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HealthySEAT News

April 2008 Update to Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety

CPSC has updated its Handbook for Public Playground Safety, which contains guidance for childcare personnel, school officials, designers, inspectors, parents and school groups on building safer playgrounds. The handbook provides specifications for creating safer play zones and avoiding hazards with equipment such as sharp points, entrapments, and entanglements. HealthySEAT users should refer to the updated guidance. NOTE: The link included within HealthySEAT on each Assessment Standard screen under the Playground Area/Topic is still correct. Handbook for Public Playground Safety (http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/325.pdf) exiting EPA

Ohio HealthySEAT Now Available to Help Ohio Schools Comply with Jarod's Law

The Ohio Department of Health has posted a customized version of HealthySEAT on the Ohio Department of Health web site to help support school districts and local health departments in their implementation of new regulations issued under Jarod's Law. This bill requires that sanitarians from local health departments conduct annual inspections of the school buildings and associated grounds contained within their jurisdictions to identify health and safety concerns. Ohio school districts, county health departments and others can download the HealthySEAT database containing the Jarod's Law regulations as well as the Ohio School Environmental Health and Safety Inspection Guidance Manual from the Ohio Department of Health web site. exiting EPA

LAUSD Receives EPA 2007 Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award

The Los Angeles Unified School District Office of Environmental Health and Safety received the 2007 Excellence Award for Promoting Healthy School Environments at a reception on October 11, 2007 in Washington, DC honoring eleven Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award winners. LAUSD was recognized for its Safe School Inspection Program, which has resulted in significant improvements across LAUSD's 900 schools and which served as the model for EPA's HealthySEAT school facility assessment software. Read a case study of the LAUSD Safe School Inspection Program.

New Hampshire First to Post State Version of HealthySEAT On-line

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) has developed a version of HealthySEAT with specific information customized for New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire HealthySEAT exiting EPA database file is designed to be used as a starting point for New Hampshire school districts to further customize HealthySEAT for use in their own districts. The project is a partnership of DES, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the New Hampshire Department of Education, health departments in both Manchester and Nashua, and the New Hampshire Partnership for High Performance Schools. With a grant from EPA Region 1, New Hampshire has completed the customization process, posted the database file and instructions on-line, and has conducted day-long trainings for 16 schools or school districts in the State. For more information, contact Rick Rumba, rrumba@des.state.nh.us, (603) 271-3911.

Mississippi HealthySEAT Grant

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality received an Indoor Environments grant award of $28,900 to integrate the environmental health and safety requirements and best practices from Mississippi's Education, Environmental and Health Programs into Healthy SEAT. The grant also includes piloting HealthySEAT with the Cleveland School District and incorporate lessons learned and successes realized into a training program which will be conducted for other school districts. Implementation will help school districts in Mississippi better evaluate, manage and maintain their school buildings for key environmental, safety and health issues and prevent health problems due to poor indoor air quality and other environmental hazards. Contact: Khairy Abu-Salah, P2 Coordinator, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Khairy_Abu-Salah@deq.state.ms.us, (601) 961-5284.

Salt Lake City School District Using HealthySEAT

One of the original HealthySEAT pilot sites, Salt Lake City has customized the tool and trained its staff to use HealthySEAT to conduct and manage assessments in its 36 school facilities. Salt Lake City also anticipates using HealthySEAT to comply with the Utah state- required annual risk management safety inspection of school facilities. Contact: Gregg Smith, gregg.smith@slc.k12.ut.us

Katy Independent School District (Texas)

In conjunction with their indoor air quality (IAQ) walkthrough and incident reports, Katy Independent School District is using HealthySEAT to record their IAQ assessments and develop an IAQ profile for each school and facility. While there are environmental issues that are common to all schools and are addressed in the same manner, each school can have its own unique problems that are not seen in other schools or facilities. HealthySEAT is helping Katy document these unique issues in order to respond and resolve them in a timely and cost effective manner. Future construction of schools and facilities can benefit by reviewing the IAQ profiles. Contact: Oscar Gonzalez, OscarMGonzalez@KATYISD.ORG

New York State's Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Services (BOCES)

"We are using the EPA's HealthySEAT tool to better assist our 102 schools buildings to help insure safe and healthful learning environments. Our component school district buildings have the same problems as everyone else. Aging buildings with deferred maintenance, newer buildings built using new technologies which are difficult to maintain, and misinformation about environmental conditions and their causes. Since we are using EPA guidance documents and authoritative resources it is clear that the information is impartial and developed with integrity. We are integrating the EPA database information with our state's requirements to have a comprehensive environmental system. Our local taxpayers did not have to shell out large sums of money to pay for consultants to reinvent the wheel but are using a FREE tested system which has been field tested around the country in different climates. The end users doing beta testing have actually been listened to by the EPA and improvements have been and will continue to be made to this tool. This is a great service to school districts and the taxpayers."
Art Lange- Coordinator of Health & Safety/Risk Manager
Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Services, Goshen, New York

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LAUSD at a Glance

Case Study


Turning Crisis into Opportunity: Building a Safe and Healthy Learning Community

School officials need to take a much broader view of the role that health and safety conditions play in the learning environment, according to Angelo J. Bellomo, the Director of the Office of Environmental Health & Safety at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). "Improvements in public education require more than excellent teachers, motivated students, and good academic programs. Performance is dependant on conditions that allow teachers to teach and students to learn. Facility health and safety considerations are critical to academic success.” Bellomo speaks from experience. In the 1990s, LAUSD faced severe health, safety, and performance challenges similar to those facing schools nationwide, including:

  • Waning public confidence due to poor academic performance and evidence of unsafe facilities.
  • Wide-ranging health and safety concerns, such as peeling lead paint, crumbling asbestos, unsafe chemical storage, and contaminated soils.
  • Poor facility management protocols that created health and safety risks, such as asbestos removal projects in occupied classrooms and pesticide application during student drop-off times.
  • Ever-increasing health concerns, including teachers claiming that their miscarriages were caused by vapor intrusion at a school facility built on top of a landfill.
  • LAUSD's problems were not merely environmental, but systemic. District safety officials had no real oversight authority; their warnings were often glossed over, and there were no institutional requirements to alert teachers, staff, parents, or students to impending or ongoing facilities risks. The situation was ripe for a crisis. As reports of health, safety, and environmental problems escalated, several schools and numerous classrooms were closed, and a barrage of criticism from parent groups, community advocates and the media put the District on the defensive. LAUSD responded by creating a highly effective, groundbreaking approach to school facility management.

    LAUSD's Safe School Inspection Program

    In 2001, LAUSD established the Safe School Inspection Program to carry out the routine assessment of all schools, identify potential risks, and ensure that risks are quickly and appropriately managed.

    The program had three main objectives:

  • Identify Applicable Health & Safety Standards: Document and track all regulatory requirements, district policies, and standards of best practice.
  • Assess Compliance: Conduct baseline and periodic assessments,identify required improvements, and track health and safety over time.
  • Take Corrective Action to Achieve Compliance: Direct action to mitigate unsafe conditions, ensure compliance, improve the safe school planning process, and modify management standards as appropriate.
  • Over time, LAUSD streamlined the program by deploying an online software system that manages its Safe School Inspection Checklist, Guidebook, Scorecard, and Corrective Action Notices. Together, these components comprise a standard protocol for assessing facilities and identifying corrective actions on 18 compliance and voluntary measures— acoustical quality, air quality, asbestos management, campus security, chemical safety, electrical safety, facilities maintenance, fire/life safety, infectious disease control, lead management, pest management, sports and playground, and waste management. The extent of compliance with these measures comprise an "Overall Compliance Rating" (OCR) LAUSD uses to rate and monitor every facility.

    LAUSD trained designated personnel on key matters covered in the Guidebook, such as how to properly and safely handle hazardous waste, asbestos or lead, and instituted an annual facility assessment program throughout the District. Staff learned to identify issues during assessments and to document problems, rank them by severity (according to the Guidebook’s ranking scheme), and track associated corrective actions. Soon, reports and compliance scorecards were available online for every LAUSD facility making it easy to inform the public and to keep a dispersed District staff in close communication about facility health and safety.

    The Results:

  • In less than three years, 80% of schools with “Poor” OCRs moved to the “Fair” or “Good” categories.
  • LAUSD's Academic Performance Index (API) score—a statewide performance measure—rose by 9% from 2002 to 2006.
  • Researchers documented a link between facility OCR and API scores ( LAUSD School Facilities and Academic Performance by Buckley, J., Schneider, M., and Shang, Y.).
  • Employee absenteeism costs dropped by $20 million from 2003 to 2006.
  • 80% of corrective actions did not require significant capital expenditures.
  • LAUSD has garnered extensive positive attention from national, regional, state, and local organizations for their Safe School Inspection Program.

    “Providing this opportunity and level of review inspires confidence in LAUSD’s commitment to health and safety at 900 school sites, ensuring problems are identified and flagged for any corrections needed.” -- Hamid Saebfar, Chief, School Property Evaluation & Cleanup Division, California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)
    “This is a magnificent effort, which clearly marks the LA school system as the national leader in this area.” -- Dr. Howard Frumpkin, Director, National Center for Environmental Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
    “. . . [T]his extraordinary effort at transparency will definitely serve to improve health and safety at LAUSD schools . . .” -- Andrea M. Hricko, Director, Community Outreach and Education, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

    Why LAUSD's Program Works

    The Safe School Inspection Program was designed to fend off potential problems by proactively identifying and managing challenges, facility by facility, and tracking the results in a fully transparent manner. The approach worked, in large part, because it addressed three major challenges:

  • Clearly defining roles and responsibilities through employee training and the new facility assessment protocols.
  • Improving communication, oversight, and follow-up through a streamlined and continuous assessment and compliance process.
  • Achieving transparency and improving internal and external communication by making assessment and management information for each school readily available.
  • According to Bellomo, "our experience in LAUSD is relevant anywhere. Every district wants streamlined operations, cost reductions, improved health and safety, productivity and performance gains, and increased community trust. Our Safe School Inspection Program helped us achieve all that and more. If I were starting from scratch today, I would jump at the chance to use HealthySEAT to build my district-wide assessment program.

    Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT): Your Solution

    LAUSD's success inspired EPA to create HealthySEAT, a unique software tool available at no-cost to help school districts evaluate and manage their facilities for key environmental, safety, and health issues. HealthySEAT makes it easy for school districts to conduct voluntary facility assessments and to track and manage information on environmental, health, and safety conditions at every facility.

    HealthySEAT provides for the complete management of a district-wide assessment program, including generating letters to individual schools (pre-and post assessment visit), tracking the status of facility conditions and corrective actions facility-by-facility, and creating and generating reports. School districts can easily select the conditions to track from a pre-populated menu of requirements and guidance options and generate customized inspection checklists based on individual district conditions and priorities. HealthySEAT can help a district assess a virtually unlimited number of facility conditions, including non-environmental issues from bathroom cleanliness to emergency response plans. HealthySEAT is also designed for easy tailoring to individual state and local environmental, health, and safety requirements.

    Districts do not need to purchase new software to use HealthySEAT. Click here to download the complete software package. Gain the dividends of LAUSD's approach by using software designed specifically for school districts that will work in any district, of any size, in any climate.

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