an accident or other incident, the chapter leader should be made aware of the situation immediately. You can be of immeasurable help to the injured person both at the time of the injury and afterwards. Make sure you notify your district representative as soon as possible after an incident or accident has occurred.

The injury of a pedagogue — or any other staff member — while on duty is a serious matter. The failure of a pedagogue to follow the proper procedure may result in the denial of an injury in the line of duty claim that otherwise might be granted.

Unless prevented by his/her injuries, an injured pedagogue should immediately inform his/her chapter leader that an accident or other incident has taken place. The injured person should then see their personal physician as soon as possible.

The principal is required to report any incident occurring to students or school staff on or about school premises within 24 hours on the Online Occurrence Reporting System. The employee should, therefore, report an accident or incident to the principal immediately(within 24 hours) unless unable to do so because of the injury. If the employee is unable to report the injury, you— as chapter leader — can do it for him or her. Any injury should be reported even if it is not obvious or is seemingly inconsequential.

If a member is absent as the result of an accident or incident, an OP 198 form must be filed with the payroll secretary (check “line of duty” box). This is the form by which the member claims Injury in the Line of Duty status. This form indicates which days the member is (or will be) absent. The OP 198 form, the OP 200 (Execution of Assignment) form and the OP 407 (confidential medical) form (if needed) are available on the UFT website or can be requested from the payroll secretary.

When the member is injured as the result of an incident, the chapter leader must be certain a UFT Incident Report is filed. The principal must report the assault as soon as possible but within 24 hours to the Office of Legal Services and to the borough director of school safety. The principal must investigate and file a complete report as soon as possible. The full report shall be signed by the employee to acknowledge that he or she has seen the report and he or she may append a statement to such report.

  • Sample letter to member injured in the line of duty
    This standard letter from you to the member informs the member of the procedures that must be followed in the event of an injury in the line of duty; the responsibilities of the principal, the superintendent and the member; and other important information.
  • Checklist for chapter leaders handling an injury in the line of duty claim
    The injury of a staff member while on duty is a serious matter. The failure of a member to follow the proper procedure may result in the denial of an injury in the line of duty claim that otherwise might be granted. This checklist lists the forms that the member must file, when each must be filed, who gets the form and when, and problems and solutions. Use it to keep track of an individual member’s case.

School safety planning

Principals are responsible for ensuring that every school establishes a school safety committee that meets monthly. At the minimum, the members of the committee should include:

  • The principal
  • The principals of any other schools, programs and academies operating at the site or their designees
  • The UFT chapter leader
  • The president of the parent association or his/her designee
  • The school safety agent(s) or his/her/their designee(s)
  • The NYPD precinct commanding officer or his/her designee
  • The school's custodial engineer or his/her designee

All parties listed above must “sign off” on the school safety plan. Use our school safety committee checklist to help your committee run smoothly.

Safety plan

The safety plan shell is the template for your school’s safety plan and is reviewed, updated and submitted annually. Your school plan should cover both normal operations at your site and emergency procedures. Use our school safety plan checklist to help as you prepare your safety plan. Once a draft of the plan is completed by the Safety Committee, it must be submitted to the superintendent and borough safety administrator (BSA) who, upon approval, will submit the draft to the NYPD precinct commanding officer for final approval. Unsatisfactory safety plans will be returned to the superintendent and BSA for modifications in consultation with the school Safety Committee and then resubmitted to the commanding officer.

Chapter Leaders should ensure that regular safety meetings take place and should use their Executive Consultation Committee to address safety-related violations and issues. Chapter leaders can then address issues at monthly safety meetings and communicate outcomes to members and colleagues with a union memo or a jointly agreed-upon safety committee memo. The contract, laws and regulations are on your side. Five to 10 minutes of every faculty conference should be dedicated to safety issues and/or procedures as outlined in the school safety plan.

These include:

  • Crisis response
  • Student removal procedures
  • Intruder alert procedures
  • Medical emergency response
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Bomb scares
  • Fire drills

Safety complaints and violations of the safety plan

There are several steps that chapter leaders should follow, in order, in the event of a safety complaint or violation of the school's safety plan:

  1. Attempt to informally resolve a safety complaint or safety plan violation with the principal.
  2. Use the Step I Complaint Form for Violation of School Safety Plan. You should receive a response within 24 hours.
  3. If the situation remains unresolved, request a written response from the principal and ask your UFT district representative to file a Step 2 Mediation Request, to be scheduled within 48 hours.
  4. If you are unsatisfied with the results of the mediation, you may make an appeal for an expedited arbitration process.

Remember to describe in as much detail as possible the violation of the school safety plan in question at every step above.

File a Step 1 safety/Article 10B complaint

Once your school’s safety plan spells out specific steps or procedures, you can hold the administration accountable for fulfilling its responsibilities and you can enforce provisions of the safety plan through a fast-track grievance.

Environmental safety and health

The DOE is required, under our contract and federal and state regulations, to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards, one that is safe, secure and well maintained. It is required to provide training to protect members against hazards that they are likely to encounter, including but not limited to dealing with blood that may carry disease, spilled cleaning products and damaged insulation that my contain asbestos. Those who work in science laboratories and career and technical education shops also must receive training on hazards specific to their facilities.

To ensure that the DOE adheres to our contract and the law, the union’s Safety and Health Committee has experts in each borough to respond to environmental health and safety complaints or concerns. You as chapter leader should contact this committee when you are made aware of environmental hazards at your work site. These concerns can include, but are not limited to, asbestos, lead paint, mold, rodents, bed bugs, indoor air quality, construction and renovation, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in lighting fixtures and caulk, communicable diseases including bloodborne pathogens and ergonomic hazards like lifting and transferring students with limited mobility.

  • Light Fixtures with PCBs: What You Should Know
    Many UFT members have expressed concerns about the possible exposure to PCBs in fluorescent light fixtures in schools. The information on this page will help you respond to questions from your chapter’s members and to address a possible PCB problem in your school.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens: A Guide for Chapter Leaders
    After persistent pressure and legal threats from the UFT, the Department of Education in 2009 finally complied with the requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard that calls for employers to take specific measures to prevent or reduce worker exposure to blood and other infectious body fluids in the workplace. In September 2009, the DOE implemented a Bloodborne Pathogen Compliance Tool, an interactive database used to track the training and vaccination status of at-risk employees in each school citywide and to make the DOE Exposure Control Plan site-specific for each school. The UFT Safety and Health Department developed this guide to help chapter leaders understand the tool.

Renovation and construction projects

The union relies on the chapter leader to make sure that renovation and construction projects in schools are handled properly. Construction and renovation projects are primarily conducted by the School Construction Authority. The DOE’s Division of School Facilities also conducts repair, renovation and construction projects.

Before the project begins, there must be a protocol meeting with you, the chapter leader, the principal, the custodian and other parties as needed.

Be familiar with the work going on in the building and make sure the UFT health and safety protocols are being followed. If there is a School Construction Authority (SCA) project in your school, review the UFT Protocol Checklist for SCA Construction Projects in Schools, which includes a section on PCB light-fixture removal projects. If there is a DOE Division of School Facilities (DSF) project in your school, review the UFT/Division of School Facilities Pre-Construction Protocol Checklist. For light fixture projects conducted by DSF or the New York Power Authority (NYPA), review the UFT/DSF/NYPA Pre-Construction Protocol Checklist. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your UFT borough health and safety representative.

If you find damaged or disturbed building materials such as plaster or floor tiles, assume these materials contain potentially hazardous materials until otherwise notified and contact your UFT borough health and safety representative.

Bloodborne pathogens

Under persistent pressure and legal threats from the UFT, the Department of Education in 2009 finally complied with the requirements of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard that calls for employers to take specific measures to prevent or reduce worker exposure to blood and other infectious body fluids in the workplace. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard applies to all school employees considered at-risk because their job brings them into routine contact with blood and body fluids that can cause diseases such as HIV/AIDs, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

In September 2009, the DOE implemented a Bloodborne Pathogen Compliance Tool, an interactive database used to track the training and vaccination status of at-risk employees in each school citywide and to make the DOE Exposure Control Plan site-specific for each school.

The UFT Safety and Health Department developed A Bloodborne Pathogens Guide to help chapter leaders better understand the DOE’s Bloodborne Pathogens Compliance Tool.