March 01, 2005

Heroes 2005

On the anniversary of the March 18, 1937 New London School Explosion, I salute safety experts who specialize in helping schools understand the explosives and other hazardous materials in their schools. They work to promote the safety standards, safety plans and staff training necessary to promote health and safety in every aspect of school activities.

These "Healthy Schools Heroes" are champions of school safety and security. They serve as environmental health resources and mentors to the school community, setting up in-house systems for community participation, health surveillance, and ongoing hazard identification and control. Schools need these heroes because too many school communities overlook opportunities to act when conditions in the school are making people sick or where there is a high risk of explosion, fire, and chemical spills -- from either accidental or intentional acts.

Dr. James Kaufman is the founder and President of the Laboratory Safety Institute, a national non-profit network and resource center for safety in science education. He is a safety consultant dedicated to making health and safety an integral and important part of science education, work and life. LSI's lectures, training programs, AV lending library and publications help academic institutions throughout the world. LSI publishes "Speaking of Safety," a newsletter of information, inspiration and motivation to raise the standard of science education and school safety. LSI has recently published "Safety is Elementary: The New Standard for Safety in the Elementary Science Classroom."

Christopher Erzinger, is one of three employees of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division and a Denver attorney honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for helping to remove hazardous chemicals from Colorado schools. They worked with Colorado school districts; fire departments; the Colorado State Patrol; law enforcement agencies; local health departments; and county public health nursing services over the past five years to remove old, deteriorated and unsafe chemicals from school and college storerooms used by chemistry classes throughout Colorado. Erzinger is the Hazardous Materials Compliance Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. His educational Powerpoint presentation "When Good Chemicals Go Bad" dramatically documents the school hazards and the work of first responders and bomb squads who conducted the clean outs and disposals including detonations of explosives that makes it possible to imagine what could happen to schools that do not act to remove hazards.

Monona Rossol, is the founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, a not-for-profit corporation providing a variety of health and safety services. She is a chemist, artist, author, industrial hygienist and an international consultant on safety and risk reduction for schools, individuals, organizations and institutions. She travels the world promoting safety in a wide range of school activities and for a wide range of students including the youngest and most vulnerable. Her book The Artists
' Complete Health and Safety Guide (Allworth Press) provides the basic concepts and vocabulary necessary for understanding the acute and chronic health hazards posed by a variety of chemicals and environmental pollutants. She also describes the practical steps necessary to control them. Written for artists and teachers in the arts, the book is useful reading for anyone interested in healthier schools.

The chapter, "Classroom Hazards," discusses teacher qualifications, emergency planning, sanitation, cleanup, choosing safe materials and activities, and the importance of obtaining information on students' special needs. There is a table on products and materials to avoid and safer options. ACTS FACTS is the monthly 4-page newsletter that provides information about occupational health hazards and safety research, regulations and standards affecting people in the arts, especially teachers, students, and those with allergies and other sensitivities.


It could be you.

In response to the growing number of accidents such as mercury spills and lab injuries, many states have created resources and programs to help schools conduct chemical clean-outs and to provide training to staff. They can be allies and partners to anyone who takes leadership for school safety.

Today, there is a website and a New London Museum dedicated to remember the "lost generation" and educating people of all ages about safety and the aftermath of the School Explosion across generations.

Make March 18 Healthy Schools Heroes Day In Your School


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