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Safety Checklist Program for Schools

October 2003
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2004-101
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Training Handouts

Commonly Asked Questions About the Checklists

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions that were raised by participants during the development of the checklists.

Q: Are the checklists mandatory? Why should I use them?
Completion of the checklists is not mandatory. However, they are recommended as one tool that can greatly increase your ability to maintain a classroom that is safe for you and your students and help ensure compliance with applicable regulations.

Q: How much time will it take to complete these checklists?
That will vary with the each shop, classroom, or lab. The number of relevant checklists will range from 5 to 40, depending on the hazards associated with your program. You may want to dedicate 15-30 minutes a week to working on the checklists over the course of several weeks, a month, or a school year.

Q: Do I need to answer “yes” to every question on all the checklists that apply to my program? Are there some questions or regulations that are more important than others? How do I know which ones?
The answer is not easy. Each regulating agency will tell you that all issues are important or they wouldn’t be regulated. Establishing priorities depends on the judgement of the school or district and will be based on the following considerations: (1) protecting the environment and the safety and health of staff and students; (2) protecting against fines and violations; and (3) “political” priorities or “hot issues.” However, the law takes precedence over any decisions made by the school.

Q: Will I be held liable if violations are found?
If you have made appropriate attempts to address the problem in your classroom, your liability will be minimized. These attempts normally include sending a copy of the checklist with recommendations or questions to the appropriate people in your school or district; taking actions needed to protect the safety and health of students, staff, and the environment; and documenting in writing all actions taken.

Q: What if a violation is too expensive to fix? Will my program be threatened?
Unfortunately, this may be a valid concern for some teachers. When you present your safety and health concerns to administration, try to get help from others (e.g., colleagues, teachers’ union, State department of education). They may be able to help you make a strong case for the continuation of your program and the importance of supporting safety and health issues in the school. Money spent on safety and health will help prevent occupational illnesses and injuries and save money in possible law suits down the road. In addition, inexpensive solutions or lenient time tables may be available for remediation that can be worked out between the school and the regulating agency.