The UFT Safety and Health Department will respond to any school based emergencies, especially those that involve potential exposure to toxic substances during renovation and/or construction. Renovating schools while they are occupied with students and staff — a practice that we absolutely do not recommend or support — presents challenges for the school population as well as the workers involved in the construction. Many of our older schools have potential hazards such as lead-based paint, asbestos, and contaminants contributing to poor indoor air quality.
New York City public schools are severely overcrowded; therefore, much of this work must be performed while schools are in session, creating potentially very serious safety and health hazards. Because of inadequate safety and health precautions there have been emergencies in the past requiring immediate evacuation of school premises.
In response to these events, the union has developed a site-construction protocol that was negotiated with the Department of Education. This protocol requires contractors to implement protective methods and procedures to safeguard students and staff. The protocol includes the following: job committees; isolated work areas; thorough dust containment procedures; asbestos and lead exposure precautions; safety procedures for all construction workers to follow; separate sanitary facilities for workers and normal occupants; separate stairwells and paths of egress; specific notification procedures; and practices for minimizing airborne contaminants, especially fumes and vapors.
This School Construction Authority protocol is outlined in article 10 of the UFT contract.