What, you ask, could be left after dealing with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms and thunderstorms? Well, fellow trench worker, there is something else. (Isn’t there always something else?) In the department of things that you cannot control and sometimes can’t see coming, there’s the quiet danger of environmental hazards. Generally speaking, big weather events we can usually see coming and can plan for or take corrective action to get children within our care to safety. Environmental hazards, however, such as contamination, poisons and the like are frequently dangers we cannot see, smell or hear. Frankly, these scare me more than storms do because relying on the natural senses of the body may not be enough, perhaps with the exception of smell.
Did You Know?
Most schools today, and many larger youth-serving agencies, have on file a detailed Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). These plans typically include results of a campus/facility-wide report called a Hazard Analysis, and that plan can, or should, contain known hazards such as chemicals stored on the grounds, or other chemical and man-made materials considered hazardous in the surrounding neighborhood that could pose a threat to students, employees, and the citizenry. These plans are considered public information and can be accessed through school administration or the local fire department. Hazard Reports, as part of the overall EOP plan, typically contain a wide range of possible hazards, both natural and manufactured, which could pose a threat to a community. But for the purposes of this section, Let’s focus on chemical and other made-made hazards that we as youth workers need to consider.
Danger of Environmental Hazards to children within your care
So now that I’ve scared the hell out of you and you’re about to quit working with kids and look for a job in a flower shop, have a look at my Minimizing Exposure to Hazardous materials Checklist.
- Field Trips and Outings: Ideally, it’s advisable to visit a field trip in advance to determine if the location is safe for children. Not just access and walkways, but to be sure that there are no hazardous materials (or physical dangers) directly nearby that children could wander off and get in to. The main attraction for us as adults many not be the “main” attraction for some children and teens!
- Exposure to high lead levels: Though lead poisoning levels have greatly improved over the years, elevated lead-levels among children is still a major concern. Check out the CDC’s Lead Recall List Here.
- For a quick “help sheet” on primary environmental hazards affecting children that youth workers need to be aware of check out the Children’s Environmental Health in Schools (pdf) Sums up the major hazards and materials that children (unintentionally) could be exposed to in schools and elsewhere.
I know, you’re thinking about buying a respirator after reading this stuff. So let’s lighten it up with these deliberate little light-hearted ditties:
“Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.”
— David Letterman
“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?”
— Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992
“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.”
— Robert Orben
“Remember when atmospheric contaminants were romantically called stardust?”
— Lane Olinghouse