14 classroom assistants hurt on job in September
The Halifax Regional School Board is trying to figure out why so many educational program assistants are getting injured on the job.
These assistants help students with special needs. In September, 14 of them reported an on-duty injury, including three who required time off.
That's a high number, according to their union leader.
"It would certainly be on a monthly basis we get reports here to the union office," said Ian Wilson, with CUPE Local 5047.
Educational program assistants, or EPAs, help students with special needs in a number of ways, such as moving around and eating. They can also carry out some medical procedures.
Wilson started working as an educational program assistant 20 years ago. He's familiar with the list of injuries.
"Some of the more prominent injuries would be the soft-tissue damage, straining of the muscles, bruising, that sort of thing," he said.
Wilson said there are likely many reasons for the increase in claims. For example, workers know they can refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
"I think also that some of the behaviours that we're seeing in the schools and certain cases the behaviours may be lot more aggressive than what we're traditionally used to," he said.
The school board is aware of the injury claims.
"We're co-operating with the workers' compensation board in terms of putting a committee together, and their first step is to survey the employees and everyone involved in what the EPAs do and then determine the gaps," said Mike Christie, director of human resources at the HRSB.
A report on occupational health and safety matters will be presented to the board in the new year.
Christie said he expects to see recommendations in February or March on how to cut down on workplace injuries.