Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

External Building Safety


Portable Classroom Safety

An estimated 385,000 portable classrooms are in use at schools across the country, and that number is sure to grow, as school districts across the nation are dealing with overcrowding issues. Portable classrooms should be a temporary fix for overcrowding, but more often than not, they are becoming permanent fixtures on school campuses.

Portables and Health Issues

Portables should be only used as short-term fixes as they can lead to chronic problems, such as the following:

  • exposing students and teachers to mold and mildew
  • poor ventilation
  • potential for dangerous gases from cheap or sub-standard building materials

Experts say outdoor air should be supplied on a continuous basis when students and/or teachers are in the portable classroom to improve the ventilation. If students or teachers experience eye or respiratory irritation, neurologic symptoms or difficulty concentrating while in the portable classrooms, they should immediately reduce exposure and get medical help.

Poor lighting, extreme temperatures and noisy heating, and air conditioning can compromise the learning experience in portables. The structures often are placed in soggy fields or parking lots, near noise and vehicle exhaust.

field maintenance

Sports Field Maintenance

Coaches may be more concerned with injuries, personnel problems, and opponents rather than the condition of their playing turf. However, this may be detrimental to their athletes. An acceptable playing field should be resilient, uniform, and wear-resistant. It should be soft enough to prevent cuts when players fall, yet firm enough to allow for good footing.

Recent reports show that as many as half of the serious knee and ankle injuries are related to poor field maintenance, such as:

wet fields
  • poor grass cover
  • rough surfaces
  • slick, muddy conditions

Fields that are mowed regularly, fertilized properly, and watered on a timely basis tend to stand up to normal use.

Improving Playing Surface

If the field is hard due to poor soil conditions or even heavy use, you may want to aerate to help the problem. A hollow-spoon aerator will reduce soil compaction, increase water penetration, and promote grass recovery. For best results, you need to aerate fields when the soil is moist, not wet, for maximum penetration. After you complete the aeration, drag the field with a heavy mat to break up the soil and smooth the surface.

Watering Athletic Fields


Wet conditions only add to the deterioration of turf on an athletic field. Coordinate watering practices with the scheduled use of the playing field to minimize problems. The field surface must be dry when the field is in use to prevent injuries. Therefore, when supplemental watering is needed, schedule it for at least 24 hours before the field will be used. As water is needed, wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches on a weekly basis. You can follow with some light watering as needed.

Field Renovation

Renovation of athletic fields are necessary, especially for fields that are used quite a bit, to help reduce injuries. The renovation of an extensively used football field, for example, is an annual requirement. This would involve aeration, weed control, fertilization, and, in extreme cases, replanting. The first step in renovation is to correct the conditions that caused the field to deteriorate in the first place, such as poor drainage, weeds or excessive use.


Bleacher Safety

Many athletic fields have bleachers, and they can pose serious safety risks if they are not properly taken care of. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says there were an estimated 22,100 bleacher-associated injuries treated in emergency rooms in 1999. Approximately 6,100 of these injuries were a result of the person falling from, or through, bleachers, onto the surface below. Approximately 4,910 of these falls involved children under the age of 15.

Bleacher Hazards

Millions of spectators watch sporting events from many types of bleachers each year. School administrators need to be aware of the following hazards:

  1. Large Gaps: Gaps of more than four inches between seatboards and footboards are considered unsafe. That is because small children can slip through them. The CPSC suggests using rigid materials to close the opening between these surfaces.
  2. Unsafe Guardrails: If guardrails do not properly prevent falls, they need to be replaced. Also, guardrails are often fun climbing targets for children. If the bleacher guardrails are so tall that a child can pass under it, it is not safe.
  • Guardrails should be used on any bleacher where the top row is 30 or more inches off the ground.
  • The top surface of the guardrails should be no less than 42 inches from the highest point of the bleachers.
  • Nowhere in the guardrails should a four-inch diameter sphere be able to pass through.
  • Guardrails should discourage climbing in one of three ways:
  • bleacher structure
    • Only use vertical fill-ins between the top and bottom rails.
    • If there are openings in the fill-ins that could provide a foothold for climbing, the widest measurement of the opening should be limited to 1.75 inches. Opening patterns that provide a ladder effect should be avoided.
    • Use solid surfaces to fill in spaces, but only use this if the visibility would not be significantly impaired.
  1. Structural Problems: Older bleachers that have not been maintained correctly or have aged due to weather, overuse, or misuse may become structurally unsafe. Bleachers should be strong enough to handle a maximum load and be mechanically operational.
  2. Entrance & Exit: Spectators must be able to enter and leave the bleachers in a safe manner. Aisles and walkways should have non-skid surfaces and be wide enough for spectators to reach exits in an emergency.

The area underneath the bleachers can be dangerous as well. For this reason, it is important to completely block off the space underneath them. If your facility has larger rows of outdoor bleachers that cannot be closed off completely, you may want to consider having someone supervise the area to keep kids away.

Action Plan

You need to inspect the bleachers on a regular basis. The CSPC guidelines recommend you inspect bleachers no less than four times a year. Take a closer look at the amount and type of use the bleachers experience before creating an exact inspection schedule. Along with the regular inspections, each school should hire an engineer to conduct a full structural inspection at least once a year.

During an inspection, you should identify any structural damage that could make the bleachers unsafe. It often works well to create a checklist for inspections and then carry it out in a systematic manner.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. The following health issue(s) can happen if portable classrooms are not maintained.

2. _____ of the serious knee and ankle injuries are related to poor field maintenance.

3. When supplemental watering is needed on a playing field, schedule it at least _____ before the field will be used.

4. As watering is needed, wet the athletic field soil _____.

5. Guardrails should be used on any bleacher where the top row is _____ inches high.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.