OSHA called to high school on issues raised by teachers. | ParkRecord.com

OSHA called to high school on issues raised by teachers.

Frank Fisher, of the Record staff

Steve Oliver, the District Support Services director, said that on Tuesday, May 8, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration responded to complaints from several Park City High School teachers, listing air-quality issues, a locked fire escape door and a temperature control issue, all connected with the newly completed Phase 1 of the high school remodel.

A Park City High School teacher suffered respiratory difficulties speculated to have been caused by dust during the tearing down of the old science wing of the high school. Separately, two students complained of feeling ill from fumes in new buildings, recently occupied by students.

"We have a faculty member who is very easily impacted by allergens from the knocking the building down and loading debris in dump trucks," said Steve Oliver, the District Support Services director, who is the go-between between the district and the builder. He said she had a reaction and has missed time from school.

Ed Potts, a high school English/Spanish teacher, said his new classroom overlooks the demolition. "My classroom was right next to the dust, but I also don’t have allergy problems." He said no one in his classes complained.

Oliver said there were two incidents of students complaining of fumes that made them feel ill, which occurred when students first occupied new classrooms in mid-April.

"It’s questionable whether the air has ever been severely contaminated," Oliver said. "We have some people who are extremely sensitive to particulate dust-type matter." He discussed ‘off gassing,’ which he described as the same thing that causes the new car smell, from the adhesives used in construction.

"We use extremely low VOC (volatile organic compound) glues. We require all of our glues to be low in VOC toxins."

Oliver said a lab took "five or six" air samples during construction, and one after, and all came back within acceptable limits. "The VOCs have been so low," he said. "Testing is something we’ve been doing well in advance of OSHA.

"I haven’t noticed any dust, eleventh-grade student Katie Bessembiender said. When they were building it, there were welding and chemical smells."

Oliver said that the one of the conditions of meeting LEED ‘green’ certification requirements was to pump 3400 cubic feet of air through the building prior to students entering the classrooms, to flush out any toxins. He said it was done before Phase 1 opened, and has been done again since opening.

Oliver said OSHA toured the building Tuesday, conducting tests and taking samples.

Louis Silva, the division director of OSHA in Utah, refused comment on an investigation of the school, saying, "We can’t confirm or deny that an investigation is being done. There is no public record until an investigation has been completed."

The second complaint to OSHA dealt with a twin metal door, normally available as a fire exit, was locked during demolition of the science wing. Oliver said the double doors were locked to prevent injury from anyone exiting into the demolition site, but were unlocked after the demolition.

The Park City Fire Department and a representative of the Utah State Fire Marshal investigated.

"At no time were kids, teachers or anybody else in danger, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Kim Passey. "To get to another fire exit would have literally taken a few seconds more. All smoke detectors, sprinklers and safety features are working. If anyone were ever in danger, I’d close the school." He said the high school has a sworn deputy of the State Fire Marshal’s office trained in safety issues.

OSHA considered complaints of uneven heating of the Phase 1 classrooms. "We had problems with three classes out of 36, Oliver said. He attributed that to several causes, including a dead battery, which deleted the temperature control program, and a duct which was stuck "When the battery died, we roasted out the commons area," he said, adding that each problem took one or two days from being informed of the problem, determining the cause and making the necessary rapairs.

Bessembiender said the building is cold, but she really likes the new building.

OSHA was still testing on Wednesday Oliver said. He expects a report from the agency possibly within a week.

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