BFHD Expands School Environmental Health & Safety Program
Posted on 10/07/2022

Many people are unaware that K-12 school safety is a focus for Benton-Franklin Health District’s Environmental Health (EH) Team. In the past, funding for this program has been minimal, restricting BFHD’s EH Team to respond to complaints and conduct plan reviews for new school construction projects. However, Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) funding received in 2021 has allowed the Benton-Franklin Health District to expand school safety efforts with the creation of the first BFHD School Environmental Health & Safety Program.


Healthy Schools Improve Academic Performance 

Recent research suggests that a school’s physical environment can play a major role in academic performance. Environmental factors like indoor air quality, mold, insufficient or excessive use of chemicals, and maintenance issues have all been linked to increases in health problems, which can ultimately affect student performance. The newly formed BFHD School Environmental Health & Safety program will be engaging Benton and Franklin counties to review and inspect the safety guidelines to ensure that students are protected while in school. 


Pre-Operational Review Already in Effect 

For years, BFHD has reviewed construction blueprints for new and remodeled K-12 school facilities. Monitoring and reviewing the school construction plans are crucial to setting up a healthy working environment for students. The 2021 funding has allowed BFHD to purchase new plan review software to speed up school plan reviews and expects to continue providing this service through the new School EH&S program. 


Collaborative Inspections: A New Program Goal 

The long-term goal of BFHD’s new program is to implement routine inspections in all Benton and Franklin County schools. Routine inspections can cover a variety of topics but mostly focus on areas where children can be most impacted like indoor air quality, laboratory safety, playground safety, and more. The Health District is preparing for their first project this fall—an on-site review of science classrooms, laboratories, and chemical storage areas at secondary schools.  


While school safety is highly valued, these inspections are different from other BFHD inspection programs, like Food Safety BFHD will coordinate inspections with schools to be respectful of scheduling, conducting them at times when they will allow for the best collaboration and won’t interrupt student learning. School safety inspections are a close collaborative effort between BFHD, school administrators, and school risk managers to ensure that each school has the necessary tools and support to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment. Our goal is to assist schools to create, if needed, solutions to risks presented and make sure they are both safe, practical, and economical for schools.  


The Health District is excited to work with our local schools to see that our children are supported and protected while in school. 


For more information about the Benton-Franklin Health District School Environmental Health and Safety Program, email [email protected]