Historic House Hazards Project

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The goal of this project is to help historic house museums and small cultural heritage organizations make the health and safety of their visitors and staff a focus of their institutional mission.

Self Assessment Survey[edit | edit source]

(downloadable spreadsheet)

This survey is intended to be general information for historic houses and small museums for the purpose of providing knowledge and raising awareness of health and safety issues. The results should be used with caution. Nothing in this survey can be interpreted as legal advice. The information provided should not be considered a substitute for the advice of trained health and safety professionals.

Completing this survey will provide a prioritized list of health and safety concerns at a historic property. This quantitative feedback can help leadership plan for addressing the most serious issues including creating foundations for budgeting and fundraising for health and safety projects. While this survey is tailored for small institutions and historic houses, it can be adapted to fit the needs of many different types of museums. It is written as broadly as possible to apply to many different types of institutions.

The spreadsheet contains several tabs for different hazard types commonly found within a cultural heritage organization. Resource links are provided to help survey-takers understand regulations, terminology, and methods to implement safe practices:

  1. General Policies and Procedures: These organization-wide policies and procedures, implemented to keep museum guests and staff safe, address both external safety hazards (e.g., tornados) as well as internally generated ones (e.g., chemical spills). If a site is part of a larger institution, the larger institution's policies should also be considered when answering questions in this section.
  2. Building Structure: This section covers hazards related to the construction and layout of the building. Due to the unique and diverse nature of historic structures and sites, users may find using a single building structure survey challenging; therefore, these questions should be answered for each distinct structure or site on the property. It may be useful to duplicate this tab and label each tab separately for each building that is part of the site.
  3. Building Systems: This section covers hazards related to the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems in the building. Collection-based hazards are covered under a separate tab.
  4. Outdoor Spaces: This category addresses hazards outside of the building. Hazards include slips trips and falls, pest management, trees, electric, large installations/statues/landscape structures (gazebos, follies, bridges).
  5. Chemical Hazards: Chemical hazards include any substance that may be harmful to human health. Chemical hazards may be found in facility spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, and even in education/art-making spaces. These materials may be common cleaning materials used for housekeeping, collection-based hazards (such as mercury), and chemical reagents and powders (e.g. calcium carbonate) used in the conservation and preservation of objects. Chemical hazards are divided into two tabs; collection-based hazards are addressed in a separate tab.
  6. Collection-Based Hazards: Collection-based hazards include collection items that can have adverse effects on human health. Hazard examples include heavy metal-based under bound pigments, asbestos, and pesticide residues. A a priority should be to survey collections for the presence of these hazards; therefore, scores reflect the lower risk associated with knowing a hazard is present.
  7. Compressed Gas and Spraying: Compressed gases are gaseous chemicals stored under pressure. This includes propane tanks, spray paint, and gas-powered appliances (e.g., boiler, stove, etc.). This section should include collection items as well as in active work areas. Compressors and spray equipment are also discussed.
  8. Work Practices: This section includes activities in which many historic houses engage: ergonomics, first aid, housekeeping, personal protective equipment, radiation, sharps, and working at heights. Not all historic houses will have all of the listed hazards. Skip sections that don't pertain to a particular site. The term "employee" in this section includes everyone exposed to these hazards (staff, contractors, volunteers, interns, etc.).
  9. Fire Hazards: Fire hazards range from combustible materials to a lack of suppression and alarm systems. Fire risks can be mitigated with good policies and planning. The policy and planning section makes up (50)% of this tab.
  10. Equipment: This section includes hazards and risk associated with the use of all equipment and tools on the site. It is divided into: Collections Care Equipment, Gardening Equipment, Wood Shop Equipment, Metal Shop Equipment, Maintenance Equipment, Kitchen/ Catering Equipment, and Office Equipment to help focus areas of concern. Gasoline-powered equipment is covered in the Transportation tab.
  11. Transportation: This section covers vehicles used on public roads and off-road vehicles used only on site (e.g., golf carts and Gators). Answers should include the work practices of employees and contractors as well as staff and volunteers.

Each hazard type is divided into four categories:

  1. Planning
  2. Training
  3. Hazards
  4. Communication

The survey can be completed in-full or in-part and in any order. The primary goal is to start a framework of understanding that will address health and safety issues specific to an organization's unique structure and needs.

Completing each tab will result in a score for that hazard type and category intended to qualify the organization's risk level and help prioritize and address safety issues:

  • urgent (red)
  • some cause for concern (yellow)
  • low risk (green)

Leave your Feedback[edit | edit source]

Help make this a more useful tool! After completing the survey, please fill out the feedback form with comments and suggestions: http://www.tinyurl.com/HazardSurveyFeedback

Copyright: 2024 by Anne Kingery-Schwartz, Kerith Koss Schrager, Katherine McEnroe.
Material may not be distributed without attribution or reused/altered without written consent from the authors. (HistoricHouseHazards@gmail.com)