Edward Dragan, ED.D., Standard of Care Consultant ::::
Whenever children are around equipment of any kind – a slide on a playground, a table saw in shop class, folding tables in a cafeteria, or a pair of scissors in art class – teachers, camp counselors, program administrators, as well as custodians and bus drivers, have a duty to ensure that equipment is always in top condition, maintained regularly, or taken out of service when in need of repair. A teacher’s job description may include a requirement to inspect and maintain equipment in the classroom on a regular basis. This requirement becomes a professional standard of care in that school – and one that can be referred to in litigation.
In a case involving a student and table saw, the woodshop teacher knew that a bolt was missing from the saw blade guard. Rather than referring to the manufacturer’s requirements for a replacement, he rooted through a drawer in the shop, found a bolt he assumed would hold the guard to the saw table, and replaced it. Later, when a student was using the saw, the bolt came loose, the guard jammed, and the student lost three fingers. After thousands of dollars’ worth of surgery, the student filed a law suit against the school and the teacher.