The UFT Contract Article 10 E. Safe Environment states that in recognition of the importance of employee safety and health, the Department of Education agrees to provide the appropriate recognized standards of workplace sanitation, cleanliness, light, noise control, and adequate heating and ventilation. The Department of Education agrees to eliminate recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm.
Therefore, if the union believes a situation has arisen that is likely to cause serious physical harm, it may bring it to the attention of the Chancellor or his designee who shall immediately assess the situation, including onsite inspection where appropriate, and take such action as the Chancellor deems appropriate. In the event that the union seeks to contest the Chancellor’s determination, it may exercise its statutory rights under New York State Labor Law Section 27a (PESH) or other legal authority.
The UFT receives more complaints from its members about poor indoor air quality in schools than about any other health and safety issue. Many of the problems can be traced to inadequate ventilation, or to indoor pollution sources like toxic materials used in shop, art and science classes, photocopy machines that produce ozone, and microbial contamination. Excessive heat and low relative humidity may play a role.
In most situations, indoor air pollution is not a serious, long-term threat to health, but it can result in significant physical discomfort and interfere with the ability of students to learn and UFT members to do their jobs. In other cases, however, those annoying symptoms could be the tip-off to more threatening air pollution.
In many schools, the UFT has been able to recommend air quality improvements that custodians or the DOE can make quickly and at minimal cost. However, schools must provide a safe and healthy environment for all students and employees and so the UFT Safety and Health Department conducts site inspections to ensure a healthy school environment.