Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a concern in many schools due in part to the age and poor condition of a number of school buildings. School IAQ is particularly important as it may affect the health, performance and comfort of school staff and students.
Managing IAQ in schools presents unique challenges. Unlike managing other building, managing schools involves the responsibility for public funds and child safety issues. In addition, occupants are close together. Typical schools have approximately four times as many occupants as an office building with the same amount of floor space. Schools frequently have a large number of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning equipment, which places added strain on maintenance staff. As schools add space, the operation and maintenance of each addition are often different. Schools sometimes use rooms, portable classrooms, or buildings that were not originally designed to service the unique requirements of schools.
Employees who work for state and local governments are not covered by federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program. Four additional states (Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York) and one U.S. territory (Virgin Islands) have OSHA approved plans that cover public sector employees. Private sector employees in these four states and the Virgin Islands are covered by federal OSHA. For more information on State OSHA plans, see State Occupational Safety and Health Plans.
The EPA addresses IAQ concerns in its "Healthy Schools" programs and provides tools to assess and fix IAQ problems. For instance, EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools provides practical approaches to improving indoor air problems. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a series of safety checklists for schools, including an IAQ self-inspection checklist. Below are links to a number of websites on indoor air quality and schools, including the EPA and NIOSH resources.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- Creating Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools
- School Advanced Ventilation Engineering Software (SAVES). Free software package for architects, engineers, and school officials to determine what type of ventilation equipment is best for both health and energy efficiency; the software also has financial assessment and indoor humidity modules.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):
- The American Federation of Teachers has a number of Fact Sheets on health and safety issues, including What You Should Know About Indoor Air Quality.
- School Indoor Air Quality Best Management Practices Manual. Washington State Department of Health, (November 2003).
- The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) provides useful information for school staff, school administrators, architects and engineers and parents.