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A Beginners Guide to Reviewing EHS Issues at your school

(The following was developed by the Burlington (Massachusetts) Board of Health and identifies 25 important items that should be reviewed and considered when initiating an Environmental, Health and Safety assessment.)

1. Provide your staff with basic chemical hygiene and right to know training prior to initiating your review. This training should include instructions on how to review a material safety data sheet as well as identifying common chemical hazards. The assistance and support of the staff will make your effort easier.

2. Prepare an inventory of all the chemicals maintained by each school and each department within each school system. Remember that chemicals are present in all schools. This record should include the following information: chemical name, name of the manufacturer, where the material is stored (room number, building), container size,  hazards associated with the material, date completed, and the name of the individual completing the inventory.

3. Inspect and verify the accuracy of the chemical inventories prepared. Check all schools, all rooms, shelves, closets, cabinets, boxes, every nook and cranny.

4. Acquire a copy of the material safety data sheet for each item present in your chemical inventory.

5. Review the inventory for obvious chemical overstocking or locally unacceptable chemical hazards. Seek the input of the local health officials and fire department. (Note: A general list of some hazardous materials commonly considered a safety risk for school use is provided in the Chemical Management section of the case study.)

6. Have the staff review the inventory to determine if there are any materials that are no longer used.

7. Arrange for the disposal of the materials identified in items 5 and 6.

8. Review how the chemicals are stored. Centralized and secured storage is the best. Unsecured storage in the classroom may enable a prankster to tamper with or steal materials. Also, seek the input of the local fire department to ensure the materials are protected in the event of a fire.

9. You may also wish to discuss or establish a policy which outlines which chemicals are not acceptable to your school district.

10. Review how hazardous waste is both generated and disposed. Hazardous waste manifests should be available.

11. Prepare guidance informing your staff what hazardous waste is and how to handle it. A centralized collection and disposal effort should be established.

12. Train your staff in the handling, labeling and disposal of hazardous waste.

13. Review maintenance and calibration records for all potential indoor pollution sources (e.g. kilns, chemical hoods, and spray booths). This should occur on an annual or biannual basis.

14. Smoke test all potential indoor pollution sources to test for leaks and failures. Remember to coordinate with the fire department.

15. Attempt to identify potential indoor emissions or pollutants in the school (e.g. procedures which result in the release of chemical odors or nuisance dusts into the school - spray painting, chemical reactions involving volatile materials, ceramics, etc.).

16. Review safety issues associated with the curriculum. Are harmful gases or dusts generated? Are corrosive or flammable materials used? Should personal protective equipment such as gloves or safety glasses be used?

17. Inspect the classrooms, laboratories, and shop areas to determine if protective equipment is available and if the equipment is being routinely used.

18. Have OSHA compliant eyewash units been provided in all areas where corrosive materials are routinely stored and used? Are eyewashes present where other hazards exist?

19. Are the eyewash units inspected and tested on a weekly basis?

20. Have deluge showers been provided in areas where significant fire hazards exist?

21. Are the showers being inspected and tested on a monthly basis?

22. Have all the fire extinguishers been inspected and tested within the past year?

23. Have the natural gas jets located in the classrooms been locked out and rendered inoperative when not in use?

24. Has the school established any contingency plans for handling chemical spills that may occur at the school? Identify the types of spills that could occur and the spill response supplies needed (e.g. mercury, acid/base, flammable liquid, oils, etc.).

25. Establish a spill plan and train your staff accordingly.

Prepared by Todd H. Dresser
Environmental Engineer
(formerly of) Burlington Board of Health
29 Center Street Burlington, MA 01803

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