This is the fourth of four safety tips, devoted to improving the quality of public school food service. The suggestions offered can be found as part of the NJEA/NEA “Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools” action kit. Use of the kit will help local associations take leadership in helping to provide a safe, comfortable, and productive school environment. This kit is not limited to food service operations, it covers all public school areas where we find students and staff. For further information about the kit, contact your local NJEA/NEA UniServ Office.
Renovation and Repair Safety Checklist
When planning and conducting renovations in schools, it is important to remember four potential causes of indoor air problems during renovations and repairs:
- Demolition that releases toxic materials
- Construction dust and fumes
- Designs that interfere with ventilation
- Off-gassing from building materials and new products
You can minimize these problems by making good indoor air quality (IAQ) one of the criteria during project planning. Also, contract language and negotiations with the service providers (contractors) can help ensure that proper materials and procedures are used, such as performing work during unoccupied periods. This checklist is used for before and during renovation projects.
Depending on who is performing the work, you may need to give sections of this Checklist covering one or more of the activity groups to separate in-house staff or contractors. Instruct those who receive a portion of the Checklist to return it to the IAQ Coordinator.
- Do not disturb asbestos during demolition. Most schools have identified and dealt with asbestos in the school under state or Federal requirements. Schools that have asbestos-containing materials, as identified by regulations, should have a management plan on file at the school. Refer to the “Asbestos Management Plan” when considering whether planned renovations will require disturbing areas containing asbestos. Use asbestos professionals to consult on and assist with such renovation work. Be sure to update the “Asbestos Management Plan” to reflect any asbestos abatement activities.
- Test for lead-based paint before removing old paint. Use a certified inspector or a reputable testing firm for areas to be demolished, sanded, or stripped. Use appropriate personnel and precautions when removing and disposing of lead-based paint.
- Avoid exposure to fungi and bacteria. If renovation is likely to expose large areas of microbial growth such as mold and mildew (for example, while repairing water damage), consult with an environmental professional about adequate protective measures to ensure both worker and occupant safety.
- Plan to isolate students and staff from any dust or fumes generated during renovation work. Use plastic sheeting, portable fans, and a mechanical ventilation strategy (where applicable) to prevent dust and fumes from reaching school occupants through hallways, doors, windows, and ventilation systems. Also consider conducting renovation work during hours when school is unoccupied.
- Consider the effect of the renovation on ventilation and mixing of air in rooms. Beware of cutting off a room from its supply of outdoor air, enclosing a pollutant source (like photocopiers) in a room with inadequate exhaust or supply air, or erecting barriers that prevent adequate movement of air throughout the occupied area of a room.
- Minimize and provide for off-gassing from new products. New products contain volatile constituents, such as resins, solvents, and binders, which off-gas volatile organic compounds for a period of time. This process is called “off-gassing.” Whenever possible, obtain information on emissions from potential new products to be installed in the school and select lower emitting products when available. Whenever new products with the potential for off-gassing are installed, allow adequate time for off-gassing before reoccupying the area and increase ventilation with outdoor air until off-gassing odors and any irritation symptoms no longer occur.
Examples of products which will potentially off-gas include:
- Wall paneling
- Composite wood furniture and cabinets
- Cubicle dividers
- Carpet and vinyl flooring
- Paints and finishes
Future tips will feature topics such as painting, flooring, and roofing.