Janitors Closet and Classroom Material Safety
Chemical hazards expose people to dangerous substances which can increase the risk of illness. Chemical hazards can be serious threats for children. Children are more likely to suffer from adverse health effects due to environmental exposure.
• Children weigh less than adults. As a result, when children and adults ingest or inhale the same amount of chemicals, children receive a greater dose than adults.
• Children's developing bodies can be particularly sensitive to toxic exposure during certain critical growth stages, especially when children are exposed to chemicals known to cause developmental effects.
Schools may have a difficult time managing chemicals properly because of lack of training, lack of system, lack of someone in charge, inherited chemicals, lack of communication across academic, administrative, and facilities compartments, facilities often not built for handling chemicals (ventilation, storage problems), and lack of funds/planning for disposal costs.
Chemicals found in schools include art and craft supplies, cleaning supplies, pesticides, paint, paint supplies, etc. Every chemical used in a school should have an accompanying Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that describes chemical properties, potential hazards, storage, disposal, protective equipment and spill handling procedures. Teachers and staff using any chemical product should carefully read and abide by all instructions provided.
When choosing products to use in your school or Early Care and Education Center, it is important to consider the safest products available. Many companies are developing new, effective products that contain less hazardous chemicals and are safer. Green Seal and EcoLogo are non-profit companies that research and certify products that are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. These sites can help to verify whether the products you use are safe, healthy and effective. For companies that are striving for greener chemistry, visit EPA’s Design for the Environment website.
Use this checklist to see how well you are doing at preventing poisonings in your classroom.
Check out our COVID page for discussion on germs!
More information about pest management can be found on our web page.
General Storage – General Guidelines
It is important to take some basic precautions when storing chemicals. These include
· Avoid storing liquid chemicals above eye level and or in aisle ways.
· Avoid over stocking shelves and storing heavy containers above shoulder level.
· Avoid storing chemicals in fume hoods or on counter tops.
· Avoid storing chemicals near sources of heat or direct sunshine.
Some people like to store chemicals alphabetically, but those chemicals could be incompatible and dangerous to store next to one another. Be sure to store chemicals by chemical group. Once they are in their group, it is safe to store chemicals alphabetically. At a minimum, chemicals should be segregated as corrosives, oxidizers, flammable liquids, poisons, or toxic chemicals, and reactive (water or time sensitive).
Be sure to store concentrated acids and bases separately. Use secondary catch basins for concentration acids and bases. Keep corrosives away from organic chemicals and combustible materials.
It is important to maintain the minimum quantity of chemicals needed and dispose of unneeded material immediately. Store in unbreakable containers or use secondary containers, and label storage areas with designated area signs. Having a good inventory system helps to properly manage/maintain a safer lab. By knowing what you have, you can use it more efficiently and help teachers and janitors to track what they use each year versus what can be disposed of. This process also helps staff organize chemicals by their properties.
If a chemical is transferred to a second container, make sure the new container is labeled with the chemical name. When transporting chemicals make sure the pathway is clear of obstructions and tripping hazards, plan for spills, and transport only the quantity needed to complete the task.
Be familiar with chemical properties and products of chemical reactions and be prepared for chemical spills and clean up spills immediatately.
More information on classroom safety when using cleaning products can be found at the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Arts and crafts supplies can contain toxic ingredients that, when used or stored in a play area, create a risk to the health and well-being of children. Eco-Healthy Child Care has some great tips for keeping children safe and healthy during craft time.
For more information on guidance for healthy classrooms check out this school supply list.