Suppose you are suffering from headaches and sinus problems that seem to get worse during the work week, and better on weekends. Or you notice deteriorating white insulation on a pipe and you’re worried it’s asbestos. What should you do?
You’ll probably consider calling someone for technical assistance. Before you do, it is a good idea to do some advance preparation.
First, involve others. Call your UniServ representative to discuss the problem. Alert your local association president, officers and Health and Safety Committee (HSC) to the problem.
Once everyone is aware of the problem, you and your colleagues are best served by gathering as much appropriate information as possible before you call for technical assistance.
Experience of your coworkers
If you have symptoms you think are building-related, chances are some of your colleagues do too. It is good to conduct an employee survey, as described in the NJEA Health & Safety Manual, Page 21.
What the building reveals
Look for connections between building conditions and symptoms. Conduct a walk-through inspection. Detailed forms for a general health and safety walk-through, as well as surveys for mold, indoor air quality, and construction and renovation are in the NJEA Health & Safety Manual, beginning on Page 23.
Review documentation of past problems
If you have had any state or federal inspections, such as by Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) or the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), request reports from the district or the enforcement agency. These requests should be made in writing through your local association on local association letterhead. Similarly, request reports from consultants hired by the district.
Documents required by law
Various health and safety laws require the school district to keep records. Records listed below are available in the school office or from the school district unless otherwise noted. For more detail, see the NJEA Health & Safety Manual, pages 29-32.
1. Hazardous Chemicals:
In addition, the Hazard Communication Standard requires a written Hazard Communication Program, records of staff training, and a file of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which are information sheets developed by manufacturers about a particular chemical product. The district or school must keep the lists, fact sheets and MSDSs, and must provide copies of all of these within five days of a written request.
2. Medical testing and exposure monitoring data: These are required by the PEOSH Access to Medical and Monitoring Data Standard. Access must be given within 15 working days after a request. Records must be kept for 30 years. Records from medical and monitoring contractors are also covered. Data may include:
3. Illness and injury logs:
4. The PEOSH Bloodborne Pathogens Standard: This requires a written plan including who is covered, training, and records of training and exposures.
5. Records of fire and building inspector inspections, citations and fines.
6. Records of school bus inspections: These can be found at www.njmvc.gov.
7. Workers’ Compensation records: Your UniServ field representative can help you access them.
|How a Health and Safety Committee can document problems to prepare for your request:
How a technical assistant can help:
If you don’t have an HSC
Your UniServ field representative can help organize one in conjunction with your association president and other officers. A Health and Safety Committee is more effective than a single person. It can investigate problems, request documents, call meetings and follow-up investigation recommendations, without fearing disciplinary action from district or school administration. It also spreads the work beyond just one person.
Have your UniServ representative call Thomas Hardy and fill out a WEC Consultation Form to request technical assistance from a New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC) industrial hygienist.