Meigs Health Matters: Preparing for back to school

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…The kids are heading back to school!

This is also the time of year that school environment inspections are performed. This is a lesser known responsibility that falls on local health departments. The school environment inspection is performed on each public school twice per year. We walk through the entire school, inside and outside. We look for anything in the environment that could cause harm to the children or staff.

Some examples of things we would look for include: broken playground equipment, damaged steps or hand rails, trip hazards, broken desks/chairs. We also scan the area for hazards such as blocked walk ways and doors, out dated safety equipment, blocked eyewash stations in the chemistry & physics rooms, and we ensure chemicals and toxic substances are stored in secure locations. We look to see that there is adequate hand soap in restrooms and if the restroom facilities are functioning properly. We talk to the school nurse to see if they are adequately supplied. We check to see that areas of the school which are supposed to be off limits to students are locked; this would include electrical closets, storage closets and chemical supply rooms. We look at the ceilings to make sure all the ceiling tiles are in place and that vents are cleaned. This one may sound a little trivial, but missing tiles allow air pollution into the rooms and blocked vents prohibit the circulation of good air. The height of the water spout on each water fountain is checked. If the spout is too high, water will splash onto the floor, causing a fall hazard. If the water spout is too low, children will touch the fountain with their mouths, which will spread germs. Mold can also be a health hazard, so the presence of mold would end up on the report. Since there is an infinite range of possible hazards in any setting, this list is not all inclusive. But, these are the types of things we would notice.

Any hazard found is then written on a report along with a brief description of why it is a hazard, and the recommendation of how to eliminate it. This report is sent to each school system, usually to the director of maintenance. The director or other school official can then evaluate the recommendations and take action accordingly.

It’s just another way the Meigs County Health Department is working with the community to promote and protect public health.

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Meigs Health Matters: Preparing for back to school

By Dawn Keller

Contributing columnist

Dawn Keller is a Sanitarian in Training at the Meigs County Health Department.