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Safety Checklist Program for Schools

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2004-101
October 2003
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About the NIOSH Safety Checklist Program

Administrators, coordinators, and teachers know that their schools should comply with Federal or State Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. However, the task may seem overwhelming! This Safety Checklist Program can help these leaders bring their schools into compliance even when they have little safety and health experience, a busy schedule, and many unanswered questions.

Many States mandate that career-technical schools and institutions have safety and health programs in place, conduct hazard analyses for each career-technical program, do safety inspections and maintenance, and comply with safety and health and environmental regulations. In one easy-to-read source, the Safety Checklist Program provides information needed by schools to maintain safe classrooms, shops, and labs for teachers and students in career-technical education. This information can also be used by colleges and universities with occupational safety and health programs. The key to preventing injury and illness of school employees and students, and protecting the environment, is to establish a safety and health and environmental safety program.

Overview of the NIOSH Safety Checklist Program Manual

At first glance, the size of the Safety Checklist Program can seem overwhelming because of the large number of checklists needed to cover all regulations applicable to career-technical school settings. The program contains four chapters and several appendices. Each chapter builds on the preceding one to develop a workable plan for implementing a checklist program.

Chapter 1: Making Sense of Regulations gives background information concerning the regulatory agencies and regulations that are applicable to career-technical education.

Chapter 2: How to Establish an Effective Occupational Safety and Health and Environmental Safety Program outlines ways to ensure that an effective program is instituted and maintained.

Chapter 3: Implementing a Safety Checklist Program describes how to implement a checklist program in your school to identify hazards and determine regulatory compliance. Special indexes listing the checklists by name, career-technical program, and hazard will help select which checklists to use for each career-technical course or program. This chapter also provides a case study of a real school’s checklist program. Handouts are included for teacher training in the use of the checklists.

Chapter 4: Safety Checklists contains the checklists. (Listas para la autoinspección traducidas en español)

Appendices are provided as references for additional information or help.

Appendix A: Resource Agencies and Organizations gives descriptions and contact information for regulatory agencies and their respective regulations, professional organizations, and other occupational safety and health groups.

Appendix B: Using the Safety Checklist Program to Teach Students About Occupational Safety and Health suggests ways to use the checklists with students and includes additional educational resources.

Appendix C: Suggestions for Facilitating Inspections offers strategies for preparing for inspections conducted by regulatory agencies.

Appendix D: Emergency Procedures in Public Secondary Schools in the Event of a Chemical Spill describes planning regulations pertaining to emergency response.

Appendix E: Text of Selected Regulations provides links to OSHA regulations for construction and general industry regulations. Includes the actual text of most common Federal regulations in the workplace such as employee emergency plans and fire prevention plans, personal protective equipment and respirators, and medical and first aid.

Additional Resources
Large collection of safety related information provided to aid in creating a safety and health program. Includes links to databases and a wide variety of safety and health related material.

Acknowledges reviewers and contributors to the project. Provides background information about the origins of the Safe Schools Project.

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DISCLAIMER: Mention of any company or product does not constitute endorsement by NIOSH. In addition, the inclusion of links to particular items or Web sites is not intended to reflect endorsement by NIOSH, nor it is intended to endorse any views expressed or products or services offered by the author of the reference or the organization operating the server on which the reference is maintained.

This document is in the public domain and may be freely copied or reprinted.

How can the safety checklist program benefit schools?

The Safety Checklist Program can benefit schools by helping them do the following:

  • Improve the safety and health environment in school
  • Prevent injuries and illnesses among faculty and students
  • Increase occupational and safety and health and environmental safety awareness in school
  • Find out which Federal agencies regulate environmental safety and health in career-technical education programs
  • Identify regulations that may apply to public secondary school career-technical classrooms, shops, and labs (only the regulations that pertain to settings on school grounds are addressed)
  • Set up a checklist program that will help teachers do a safety and health hazard analysis for each classroom, shop, and lab (each checklist is designed to correspond to specific environmental, safety, and health regulations so teachers will also be able to determine whether they are in compliance)
  • Prepare for and participate in safety and health inspections
  • Help students learn about (1) the regulations pertinent to particular classrooms, shops, labs, processes, and activities and (2) the benefits of using checklists to determine compliance
  • Detect areas that need improvement in the school’s occupational safety and health and environmental health programs
  • Find sources for more information about regulations, technical assistance, and educational materials

The Safety Checklist Program was modeled after a manual developed in New Jersey entitled Safe Schools: A Health and Safety Check. This manual of checklists covers environmental regulations as well as safety and health regulations for secondary occupational and career orientation programs in New Jersey public schools. The Safe Schools manual is a successful, pilot-tested manual developed with the help of hundreds of individuals and supported by the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of School-to-Career and College Initiatives. The manual has been successfully used in New Jersey since 1992.

Commonly Asked Questions and Answers

Below are some commonly asked questions that participants raised during the development of the New Jersey Safe Schools Manual, on which the Safety Checklist Program is modeled:

Q: Do the checklists cover all potential hazards in my program?
A: The checklists were developed only for hazards covered by current Federal regulations. It was beyond the scope of this project to include checklists for unregulated environmental, safety, and health hazards. A career-technical program or course may still contain hazards, even if all of the checklists indicate good compliance. In Appendix A: (Resource Agencies and Organizations), an effort was made to locate resources for additional information about some of the hazards not covered by regulations.

Q: Are the checklists mandatory? Why should my school use them?
A: The completion of the checklists is not mandatory, but they are recommended as one tool that can greatly increase your school’s ability to maintain a classroom that is safe for teachers and students.

Q:Are the checklists all I need for a safety and health program at my school?
A: Self-inspection checklists are only one of many elements that need to be in place to protect people and the environment. Other essential elements include management commitment, employee and student training and involvement, student safety and health competency testing, established procedures to follow in an emergency, and a coordinated effort to eliminate any hazards that are found. Many of these topics are discussed in Chapter 2: How to Establish an Effective Occupational Safety and Health and Environmental Safety Program . Suggestions for involving students are covered in the Appendix B: Using the Safety Checklists to Teach Students About Occupational Safety and Health.

Q: Do the checklists deal with occupational safety and health and environmental safety regulations applicable to the whole school?
A: The checklists address only regulations that are directly related to career-technical classroom programs and courses. For example, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) regulations issued by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) covering management of asbestos-containing materials in schools are not addressed in this manual (although checklists and regulations pertaining to asbestos in brake linings are covered). These regulations are relevant to schools in general but are not directly related to career-technical programs and courses. On the other hand, the hazardous waste disposal and electrical checklists and others can be used in other programs and classrooms.

Q: Do the checklists cover cooperative education off school grounds?
A: The checklists are designed to cover environmental, safety, and health regulations that are potentially applicable to public career-technical classroom settings on school grounds. Non-school, non-classroom situations and locations, such as cooperative education programs at the worksite, were not specifically considered in the development of the checklists. However, many of the checklists and regulations apply to these other situations.

Q: Do the checklists cover science classes and adult career-technical education classes?
A: Although important safety and health regulations need to be considered in adult career-technical education classes and science classes, these checklists have not been developed with these target classes in mind. Many of the checklists, however, also apply to these areas.

Q: If I don’t identify any problems when I use the checklists to evaluate my classroom, will I be in compliance with all Federal, State, and municipal regulations?
A: State and municipal regulations were not included because they are different for each State and community. In addition, an effort was made to make the checklists as comprehensive as possible without being excessively long and cumbersome. As a result, the fine details of some regulations have been generalized or consolidated. In addition, constant changes in regulations, legitimate differences in interpretation, court decisions, and unanticipated circumstances prevent any self-inspection checklists from guaranteeing compliance with all regulations.