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R&R Insurance Blog

Paul Lessila

Recent Posts

Top Ten Tips for International Travel with Students

Posted by Paul Lessila

School-Travel-OverseasTraveling overseas with students can be the experience of a lifetime, however, it can also lead to headaches when unexpected events occur. Kate Goggin, author and former Community Liaison Office Coordinator, recently wrote about the most important tips to keep in mind when planning an international trip for students. To learn more about the the 10 items below, click here to read the full article.


1. Review Health Insurance Policies, and Buy Travel and Medevac Insurance

2. Visit the Doctor at Least Six Weeks Before Departure

3. Research the Destination Country

4. Keep Copies of Passport in Separate Location – Sign it and Fill in the Emergency Information

5. Register Online with the U.S. Embassy in the Country You Will Visit

6. Assemble U.S. and Overseas Phone Numbers Before Travel

7. Ensure at Least Two Alternate Forms of Communication and Financial Access

8. Learn Basic Language Phrases and Think Globally but Act Locally for Safety Contacts

9. Mental Health Matters – Know the Phases of Culture Shock

10. Sign a Student Conduct Contract and Get Oriented


For more information about how to better prepare for a school trip, or for additional considerations, contact a Knowledge Broker at R&R Insurance.

Topics: Schools, travel, school, school trip

Wrestling Injury Leads to Heightened Regulations

Posted by Paul Lessila

Wrestling MatA tragic accident at a North Carolina high school wrestling meet in 2014 led to heightened regulations on mat thickness and placement. When no-1 ranked wrestler, Luke Hampton, attempted to drive his opponent backward he wound up headfirst in a padded wall - leaving him completely paralyzed from the neck down.


In the weeks following the accident, tournament officials, school superintendents, and coaches refused to complete until mats were positioned correctly. According to the 2011–12 edition of the federation’s handbook, Rule 2-1(5) states: “The mat area includes the wrestling mat and a space of at least 10 feet surrounding the mat, as well as the team benches and scorer’s table where facilities permit.”


Today, 12 inches of padding is recommended with it extending at least 8 feet beyond the area of activity. In order to ensure you’re meeting regulations, visit the ASTM Standards 1292 – an excellent guide for mats and protective surfacing. Suppliers are also a reliable source for recommended protection.


What is ASTM International?

Established in 1898 originally as the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards developing organizations in the world. ASTM is a not-for-profit organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of international voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. ASTM’s members, including producers, users, and consumers from more than 150 countries, develop technical documents that are a basis for manufacturing, management, procurement, codes and regulations.


Contact our Knowledge Brokers for additional information.

Topics: Safety, Schools, Real Life Examples

7 Simple Steps to Minimize Slips and Falls In Schools

Posted by Paul Lessila

Each weekday morning there are more than 3.1 million teachers and 49.8 million students rushing into public schools. (National Center for Education Statistics)

With the sheer volume of traffic in and out of schools each morning, revising safety protocols to minimize potential risks, like slips and falls, must be a priority.

You likely strive to continually reinforce your safety policy and communicate the importance of creating a culture of safety and prevention within your school. If you are looking for a way to reduce your costs while maintaining a high standard of safety, you might consider a policy revision. Starting small, consider these seven simple steps you can take in your school to minimize the occurrence of slip and fall accidents.

1. Entry Carpets To Reduce Moisture

As teachers and students travel into the school their shoes bring the outdoors in, be it snow, rain, dirt or muck. During wet or wintery months, it is important that your school entryways have carpets that extend at least six feet to ensure shoes are losing accumulated moisture. This simple measure will keep moisture contained to one manageable area and minimize the slip and fall risk throughout adjacent hallways and classrooms.

2. Outdoor Maintenance Schedule

Establishing a schedule to regularly maintain outdoor walkways, sidewalks and doorways is one way to minimize risk. Coordinating regular intervals for shoveling and salting, and for moisture and debris removal is an easy method to prevent slips and falls.

3. Outdoor Hazard Inspection

It is important to inspect your outdoor school property regularly and keep an eye out for potential hazards. For example, take a few minutes to identify pavement cracks or heaving and if you are unable to repair them right away, spray paint these hazards a bright color to ensure safety for all school visitors.

4. Indoor Maintenance

Whether it is a spill in the art room or a mess in the cafeteria, always ensure that your custodial staff is prepared. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Establish communication protocols to alert custodial staff of a hazard so they can arrive quickly on the scene.
  • Provide custodial staff with the necessary equipment and barricades to keep teachers and students away from known hazards.
  • Ensure custodial staff has ample cleaning and hazard removal supplies on hand.

5. Indoor Hazard Inspection

Much like outdoor inspection, you should consider doing indoor safety inspections regularly, too. Educate all staff members on problems they should look for and solutions to help them prevent accidents. Simple things include identifying extension cords hazards and bundling cords out of traffic areas, and looking out for areas where moisture tends to accumulate, increasing the risk for slips and falls.

6. Storage and Hanging Policies

As a school, you are taught to think first and foremost about the safety and well being of your students. It is however, just as important to consider the safety of your staff members. Classroom storage is an important consideration because improper storage methods can lead to injury and falls. Consider implementing a policy on proper classroom storage and hanging and educate your teaching staff on the do’s and don’ts of storage.

7. Proper Footwear

While it might be difficult to advocate for proper footwear at school to fashion savvy staff and students, but it is a must. Designer shoes are not made for walking in inclement weather and will not bode well for personal safety. Encourage your students and staff to wear sensible, weather-safe shoes into the building and to change their shoes once they are safety indoors. Consider offering your staff members a shoe storage bag to carry their fashionable shoes to and from school and to use as a storage bag for their sensible shoes during the day.

What other simple safety solutions would you recommend to prevent slips and falls? Does your school have best practices?

At R&R Insurance, we are committed to helping schools minimize their risk, offering solutions and resources to help build safe environments for staff and students alike.

Interested in learning how R&R Insurance can improve safety in your school and reduce your costs? Request our free safety resources and case studies or schedule a call with one of our School Group Experts, today.
Free LGPIF Webinar

Topics: Safety, Loss Prevention, Risk Management, Schools, Risk Management Center, Business Insurance, School safety

4 Qualities School Administrators & Lab Science Teachers Should Find In A Safety & Liability Coverage Consultant

Posted by Paul Lessila

WI school administrators’ & teachers’ safety & liability concerns involve carrying the responsibility of ensuring students, faculty and community are covered – especially in high risk environments like laboratory science. Schools are faced with unique risks in regard to keeping their environments a safe place for students to learn and grow. Providing the best education and classroom experience should be an educator’s #1 priority and there are resources that allow you to make that the primary focus. Here are 4 qualities that you should look for when evaluating and choosing a safety & liability coverage consultant for your district, school, group or project.


School district risk and claims management requires a specialized expertise in all areas of a school’s operations function. Finding the right consultant for your group should include a representative with experience in education coverages as well as provide you with access to valuable resources that will help you make knowledgeable decisions. Your provider representative should have familiarity with your school setting, faculty and educators that are working in situations that may be considered high risk. Are you in a situation where you see your consultant only once a year or at renewal time? If so, it’s likely they do not have a strong understanding of the risks that are facing your individual students, faculty and property on a daily basis. Choose a consultant that has experience working in the same type of district, school or group setting as you will be working in together. They should also come with strong recommendations and be known for their solid relationships with the administrators, teachers and students they serve.


With experience, comes knowledge. Look for a consultant that has the breadth of knowledge to give expert advice, recommendations and lead you to resources that will provide value to the entire administration and staff. Safety and insurance coverages can be intimidating and complex at times. Having a reliable consultant that acts as an approachable extension of your team could save your district, school or group time and money. Working with a provider that goes above and beyond to create educational opportunities for you and your team will be an invaluable addition to the partnership.


Look for a provider with a mission that aligns with your district or school’s focus on providing the most successful educational experience for your students and the community. Your partner should be someone you trust to put the lives of the people who fall under your policy first as well as do the right things – even when no one is looking. Here’s an example of how Jeff Gross, Director of Business Services with the school district of Menomonee Falls is working with his insurance provider to put the students and community first.

Extensive Options

Your district, school or group faces special needs and issues day-to-day and you want to align with a provider that has a strong understanding of the risk management needs of academic institutions. These coverage needs are constantly evolving. Consultants should offer flexible and comprehensive coverages that protect your assets so your primary focus can be on education. Competitive pricing is of course, is also a factor along with specifically designed school enhancement coverages.

As an administrator or educator, the safety and security of your students, faculty and school environment are at the forefront of responsibilities faced everyday. Finding a safety and liability consultant you can trust will allow you to focus on what’s most important – education. What risks are of biggest concern for your district or classroom and how are you working with your consultant to minimize these risks?

Download the FREE Lab Safety Kit

Topics: Safety, Risk Management, Schools, Paul Lessila, Risk Management Center, amanda gilman, science labs, Resource Center, Lab Safety Guide, School science lab safety, FLINN Lab Safety, Laboratory Safety Institute, Business Insurance, chemical hygiene officer, menomonee falls high school, Client Testimonial Videos, the rainbow experiment, chemistry lab danger

Wisconsin Science Teachers Keep Students Safe In The Lab With 5 Essential Actions

Posted by Paul Lessila

Safety and chemical storage deficiencies are widespread in American schools. In the wake of recent stories about students across the country becoming injured in laboratory incidents, Milwaukee teachers are taking steps to ensure safety regulations are exceeded, colleagues are kept informed and students are safe.

Many regulations are put into place and resources, checklists and tools available for laboratory science teachers through Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Laboratory safety has been at the forefront in many industries but slower to be put into practice in the school setting. The video below shows how Menomonee Fall’s Chemistry Teacher, Amanda Gilman, is taking steps to protect the students and faculty at their school.

Teachers have a responsibility to lead by example and enforce all safety rules and practices. The need to educate students in the sciences, especially chemistry, presents challenges to educators that include safety concerns for students and faculty. Here are 5 critical factors all laboratory science teachers need to take seriously:

1. Take care of the lab & equipment.

How often are you conducting inspections of safety and first aid equipment? Be sure it aligns with what your administration requires. Record dates of when inspections are performed and include your initials on inspection tags. If you find a hazardous or potentially hazardous condition, notify administration and follow through on the status. This is a given, but defective equipment should never be used.

2. Keep good records & maintain chemicals.

It is important to update the chemical inventory at least annually and provide a copy of the list to local emergency responders (fire dept. etc). Consider the following when performing an inventory inspection:

  • Chemicals should not be stored with food or drink
  • Keep chemicals in their original containers
  • Make sure everything is labeled
  • Be sure to dispose of chemicals properly. Check labels and always follow instructions
  • Keep records of all staff safety trainings and any laboratory incidents that may occur

3. Know safety & emergency procedures.

Educate students on the location and use of all safety and emergency equipment prior to laboratory activity. Provide students with safety procedure instructions to follow in the event of an emergency / accident. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers in a designated location. Additionally, know the location of and how to use cut-off switches & valves for water, gas and electricity in the laboratory. Practice safety and evacuation drills on a regular basis.

4. Prep for laboratory activities.

Before conducting lab activities, evaluate the educational value vs. the potential risk. Have a strong understanding of the hazards of the materials and equipment being used. Conduct a thorough inspection of all equipment before any activity. Provide instructions to students before performing any work in the lab and follow up with lesson plan notes with details of any occurrences that took place during the experiment.

5. Model good laboratory conduct.

Being a good role model in the laboratory is key to providing an important example for students to follow while preparing for and conducting experiments. Be sure all students wear the necessary protective safety equipment and enforce all safety rules, at all times. Equally as important, never leave students unsupervised or allow unauthorized visitors to enter the lab.

Milwaukee-area middle school and high school science teachers are taking a stand against the upsurge in serious laboratory incidents that have occurred across the country in recent years due to experiments using highly explosive materials. In partnership with R&R Insurance based in Waukesha, area teachers have created a toolkit and on-demand webinar that will help educate other teachers and faculty on safety regulations and practices in schools, classrooms and laboratories.

The toolkit consists of some of the tips mentioned in this post:

  • chemical storage and utilization checklists
  • disposal tips
  • a guide to hazardous experimentation and avoiding accidents,
  • video & webinar trainings
  • and risk management resources and tools

What steps are you taking to ensure the safety of students and faculty in your school and laboratory?

Download the FREE Lab Safety Kit

Topics: Safety, Risk Management, Schools, Paul Lessila, Risk Management Center, amanda gilman, science labs, Resource Center, Lab Safety Guide, School science lab safety, FLINN Lab Safety, Laboratory Safety Institute, Business Insurance, chemical hygiene officer, menomonee falls high school, Client Testimonial Videos, the rainbow experiment, chemistry lab danger

The Dangers of Science Lab Experiments | Safety in Chemistry Labs

Posted by Paul Lessila

In early January 2014, two New York high school students suffered severe burns from a plume of fire that shot across their high school chemistry lab during an experiment called "The Rainbow Experiment". The dangers of highly explosive materials in high school science labs and this unfortunate recent event is a perfect segway to highlight the efforts of Amanda Gilman, Chemistry Teacher at Menomonee Falls High School in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and Chemical Hygiene Officer for the district.

Amanda's procedures in the classroom, inventory control, and safety precautions have been recognized as some of the best safety precautions used in schools today. Her unique inventory control methods help keep students and faculty safe. In this quick interview, Amanda discusses some of the techniques she uses in her chemistry lab, as well as the knowledge she gains through R&R Insurance - the provider of insurance for the Menomonee Falls School District and dozens of other schools throughout Wisconsin.



SDS Track Screen ShotR&R offers an online tool to manage all information for MSDS (SDS) - Material Safety Data Sheet (Safety Data Sheet). Schools and businesses looking for an easy-to-use, online resource for the management of chemicals in their facilities should contact a knowledgebroker.

For more information about R&R's Risk Management Center and the extensive online risk management tools we offer through this portal, contact knowledgebroker Andy Scherwinski.

More on the traumatic science experiment that severely burned 2 high school students in New York on January 2, 2014.


Download the FREE Lab Safety Kit


Additional Science Lab Resources:
The Laboratory Safety Institute
Lab Safety Guide: 40 Suggestions Poster

Topics: Safety, Schools, Paul Lessila, Risk Management Center, amanda gilman, science labs, Resource Center, Lab Safety Guide, School science lab safety, FLINN Lab Safety, Laboratory Safety Institute, Business Insurance, chemical hygiene officer, menomonee falls high school, the rainbow experiment, chemistry lab danger

The Importance of Preventing Distracted Driving: Safety and the Law

Posted by Paul Lessila

RRI-DistDriv-Cling-CircleFrom 2009 to 2011, the amount of text messages sent has increased by nearly 50% and is still on the rise today. Over 1/3 of drivers have sent or received text messages while driving; 18% of people admit to doing this regularly. However, distracted driving is not just texting while driving - it also includes eating, talking on the phone, reading, and anything else that takes your concentration off the road.

Driving with all of life's distraction is a growing epidemic. I've put together a few short videos with additional information and statistics - take a look and I welcome any suggestions on how we can get the word out to help prevent distracted driving.

R&R Insurance is doing their part to ensure our roads are safer. Learn more about the "Stop the Distraction" campaign and to request your free materials at www.myknowledgebroker.com/stopit.

Topics: Schools, Business Insurance