School crossing guards are essential to the safety of all school children. It is a demanding and dangerous job, and many crossing guards suffer catastrophic injuries and even death in the course of duty. The most common non-fatal crossing guard injuries are fractures, sprains, and strains due to slip and fall accidents.
In New Jersey, crossing guards are employed and trained by the local police department. A statewide survey of police chiefs concluded that 50 percent of crossing guard injuries resulted from slip and fall accidents, 40 percent involved guards being struck by a vehicle, and 10 percent received other injuries, including strains, sprains, and dog bites. The survey further revealed:
- Students and crossing guards are equally vulnerable to an accident and injuries while on the crosswalk.
- The average number of crossing guards’ missed workdays due to an accident almost always exceeded the total for all local government employees combined between 1993 and 2006.
- In 2010, there were 5,390 crossing guards employed in New Jersey, the fourth highest number in the United States.
Crossing guard training and use of personal protective equipment could reduce workplace injuries.
Children, parents, and school personnel depend on crossing guards to keep school children safe as they travel to and from school. Crossing guards reassure parents, serve as a good role model for the children, as well as teach students about important safety skills. The following are workplace safety recommendations for crossing guards.
Establish a Search Pattern
When crossing the street, use the following pattern to ensure you and the students cross safely without encountering a vehicle. Teach the children to do the same:
- Stop at the curb, even if you do not see cars approaching.
- Look to your left, then to the right, and left one more time to note the traffic and where they are located.
- If you are at an intersection of two or more streets, look over your shoulder as well to note if cars will be approaching and turning behind you.
- When physically crossing the street, maintain a consistent pace, do not run, and continue to scan your surroundings.
Methods of Signaling Traffic
As a crossing guard, you should be equipped with a handheld stop sign, which is the best method of signaling drivers that it is safe to drive through or to stop. Some jurisdictions permit hand signals in conjunction with the signs.
Wear white or orange gloves to attract drivers’ attention, and raise your arm forward toward oncoming traffic. Hold your arm steady when it is parallel to the ground, and raise your hand at the wrist, palm up in the universal hand motion for “stop,” facing the traffic.
As a crossing guard, it is your responsibility to tell students when to cross the street, utilizing gaps in traffic to move them safely. Guidelines to consider:
- Post yourself near the curb on the side of the street children are approaching.
- Have the students stop and gather a safe distance from the curb, and instruct them to wait for you to signal they may safely cross.
- Have students arriving by bicycle, skateboard, or scooters to “walk their wheels” to cross the street as pedestrians.
- Following the previously mentioned search pattern, keep a constant monitor on the flow of traffic and wait for a gap.
- Facing the closest oncoming vehicle, raise the stop sign. and walk to the center of the crosswalk. If there are multiple lanes, alert them one lane at a time.
- Turn to face approaching traffic on the opposite side, displaying the stop sign.
- Once you have lanes of traffic stopped, face the children and instruct them to cross while using the left-right-left search pattern.
- Encourage students to move quickly and remain in the center of the street until all children have safely crossed and cleared the street.
- Continue holding the stop sign for traffic as you return to the curb, lowering it when you reach the curb.
- Repeat these steps for each new group of arriving students.
If you are assigned to a crosswalk with a signal, work with school administrators to test the time limit between signal changes to determine whether you have sufficient time to stand in the street as the children cross. If not, request additional crossing guard to add additional time to the signal, or escort students to the other side and wait through the following cycle to return to the starting side. Guidelines to consider:
- When the “walk” signal illuminates, hold the stop sign high and move to the center of the street or the crosswalk line closest to the intersection and face oncoming traffic.
- Instruct the students to cross the street, using the left-right-left and over-the-shoulder search pattern while crossing.
- If the signal changes to the “do not walk” alert, tell the students to continue crossing to the other side while you remain in the street still holding the stop sign.
- Once all the children have crossed, keep holding the stop sign up as you return to the curb, lowering it once you have safely crossed.
Working with Other Guards
In higher population areas, students may be faced with crossing multiple lanes of traffic. When there are more than four lanes, at least two crossing guards should cover them together. Guidelines to consider in addition to all previous guidelines:
- One of you should control one direction of traffic while the other guard controls the opposite lanes.
- For signaling purposes, the guard operating on the side of the street with approaching children leads and makes crossing decisions. The second guard follows the other’s lead.
- Do not have students cross when the “do not walk” signal illuminates for cars making left turns, and instruct cars making a right turn to yield before continuing.
- In school zones located at a major intersection that requires students cross two or more crosswalks, more than two guards may be necessary.
If There Is an Emergency
When cars and pedestrians must travel in the same vicinity, there is always a risk of a dangerous accident and life-threatening injuries. You should do the following:
- Keep calm and follow the emergency procedures required in your area. It is also important to maintain a calm demeaner in front of the students to reassure them and reduce panic.
- When an accident happens, stop crossing the children immediately, and gather them away from the street on the side you are closest to at the time.
- Remain with the students to keep them together and from wandering away from the scene.
- Ask adults at the scene to call 911 to report the accident and request first responders.
- Never move the injured person unless they are more at serious risk and imminent danger of being struck by a vehicle.
- Request a nearby driver to position their vehicle to block the injured person from traffic, making sure they relocate enough of a distance that if struck, it would not endanger first responders.
- Notify your supervisor as soon as you are reasonably able after the students have been moved to safety.
- If children are gathered on the school side of the street, request school officials come to escort them from the scene to inside the building. If they are on the opposite side, keep them gathered at a safe distance when emergency vehicles arrive.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Advocate for Crossing Guards Injured While on the Job
If you are a crossing guard and sustained injuries from an accident while on duty, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. One of our skilled Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law can help you with your claim. Call us today at 856-414-0010 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.