How to Control Hazards for Schools
School should be a safe and healthy learning environment, but there's a significant hazard to students that many educational facilities overlook—pollution. Young people are much more susceptible to illness from pollutants than adults, and with countless sources of pollution, you should recognize the gravity of the risk.
A pollution incident or contaminant release in a school could cause large-scale injury, illness or even death among students and teachers. In addition to potentially massive bodily harm lawsuits, the school would also be responsible for other legal fees and cleanup costs. Plus, a large enough incident could cause a school to close or gain a bad reputation in the local community. Identify sources of pollution and take steps to mitigate these risks to avoid costly and preventable mistakes.
Potential Pollution Sources
There are several common pollutants in educational environments. Sources include:
- Fumes from fresh paint, new carpeting, cleaning chemicals or pesticides
- Drinking water
- Mold conditions
- HVAC systems
- Caulk containing harmful particles
- Poor ventilation
- Chemicals that have been improperly disposed of
- Chemicals from art and science classrooms
- Older buildings that deteriorate or malfunction, causing air or water contamination
- Elevated lead levels in drinking water
- Water contaminated by sidewalk salt, pesticides or other chemicals
- Polluted air from nearby buildings or car emissions
School buses are also a source of pollution, as dangerous fumes can enter the enclosed space; however, educational facilities are generally only liable for this risk if they own and operate their own buses, though you should check your insurance coverage to be sure.
Risk Management Techniques
Be aware of possible pollutants and then work to mitigate or eliminate the hazard if possible. Here are some tips to get started:
- Develop, maintain and train staff on standard procedures for storing, handling and disposing of chemicals, pesticides and other hazardous materials.
- Have your buildings regularly inspected and repaired, including HVAC systems, ventilation, faucets and pipes.
- Use minimal amounts of fertilizer when possible.
- Keep lockers and buildings clean and dry to avoid attracting pests.
- Use sand on slippery surfaces instead of salt.
- Keep the ground free of litter.
- Use safer alternatives to hazardous materials when possible.
- Ensure bus companies under contract with your facility install appropriate filtering devices on tailpipes to avoid fume leaks into the interior of the bus.
- When planning new construction, take distance from industrial buildings and highways into consideration.
It’s crucial to purchase pollution insurance coverage to protect your students, staff and bottom line; standard policies exclude any pollution-related claims.
For more information on risk management for schools, contact a member of the ‘A’ Team!
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