education.vic.gov.au

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils

Date:
January 2020

Policy

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to prevent illnesses and injuries by identifying, assessing and controlling environmental hygiene risks associated with exposure to contaminants in schools (for example, mould, dust, radiation, gases and fumes).

Summary

  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic)External Link requires the department to provide or maintain systems of work and a working environment that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health, including in relation to environmental hygiene.
  • The principal and/or their delegate (as the local management representative) must manage the risks associated with environmental hygiene in the workplace by reducing exposure to contaminants (e.g. mould, dust, radiation, gases and fumes).
  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to the OHS Advisory Service and local OHS regional officers, who can provide free advice on environmental hygiene management.
  • The Environmental Hygiene Procedure must be followed and sets out the practical step-by-step instructions for implementing this policy.
  • This policy forms part of the department’s OHS Management System, see OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview for further information.

Details

The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and employees, must ensure that:

  • all potential contaminants in the school are identified and entered in the ‘Hazard Description’ column of the OHS Risk RegisterExternal Link or equivalent
  • all means of exposure are considered (for example, inhalation, ingestion, absorption or injection) when identifying potential contaminants (e.g. inhaling mould spores)
  • risks of exposure to contaminants are assessed:
    • to accurately determine the level of risk, specific workplace monitoring may need to be considered and the services of an occupational hygienist may be required — the OHS Advisory Service can provide advice
  • where specific hazards have been identified from exposure to contaminants, controls are to be implemented and reviewed, and recorded in the OHS Risk RegisterExternal Link or equivalent:
    • high risk work involving contaminants, such as the cleaning of mould, may require safe work procedures to be developed using the Safe Work Procedure TemplateExternal Link — the OHS Advisory Service can provide advice

In some scenarios, there may be advice provided to the principal or their delegate by the OHS Advisory Service, central or regional offices to implement monitoring of contaminants. The school will be supported to implement section 2 of the environmental hygiene procedure. As the local management representative, the principal or their delegate must ensure that:

  • monitoring is organised so that it is specific to the contaminant and route of exposure
  • personal monitoring rather than static monitoring is conducted to define potential exposure
  • monitoring is conducted and analysed by a competent person
  • the assessment results of the monitoring are clearly communicated to employees, their representatives (HSR) and health and safety committees (if relevant to the school)
  • the results of monitoring are displayed on the workplace OHS notice boards (see OHS Consultation and Communication Policy)
  • recommendations (if available) are implemented (so far as reasonably practicable)

Definitions

Competent person
A person with suitable qualifications and experience to conduct the required work for example, an occupational hygienist.

Contaminants
Airborne substances and other work environment hazards including dust, lighting, radiation, gases, vapours, mould and fumes.

Mould
A type of fungi that lives on plant and animal matter. It grows best in damp and poorly ventilated conditions, and reproduces by making spores which can be a health hazard for humans. Airborne mould spores are commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments. When they land on damp spots they can begin to grow and spread. There is no practical way to eliminate all mould indoors. The way to control indoor mould growth is to control the source of moisture.

Mould can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, wheeze, respiratory infections and worsen asthma and allergic conditions. People with weakened immune systems — allergies, severe asthma, chronic, obstructive or allergic lung diseases are more susceptible to these symptoms and other serious health effects.

Occupational hygienist
Utilises the teachings of both science and engineering in order to identify and understand hazards in the workplace and the risk to the health and safety of employers and employees. It is their role to identify potential risks from exposure to biological, chemical, psychosocial, physical and ergonomic hazards within the workplace and the course of work-related duties.

Hazards are anticipated based on precedent in certain industries or environments where it can be foreseen that there may be danger to those exposed. From here, the occupational hygienist would then review the workplace or environment and recognise and evaluate whether there is a presence of a threat.

Occupational hygienists are trained in hazard management and risk assessment and apply the hierarchy of control approach when recommending control measures to prevent ill health.

Personal monitoring
The method used to determine an employee's exposure to workplace contaminants. In this method the air sample is collected within the breathing zone of the employee. The breathing zone is defined as being within a 30cm radius of the employee's nose and mouth. The sampler is usually attached to the collar of an employee's shirt as high up as possible. Personal samples ensure as far as possible that the air sampled best represents the air inhaled by the employee.

Static monitoring
Involves the sampler fixed to an employee's workstation or source of contaminant. Static monitoring is ideal for monitoring effectiveness of control measures within a particular work area.

Relevant legislation

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)External Link


Procedure

Environmental Hygiene Procedure

The Environmental Hygiene Procedure must be followed and sets out the practical step-by-step instructions for implementing the Environmental Hygiene Policy.

It contains the following chapters:

  1. Identify potential exposure
  2. Risk management
  3. Controlling risks
  4. Communication
  5. Monitor and review controls
  6. Legislation, codes of practice, standards and guidance

1 Identify potential exposure

1 Identify potential exposure

The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and employees, must identify all potential contaminants that employees may be exposed to in the school.

In all instances the principal and/or their delegate must record the identified contaminants in the ‘Hazard Description’ column of the OHS Risk RegisterExternal Link and assess the level of risk and document risk controls.

Examples of contaminants that may be found in the school include:

  1. Physical:
    Radiation, Vibration, Temperature, Light / UV, Humidity, Ventilation, Noise (see Noise Management Policy)
  2. Chemical:
    Vapour, Gases, Dust, Mist, Fumes, Corrosives, Solvents
  3. Biological:
    Fungi including Mould, Bacteria, Mites, Yeasts, Viruses, Enzymes, Body fluids

The principal and/or their delegate should consider all means of exposure when identifying hazards, for example, inhalation, ingestion, absorption and injection. Contaminants may be identified when:

  • previous school monitoring results are reviewed
  • an incident or illness is reported in the school
  • requested by regulatory authorities or external auditors
  • a new task or chemical is introduced into the school
  • the work environment is changed e.g. suspected mould (see Note below)
  • new or additional information relating to acceptable exposure standards becomes available

Note: Mould is not always easy to recognise. It often appears to be a stain, smudge or discolouration. The most common moulds are black, green or white. However, mould can be many other colours ranging from grey to orange to brown. Mould is associated with damp buildings and is commonly found:

  • on roof materials above ceilings
  • around windows
  • near water fountains
  • on walls and ceiling tiles
  • in books and carpet

2 Risk management

2 Risk management

2.1 Workplace monitoring

In order to accurately determine the level of risk, the principal and/or their delegate may need to consider specific workplace monitoring and engage the services of an Occupational Hygienist. Specific monitoring will provide results on the actual level of exposure, which can be used as a representative sample to compare against legislated maximum exposure standards.

If monitoring is required, the principal and/or their delegate should ensure that:

  • the monitoring is specific to the contaminant and means of exposure (i.e. inhalation would require a different sampling method to ingestion)
  • personal monitoring rather than static monitoring is conducted to define potential exposures. Static monitoring should only be used for measuring exposures when a strong correlation is found with personal monitoring
  • monitoring is conducted and analysed by a competent person (e.g. Occupational Hygienist)
  • the assessment is representative — neither worst case nor best case scenarios

2.2 Contaminant monitoring and exposure limit findings

Once the monitoring is completed, the reported findings should be provided to the principal and/or their delegate. The principal and/or their delegate are responsible for ensuring the implementation of the recommendations in the report in order to reduce the risk of exposure to employees.

If the principal and/or their delegate are provided with only the results of monitoring, they can compare them to the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) for that specific contaminant to determine the need for corrective actions and follow-up surveillance.

The principal and/or their delegate should contact the OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715 if they require assistance to interpret the findings in reports provided.


3 Controlling Risks

3 Controlling risks

Where specific hazards have been identified from exposure to contaminants, controls are to be established and implemented by the principal and/or their delegate in consultation with the HSR and employees. This is to be documented in the OHS Risk Register.

As part of the control process the principal and/or their delegate should ensure that:

  • recommendations for placement of personnel in medical surveillance programs are considered
    • consideration is given to whether periodic monitoring of the contaminant or the controls is required and the nature of such monitoring

    They should also ensure that existing controls are adequate, whether additional or alternative controls are needed, and if so, what these should be e.g. managing exposure to mould:

    • If mould is a problem in the school, the principal or their delegate needs to eliminate sources of moisture and by ensuring:
      • mould is washed off hard surfaces and allowed to dry completely by opening windows and doors or by using portable heaters to minimise re-growth. Absorbent materials, such as carpet, may need to be replaced if they are contaminated with mould
      • leaky plumbing and other building faults are fixed
      • exhaust fans or open windows are used in the bathroom and kitchen areas when showering, cooking or using a dishwasher
      • conditions that encourage mould growth are avoided by using heat insulation and ventilation
      • small areas of mould are cleaned using a damp wipe with detergent solution, vinegar solution or alcohol solution (one part vinegar or alcohol to three parts water). Commercially available mould treatments can bleach the mould white, but may not remove the mould. Do not try to brush the mouldy area as the brush can flick mould spores into the air, which may cause health problems
      • PPE is provided to clean up the areas where mould is present e.g. safety glasses, long rubber gloves protective clothing

    The principal and/or their delegate in consultation with the HSR and employees must ensure that risk controls to reduce employee exposure are identified and implemented using the order of the hierarchy of controls.

    3.1 Safe Work Procedures

    The principal and/or their delegate in consultation with the HSR and employees must identify interactions between employees and contaminants (e.g. PE teacher coaching sport outdoors in the sun) that may require the development and implementation of a safe work procedure.

    Refer to the Safe Work Procedure TemplateExternal Link and the OHS Risk Management Procedure.


    4 Communication

    4 Communication

    If workplace monitoring of contaminants is required, the principal and/or their delegate should ensure that the results of the monitoring are clearly communicated by:

    • verbally informing employees of the results and controls required following the monitoring
    • including report findings from monitoring on the agenda and minutes of Health and Safety Committee Meetings (if relevant) and/or regular staff meetings
    • displaying and communicating the results of monitoring on the workplace OHS Notice Boards (see OHS Consultation and Communication Policy)

    5 Monitor and review controls

    5 Monitor and review controls

    The principal and/or their delegate in consultation with HSR and employees is responsible for:

    • monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of hazard controls
    • ensuring that the OHS Risk RegisterExternal Link is kept up to date and is reviewed when hazards associated with exposure to contaminants are identified, assessed, controlled and reviewed

    In the event that further / ongoing monitoring is required, the principal and/or their delegate should contact the OHS Advisory Service for advice and support on 1300 074 715.


    6  Legislation, codes of practice, standards and guidance


    Resources

    Resources

    Templates relevant to this policy and procedure


    Reviewed 04 March 2020