OSHA equivalent for public schools

My wife is a ceramics teacher in a Mississippi public high school. She has to bake the clay in a 208 volt single phase kiln. Currently there’s several water leaks in the roof so rain water is dripping/running directly onto the kiln and sometimes the floor where she stands to operate it is completely wet.

I work in an industrial setting and if this happened at my job I would apply Lockout Tagout until they fixed the leak. This circuit isn’t on a GFCI or anything so it seems especially dangerous.

The roof repairs are in perpetual limbo of waiting for the school board to approve. I found out that OSHA doesn’t apply to public schools in Mississippi but I’m having trouble finding some equivalent agency.

I guess my questions are:

  1. Am I overreacting about this? It seems like a shock and fire hazard.

  2. If we needed to escalate this, what agency would be in charge of these things?

Is she in a union? Where I work, if my employer does not act on a safety issue, the union is the next call I make.

The closest equivalent would be the local electrical inspector. In a jiffy, even the building inspector, but the electrical inspector for sure.

The city or town or county, whichever is the governing body, must have written codes. Report it to them as a code violation. And call your representative on whatever legislative body that runs the town to make sure it gets followed up. They spend more time handling affairs like this than on actually making laws.

Nitpick: Don’t call, email. Should something ever happen, it’s better to have proof that you’ve been in communication with the various inspectors/mayor/alderman etc.

But, yeah, I quick email to the electrical inspector (or even building inspector or fire department), I’d think would get the ball rolling.

If students could be any where near the Kiln the the education code will cover safety. Normally that will make OSHA look easy.

Yeah it’s in an unlocked ventilated closet kind of area connected to her classroom. Students have access to it, and I think are allowed to use it under supervision.

My speculation is that as soon as you raise a stink about this situation, the school district will shut down the kiln until the issue can be resolved and that may be months or years from now. Is your ceramics teacher wife OK with that?

It’s probably for the best anyway. The other option would be to see if they can move it to another part of the room.
What about another room altogether? Can they move her classroom to another room or even just the kiln?

My bigger fear is that, and I know it’s not legal, they’ll take it out on her.

Call and then follow up with other contacts. Having it in writing is always good. Whether phone or email is the best first step depends on the individual. My sense is that, even in today’s world, it’s best if you can talk directly to a person about a situation and then send a summary of what was said and what actions were to be taken. YMMV.

I think the fire marshal would be the one to involve. In North Carolina, he or she, inspects at least twice a year. Among the other things he looks at is electrical outlets and all the electrical breakers and panels. I have seen him inspect kilns.

The roof has been leaking since October 8th with very little response from the administration.

She did some digging online and found contact info for the supervisor of the school’s maintenance staff. She emailed him directly today and posed it as a safety issue (which it is).

Roofing company will be on site first thing Monday morning.

Thanks for the info and tips guys. You were right, once it’s documented in writing I guess they finally felt obligated to do something.


This is close enough to legal advice that I think we’d better move it over to IMHO.

I was surprised to hear that OSHA does not have jurisdiction over local Governments. Here is the first hit from Google:

OSHA doesn’t have jurisdiction over local Governments. The law says that all such control is exercised by the state subject to Dept of Labor OK. I didn’t know that. But I assume that means there is a state version of OSHA to complain to at the Mississippi state dept of health. That might be worth a shot.

As for the OP, the teacher should talk to the principal and say that since the kiln appears dangerous, there won’t be any more fired pieces from her class. Once a couple of parents find out their kid’s beautiful work isn’t being handled properly, board members will hear about it and the administration will take action. At least here, the teacher wouldn’t be the one to get in trouble. The principal OTOH…

In states that have a state OSHA plan, the regulations may apply to public employees. Some federally administered states, the state may have a plan that applies to public employees. I don’t know the situation in Mississippi. In any case, OSHA will only apply to employees and not students. The immediate solution may be to tell the principal that it is unsafe to use. Then don’t use it.