HEALTHY SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS
With aging public schools, postponement of preventive maintenance, ongoing renovations, and planned construction, health and safety dangers often threaten students, teachers, and other school personnel. Poor indoor air quality, mold, asbestos, construction dust, and vermin are just some of these hazards.
WEC’s Healthy Schools program helps teachers and other school staff prevent workplace and environmental school hazards. We work primarily with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and its local associations through technical consultation (such as through school inspections by WEC industrial hygienists), publications, and educational programs. In some situations, we also work with parent and community groups organizing around these issues.
- WEC helped prevent hazards in dozens of public schools through providing technical consultation and training to the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). For example, in Keansburg and Phillipsburg, WEC met with local health and safety committees to address illnesses among staff that taught in mold-contaminated trailers and helped plan strategies to demand that the administrations remediate the mold. WEC also provided technical assistance to the Pinelands Education Association’s health and safety committee. Sewer gases and copier exhaust fumes had sickened staff. The committee grieved lost pay and sick time caused by these unhealthy conditions. This grievance went to arbitration, where staff got back most of their sick time.
- WEC has written numerous articles for the monthly NJEA Reporter, which reaches more than 200,000 teachers, school nurses, and other staff. WEC also wrote much of the 350-page 2007 NJEA Health and Safety Manual, provided training at NJEA workshops and leadership conferences, and produced PowerPoint presentations for leaders on health and safety resources, and health and safety committees.
- WEC has pressed state agencies to better protect children, staff, and building trade workers from contaminated sites and hazards during school construction — including poor indoor air quality — through better coordination and accountability of six state agencies, including the Schools Development Authority. This process led to creation of the Healthy School Facility Environments website, a gateway for resources to help parents, students, staff, administrators, architects, and contractors. WEC also wrote a Model School District Policies for Protection of Staff and Students during Construction and Renovation.
- Model School District Policies for Protection of Staff and Students During School ConstructionA 2007 report prepared by the New Jersey Work Environment Council with input from the Healthy Schools Ad Hoc Committee containing recommendations for school districts on maintenance of good indoor air quality and a safe learning environment during school construction.
- Government Agencies That Can be Helpful on School Health and Safety ConcernsA list of government agencies that school staff, parents, and older students may wish to contact to obtain information, advice, and publications.
- NJ Safe Schools ManualThe Safe Schools Manual includes 82 self-inspection checklists covering environmental, health, and safety regulations for secondary occupational and career orientation programs in New Jersey public schools.
- Your Rights Under the New Jersey Public Employees’ Occupational Safety and Health ActAn overview of your rights.
- Good Things to Do During a PEOSH Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) InspectionA checklist of what to do during an inspection.
- Be Aware of Artificial Turf HazardsA fact sheet on the health risks that may accompany synthetic turf.
- Healthy Schools in New Jersey: Preventing Hazards to Students, School Employees, and Construction WorkersA report from the NJ Work Environment Council issued February 25, 2002.
- Children at Risk: Toxic Chemicals Near Schools in Paterson and Clifton, New JerseyA report prepared by the NJ Work Environment Council issued May 30, 2000.
- NJ Education Association Health and SafetyAccess to NJEA health and safety resources on specific school hazards, many of them prepared with WEC.
- Healthy School Facility EnvironmentsAccess to the online resources of seven New Jersey state agencies and two federal agencies on issues such as indoor air quality, mold, hazardous substances, and construction dust and noise.
- NJ Department of Environmental Protection School Facilities IssuesProvides convenient access to department, state, and federal guidance regarding environmental regulations directed towards school facilities management and operations, environmental and human health concerns, indoor and outdoor environmental quality, and natural resource management.
- EPA Healthy School Environment ResourcesHealthy School Environment Resources is a gateway to online resources to help facility managers, school administrators, architects, design engineers, school nurses, parents, teachers and staff to address environmental health issues in schools.
- National Clearinghouse for Educational FacilitiesThe National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities provides information on planning, designing, funding, building, improving, and maintaining safe, healthy, high performance schools.
- EPA Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Tools for SchoolsThe IAQ Tools for Schools Program is a comprehensive resource to help maintain a healthy environment in school buildings by identifying, correcting, and preventing IAQ problems.
- EPA Indoor Air Quality, Design Tools for SchoolsIAQ Design Tools for Schools provides detailed guidance as well as links to other information to help design new schools as well as repair, renovate, and maintain existing facilities.
- Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids ClearinghouseGuides, posters, and reports on a wide variety of healthy school issues.
- National Education Association, Health Information Network (HIN)NEA HIN’s mission is to improve health, safety, and student achievement by providing school employees with health information through parent, community, public, and private partnerships.
- American Federation of TeachersThis site contains information on school environments, including fact sheets on indoor air quality, asbestos, and mold, as well as a “Healthy Schools” newsletter offering guidelines to parents and staff about environmental problems in schools, providing the latest research, and school success stories.
What You Can Do
If you have a health or safety concern and are an NJEA member, contact a local association officer. NJEA has arranged for technical assistance from WEC at no charge to the local association.
Requests must be made through your local UniServ Representative.