How to Conduct an Effective Facility Audit for Your School

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As a school facility manager, it’s important to perform routine facility and safety audits so the students, faculty, and staff can enjoy a comfortable environment while you ensure that everything is up to code. Learning how you can improve your facility or update your systems is crucial.

Here are a few helpful tips to show you the proper facility audit procedures.

Facility Audit

There are many factors at play when it comes to conducting a facility audit. The audit will require time and resources but only to ensure that everything is running as efficiently as possible. Whether you have an outsider come in to inspect or the school district has a professional at their disposal, it’s important to have an updated inventory checklist on hand so the process can be as efficient as possible. The facility audit is performed to gauge the status of your facility and determine if any updates or repairs would be necessary.

Necessary Inspections

When you’re conducting a facility audit, you should have your inventory checklist with the equipment and the date that said equipment was manufactured and installed. This will help the auditor determine the life cycle of the equipment and systems in your facility. By providing the auditor with the necessary resources, the actual audit should be fairly easy to compete.

Facility Audit

The auditor will carefully inspect your HVAC system to determine its quality and effectiveness and if it requires any repairs to pass inspection. If you’ve kept up with routine maintenance, this shouldn’t be a problem. Your water system will also be inspected to ensure the water quality and the functionality of the pumps and pipes.

The grounds of your facility will also be carefully inspected. The auditor will look for any damage to the exterior of the building as well as the quality of the parking lots. The auditor will also assess the landscaping and athletic fields to ensure student safety.

Areas to Focus On

Every facility or school has its weak spots, or areas that require a lot of focus and perhaps even maintenance. Bathrooms can be one of these areas, as several factors can contribute to a less-than-adequate audit. Air quality is an important aspect in the bathroom audit, so as a facility manager, you should take steps to ensure that everything is acceptable and up to par.

Bathrooms can be a breeding ground for mold and fungus, which have a negative effect on the air quality. Due to the overwhelming moisture and humidity, several components of your bathroom can be susceptible to mold growth. Your bathroom stalls and partitions may have mold sprouting inside them, so think about replacing these stalls with a more durable material like HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is resistant to moisture, scratches, and even graffiti.

If you’ve kept up with your facility’s systems in terms of maintenance and repairs, you should expect good results from an audit. However, a variety of measures can help you to achieve a great audit. You may even want to consider some renovations. Learn more by downloading our eBook The Complete Guide to Renovating Your School’s Locker Room.

Toilet Partitions Codes to Review Before Choosing Bathroom Partitions

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Long before you begin construction, and even before you start buying your materials, you and your team should be familiar with the local and national toilet partitions codes that pertain to your restroom remodel or renovation project. Failure to do so could result in a build and restroom configuration that don’t meet national, state, or local guidelines, which in turn could hold up the entire project, pushing back the completion date by weeks or even months until the project can be finished and up to code.

To ensure that your project stays on track and meets the important legal building requirements, all building plans should be confirmed with local jurisdictions and compared against both local and national toilet partitions codes. When it comes to toilet partitions, here are some codes and standards you’ll want to review to make sure that your restroom passes inspection and is up to the specifications required by the national and local standards.

Basic Restroom Standards

When it comes to designing and outlining your restroom project, it’s important to get the basics right before you start. A major factor that you need to consider is the occupancy of the building in which the restrooms are located. You need to have the proper amount of toilet fixtures to ensure that there’s adequate space for occupants to relieve themselves. The standard rule is that there should be at least one toilet and stall for every 50 occupants. You can easily fit more stalls in your commercial restroom, but you also want to allot enough space for an ADA-compliant toilet stall, which takes up more room than a standard toilet stall that’s up to code.

Toilet Partitions Codes & Standards

The standard, wheelchair-accessible compartment requires all new construction and alterations to feature an out-swinging door, no more than 4 inches from the corner, diagonally from the toilet. You also need to make sure that the centerline of the toilet is 18 inches from the nearest side wall of the partition where horizontal grab bars must be mounted, as well as behind the toilet. This is to ensure that the occupant can easily access the toilet while having the necessary support to get up and exit the stall once they’re finished.

Ensuring that your facility’s restroom is ADA-compliant is crucial. These specific codes and guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act must be met in order to complete your restroom project. Providing easy access for occupants with disabilities is required by law, so make sure that you take inventory of your allotted space, as well as the number of toilets per occupant to ensure that you’re meeting the criteria.

ADA-Compliant Toilet Stall Dimensions

Stall Width

  • 60 inches minimum width of stall compartment (inside clear)

Stall Depth

  • 56 inches (inside clear) for wall-mounted toilets
  • 59 inches (inside clear) for floor-mounted toilets

Grab Bar Dimensions

  • At least 36 inches long
  • No more than 6 inches from inside corner
  • Adjacent grab bar no more than 12 inches from back wall
  • All grab bars should be 33-36 inches from the floor

Standard Toilet Stall Dimensions

Standard walk-in compartments, meanwhile, feature a toilet centered on the back wall and an out-swinging door. These are required whenever there are six or more toilets in one room. Horizontal grab bars must be mounted on each side wall or partition, as well as a toilet paper dispenser that’s easily accessible for the occupant.

Stall Width

  • 36 inches minimum and maximum (inside clear)
  • At least 15 inches from toilet to stall wall

Stall Depth

  • 60 inches minimum (inside clear)

Fire Prevention Building Codes for Bathroom Partitions

Those familiar with the International Building Code (IBC) will recall that bathroom partitions are considered interior finishes when they cover 10% or more of the wall or ceiling. Subsequently, the performance requirements for controlling fire growth as it pertains to toilet partitions can be found in Chapter 8 of the IBC under Interior Finishes.

Currently, there are two standards used to measure the fire performance of interior finishes. The first tests the surface burning characteristics of building materials. In this test, the materials are classified by flame spread and smoke development. Check below for the specific standards:

  • Class A has a flame spread index of 0-25, and a smoke development index of 0-450.
  • Class B has a flame spread index of 26-75, and a smoke development index of 0-450.
  • Class C has a flame spread index of 76-200, and a smoke development index of 0-450.

The second standard is the room corner test. The acceptance criteria for this test includes:

  1. During the 40-kW exposure, flames shall not spread to the ceiling.
  2. The flame shall not spread to the outer extremity of the sample on any wall or ceiling.
  3. Flashover, as defined in NFPA 286, shall not occur.
  4. The peak heat release rate throughout the test shall not exceed 800 kW.
  5. The total smoke released throughout the test shall not exceed 1,000 m.

Keeping Up to Code with Your Restroom

These codes were set in place by local and federal lawmakers to ensure that every occupant has the right amount of privacy, space, and accessibility, regardless of any disability or functionality. Adhering to these specific codes and dimensions is of the utmost importance. Otherwise, you can face a slew of fines or a halt on your project. Be sure to review the standards and codes for your location before designing and starting construction on your commercial facility’s restroom.

There are many other codes and standards that you need to review before choosing toilet partitions. To learn more about how Scranton Products brands meet local, state, and national guidelines, contact us today. You can also check out our free eBooks, ADA Guideline for a Compliant Restroom and Restroom Design for Commercial Facilities, so you can prepare yourself for your project and be sure that you’re on the right track with codes and standards.

Unknowingly Hazardous Items at Your Child’s School

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locker

Although teachers, administrators, and staff do their best to make American schools a safe place for children to learn and play, there are some dangers that simply can’t be avoided. What’s even more precarious is that many of these dangers seem fairly innocent, playing a mundane role in the daily lives of school children.

In an article published by HealthGrove, experts used data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to evaluate the most dangerous items involved in school-related injuries reported between 1997 and 2014. The resulting list of 20 items included some unsurprising offenders, such as scissors (No. 19) and paint (No. 17). However, at No. 8 on the list, an average of 7,558 injuries each year involved something much more commonplace. The culprit: ordinary lockers.

Lockers: A Hidden Danger to Children?

Although many people might have fond memories of their high school locker, hanging pictures of their favorite bands or celebrity crushes, a surprising number of injuries each year involve these convenient hallway hideaways. In addition to impact injuries, metal lockers pose another serious threat: tetanus. Even in areas not subject to excessive moisture, rust can form on metal lockers and cause additional damage as the rust spreads.

Slowly, the rust will deteriorate the locker, leaving behind sharp edges that can easily cut or injure a student. This is one reason why many schools are transitioning away from traditional metal lockers and looking toward newer and less harmful materials. One possible answer lies in HDPE solid plastics.

A New Kind of Locker for Your Child’s School

Unlike metal lockers, lockers made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are resistant to rust and corrosion. These non-porous lockers are also resistant to odors, dents, mildew, and even graffiti, making them not only safe but cost-effective for school officials. Lower maintenance costs mean those budget dollars could go toward programming or purchasing school supplies.

In addition to possibly reducing the number of injuries and helping schools save on their yearly budget, HDPE lockers are quieter than metal lockers, reducing noise in the hallways between or during classes. And some lockers made from this durable material are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, making them safe for the environment.

What Is GREENGUARD Certification?

GREENGUARD Certification means that the certified product has met some of the highest standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air indoors. According to the GREENGUARD website, the “Gold standard includes health based criteria for additional chemicals and also requires lower total VOC emissions levels to ensure that products are acceptable for use in environments such as schools and healthcare facilities.”

All of the brands produced by Scranton Products, including their HDPE lockers, are GREENGUARD Gold Certified. This certification increases the safety level of these lockers as a terrific replacement for traditional metal lockers found in many schools.

Contact Scranton Products for more information about their building solutions.

Should Hospital Scrubs Be Worn Outside Hospitals?

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Scrubs

A 2012 study from the University of Michigan School of Nursing found that nurses’ work uniforms had an average bacteria colony growth of 5,795 per square inch after just one night shift. Dayshift nurses’ uniforms had an average bacteria colony growth of 1,246 per square inch, which, although significantly lower, may still be a cause for concern.

With the frequency of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise and the alarming results of the university’s study, experts are now wondering if hospital scrubs pose a serious threat to the general public. Healthcare officials meanwhile have the task of deciding whether stricter policies and regulations should be implemented.

Germs and Hospital Scrubs: A Biological Fashion Statement

According to biologist Jonathan Eisen of the University of California-Davis, medical care facilities tend to be hot spots for bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms. Once inside a building like a hospital, scrubs can become contaminated quickly and begin collecting bacteria. The fear is that those contaminated scrubs, once worn outside the hospital, can potentially transmit bacteria to other objects and people.

However, that’s not to say medical care facilities are blind to the potential threat. In fact, many even have specific policies concerning wearing scrubs outside the hospital, especially when it comes to scrubs worn in the operating room or other specific areas of the building. The downside is that these rules are usually poorly enforced or ignored altogether by healthcare workers.

This leaves healthcare officials to wonder how they can effectively enforce a new policy for changing out of scrubs before workers leave the building. The answer, it seems, may actually lie in the facilities themselves.

In Search of a Low-Cost and Sanitary Solution

One way that healthcare officials can help to prevent workers from wearing scrubs outside the building is to provide comfortable and convenient spaces where workers can change before and after their shifts. These changing rooms can easily be designed as a series of stalls, much like shower stalls, making them both efficient and private. They can also be cleaned easily by the building’s janitorial staff.

By simply giving workers an area where they can easily change in and out of their scrubs, healthcare officials may have an easier time enforcing safety policies and preventing the possible spread of potentially harmful organisms.

More on Dressing Compartments

Dressing compartments can be made in a variety of colors and textures in order to provide a design that compliments the facility’s existing décor. These compartments, made from high-quality performance plastics, also resist dents, scratches, and corrosion, with little need for maintenance or repairs, which makes them an ideal investment for expenditure conscious officials.

To learn more about these durable dressing compartments, click here. Scranton Products uses high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic in the making of their compartments, which means they’re not only tough, but they also have a low environmental impact. And their GREENGUARD Gold Certification means they’re safe enough for use in healthcare facilities.

The Growing Focus on Regulatory Compliance

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Regulations Facility managers have seen a recent shift in the emphasis on regulatory compliance when it comes to their facilities. It’s beginning to rank higher on the priority scales of facility managers due to its importance and significant impact on their departments.

In fact, in an article on Facilitiesnet.com, President Jeffery Camplin of Camplin Environmental Services states that it’s no surprise that managers say compliance will become an even higher priority. He also says, “This is really how (technicians) do their jobs. These guys are using ladders and lifts all the time for worker protection, the ventilation systems are operating, and you’ve got electrical issues and fire-protection issues that are continually ongoing.”

Keep reading to find out more about compliance regulations, common challenges, and the areas where facility managers are focusing today.

Common Challenges

The complications that facility managers face typically revolve around the same core of common challenges. They can be broken down into four categories: worker protection, environmental protection, public health protection, and building protection. Find out more about what each of these categories entails.

  • Worker Protection: Worker protection regulations include the standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or from the individual state. The most common types of compliance topics include exposure to environmental hazards and equipment safety.
  • Environmental Protection: Environmental protection compliance involve state or federal environmental protection laws that address the pollution of air, land, and water. These laws can include asbestos, lead paint, wastewater discharge, air emissions, and chemical waste disposal.
  • Public Health Protection: These regulations include those from the individual city, county, or state or the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variation types of issues can include handwashing and hygiene, sanitation, pest control, and preparation for emergencies, as well as emergency response.
  • Building Protection: Building protection involves various codes and standards that include fire safety, scaffolding, aerial lifts, electrical systems, and HVAC system design.

Areas of Focus

While these regulations are common challenges, it’s important that facility managers address them and ensure successful compliance. Learn some tips to make sure that managers are addressing these challenges.

First, it’s crucial that managers understand the regulations and why they’re challenging to adhere to. Once they have a thorough understanding of the regulations, it’s beneficial for them to prioritize the issues that require the most attention.

By exploring the annual list of regulatory violations that OSHA publishes, managers can determine the most common violations. They can then focus their efforts on adhering to those regulations.

Facility managers should also remember that regular facility inspections must occur to ensure that everything is working properly and nothing is breaking regulations.

If you’re looking for high-quality materials for the products in your facility that are compliant with many regulation and standards, HDPE plastic materials by Scranton Products could be the right option for you.

Click here to find out where to buy them.

Are Your Facilities Up-to-Date on ADA, OSHA, and Water Compliance Regulations?

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Regulations

Regulatory codes and health regulations are always changing, which is something that you must pay careful attention to as a facility manager in charge of bathrooms or bathroom updates. Many facility managers are experiencing legal and regulatory issues for failing to do so.

To avoid these issues, find out more about the regulations to which your facility must adhere.

What Are ADA and OSHA?

The most notable requirements that restrooms fail to adhere to fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

The ADA came to fruition over 25 years ago, and the law states that it “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.”

However, not all facility bathrooms adhere to the regulations that the ADA has set. There are many issues with restroom design and construction.

OSHA’s sanitation standard reviews facilities and requires them to maintain sanitary conditions.

Understanding Accommodation Compliance

Facilitiesnet.com spoke with Joan Stein of Stein Consulting, who explained that in order for a facility to be ADA compliant, special attention must be paid to design, construction, and maintenance.

For example, there must be adequate room in a bathroom stall to move around in, and the height of dispensers and other equipment must be accessible. Often, the stalls aren’t wide enough, and the toilets aren’t set at the proper height.

Another common issue is getting to the bathroom. Restaurants and other establishments want the bathrooms to be kept out of sight, which typically means putting them in a spot that can be difficult to reach. During construction, the design should incorporate a bathroom that’s easily accessible by those in wheelchairs who don’t have to maneuver through difficult angles.

In the bathroom, sink height is typically appropriate, but the pipes beneath the sink can end up bumping the person’s wheelchair so they can’t reach it comfortably. Often, these pipes are also uninsulated. Insulating pipes can remedy this issue.

In addition to ensuring that the design of a bathroom adheres to regulations, it’s important that facility managers maintain the accessibility in the bathrooms. This means paying attention to the placement of objects around the bathroom, such as waste baskets, and keeping them out of the way of those in wheelchairs. It also means keeping paper towels, soaps, and other necessities within their reach.

Understanding Water Compliance

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense initiative also sets regulations on water usage in restrooms that facility managers must be aware of. There are new plumbing codes and standards to adhere to, and restroom designs can help the facility’s bottom line.

As a facility manager, it’s important to be aware of these standards and make sure that you follow them accordingly. You want to make sure that the people who utilize the facility are properly accommodated.

If you’re looking for reliable, sustainable bathroom partitions or vanities for your facility, click here to find out where to buy Scranton Products.