When someone starts out as an instrumental music teacher, they often think they are “just giving lessons.” Many music teachers don’t realize that they are actually starting a new business venture.
It is not just teaching music. It’s a source of income. Protecting it and the people earning it is as vital as protecting the students being taught.
Risk assessment is an important step that you should not skip.
Think about when new parents are preparing to welcome their first child at home. They go through their house and figure out:
The medicines that need to be put up high
Which cupboards need child locks
The outlets that need covering
Any furniture that needs padding
And this is all well before the baby can walk and get into any trouble! It’s all about being prepared.
Risk assessment is much like baby-proofing a home. You are proofing your studio.
Below are some common issues for all music studios, with some areas that are more applicable to different countries than others.
Look at where you teach and try to see it with a critical eye.
This applies to both a personal studio and a school.
See if you can identify any hazards or areas where problems might arise. Remember to evaluate the outside as well as the inside.
Some common examples are:
Cords, furniture, or other objects in the studio that students may fall and trip over.
Electrical outlets that can cause a shock or even start a fire.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) from playing instruments or using computers
Food or environmental sensitivities such as dust, mold, or fragrance
Violence towards the instructor or towards other students
Parking areas that might need to be better lit or have salt or sand put down in the winter
Health and Covid 19
First Aid Kit
Once you have identified any problematic areas in your work environment, the next step is to mitigate any potential issues that may occur moving forward.
If you can reduce or eliminate future problems, you can save yourself a lot of future headaches.
Consider how severe the hazard is, how likely it is to occur, and how people may be affected by it.
Can you get rid of the problem altogether?Can cords be eliminated? Can the furniture be rearranged? Can you use cleaners that don’t have heavy fragrances?
If you can’t eliminate it, can you reduce the severity of any possible injury?Can you put safety mats down in case of a fall? What about taping down cords or removing the problematic furniture from a room? Can you clean the studio far enough in advance that any chemical smells or perfumes dissipate by the time the clients arrive?
Could you teach your students and other teachers (if there are any) how to properly handle items in the studio? This could help lessen any one-time or repetitive use injuries. For example, you could teach students how to lift and carry instruments properly.
Can you protect your people from the problem?Maybe you can’t eliminate loud sounds or music, but you can provide earplugs or headphones. You can ensure that salt is available in the winter to de-ice walkways and a shady area in hotter climates for students if they wait outside.
Do you have plans in place for emergency situations? And are you confident you can effectively carry them out when necessary?Depending on where you live, this could be a fire plan, tornado plan, hurricane/typhoon plan, or other extreme events.
What about if a student becomes violent against an individual?Is there a plan in place to effectively and competently deal with that situation in a professional manner?
COVID-19: How can you eliminate the spread of the virus?Do you have a plan or policy in place to deal with illness? Do you move the lesson online or completely cancel? What about if a student shows up ill? Do you have masks and cleaning solutions on hand?
Is there a basic first aid kit on hand to deal with any minor bumps and bruises in a timely manner?
These country-specific issues may be worth considering:
Bushfires: Australia is prone to bushfires. Music teachers who live in or near bushfire-prone areas may need to have a plan in place in the event of a fire, such as having a fire escape route and knowing where to go to safety.
Fire: The United Kingdom has a relatively high rate of fire compared to other developed countries. If you teach in a studio that is located in an older building, you may need to take additional steps to protect yourself and your students from fire, such as installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Terrorism: The United Kingdom has been a target of terrorist attacks in the past. If you teach in a studio that is located in a major city, you may need to take additional steps to protect yourself and your students from terrorism, such as being aware of your surroundings and having a plan in place in the event of an attack.
Gun violence: The United States has a relatively high rate of gun violence compared to other developed countries. If you teach in a studio that is located in a high-crime area, you may need to take additional steps to protect yourself and your students from gun violence, such as being aware of your surroundings and having a plan in place in the event of a shooting.
Additional Risk Management Resources
While some of the below issues are country-specific, looking at them and gaining ideas from other perspectives might be beneficial.
In addition to all of the areas mentioned above, part of risk assessment and mitigation is carrying insurance.
Types of insurance that music instructors in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States may need:
General liability insurance (a.k.a. Public Liability Insurance of PLI). This type of insurance covers the instructor’s legal liability if a student is injured during a lesson or recital. It can also cover damage to the instructor’s property or equipment caused by a student.
Professional liability insurance (a.k.a. Professional Indemnity). This covers the instructor’s legal liability in case a student sues them for negligence, such as if the instructor fails to teach a student how to use an instrument properly and the student is injured as a result.
Business interruption insurance This covers the instructor’s financial losses if they cannot work due to a covered event, such as a fire or flood.
Workers’ compensation insurance This covers the instructor’s medical expenses and lost wages if they are injured on the job.
Employers’ liability insurance. This covers the instructor’s legal liability in case a student is injured on the job.
Income Protection. Although often hard to get for sole traders and self-owned businesses, this is worth considering for protection of your income in the case of injury or illness that stops you from working.
How To Know The Insurance You Need
The specific types of insurance that a music instructor needs will vary depending on their individual circumstances.
For example, an instructor who teaches lessons in their home may not need business interruption insurance, but an instructor who teaches lessons at a studio may need it.
It is important to speak with an insurance agent to get a customized quote for the types of insurance that are right for you.
The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) in the United States has some great questions that you can ask your insurance agent when trying to decide what kind of insurance/coverage you need:
Does the liability insurance included in my homeowner’s insurance provide coverage if a student sues me because he or she develops a physical problem from practicing?
What kind of insurance do I need to protect me from that type of incident?
Who is responsible if one student injures another student during a lesson?
Who is responsible if a student is hurt entering or leaving my studio, but it does not occur on my property?
Who is responsible if the neighbor’s dog bites my student?
Will it cost a lot to increase my homeowner’s insurance to cover accidents and dog bites?
What is professional liability insurance and why do I need it?
What kind of insurance do I need to protect me against sexual misconduct allegations?
Additional Insurance Resources
Check your local state music teacher associations. There is one in each state, and they have resources to help you find and choose insurance. Some may even offer a group insurance policy.
Independent Society of Musicians (UK): The ISM offers advice and discounts on a range of insurance products for music teachers, including public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, and employers’ liability insurance.
Musicians’ Union (UK): The MU also offers insurance products for music teachers, including public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, and music instrument insurance.
Music Teachers National Association (MTNA): The MTNA offers a variety of insurance products for music teachers, including general liability, professional liability insurance, and business interruption insurance.
You can also check with your state and local divisions of the MTNA to see if they have other resources.
While these are not fun topics, they help ensure that you can safely have fun in your studio.
Make sure that you are consistently reviewing and reassessing your risk.
Any time you make changes, add new equipment, or purchase new furniture for your studio, you should evaluate it with a critical eye.
By staying on top of this you can provide a safe and healthy environment for everyone involved.
Finally, it’s always good to consult a professional. Find people in your area that can help you navigate these issues effectively.
This article is featured in the TopMusic Certification program. To learn more about being a TopMusic Certified teacher, click here.
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