Improper chemical management poses health and safety risks to everyone in schools. While anyone can be effected, health, learning, and behavior risks to students are of primary concern. Children are more vulnerable than adults to chemical hazards because their bodies are still developing.
Health risks aren’t the only risks involved with improper chemical management in schools.
The expenses of improper chemical management can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for just a single school. Spills and other incidents are not only costly, but pose potential liabilities and lawsuits. Improper chemical waste management can result in fines, increased insurance premiums, and inflict damage upon the environment. If chemicals contaminate sanitary sewer lines or on-site waste treatment systems, rivers, streams, and groundwater can be poisoned. Spills to the ground can result in considerable remediation costs. While water is first and foremost thought of after a chemical spill, spills can also pollute the air.
Improper chemical management doesn’t only effect people physically.
It only takes one chemical incident to break the trust with the community. School incidents can lead to increased parental and community concern, and embarrassment to the school and school district. This in turn can create negative publicity both locally and nationally.
Lastly, improper chemical management can result in school closures, and that results in a loss of valuable education.
Hazardous chemicals aren’t always just laboratory chemicals for science.
Other examples are:
- Art supplies – paints, stains, inks, glazes, photo processing chemicals
- Cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers, and de-icers
- Solvents, fuels, degreasers, lubricants, oils, antifreeze, adhesives
- Water treatment chemicals for drinking water and swimming
One of the best ways to avoid workplace confusion and prevent chemical incidents is to establish a Global Harmonization System (GHS). These include identifications of all chemicals present in the school, information on proper labeling and storage, potential hazards, and safety procedures for the use, transport, and disposal of chemicals. This chemical inventory also lists the quantities and locations that can be used to reduce the costs when purchasing so no excess chemicals are ordered. Perhaps most importantly, a GHS serves as a reference for school and emergency personnel in the event of an emergency caused by a chemical.