What is Ohio Choose Safe Places?
Ohio Choose Safe Places (OCSP) is a non-regulatory, education-based statewide initiative designed to help child care center operators protect staff and children from harmful environmental hazards and chemical toxins by making safe siting decisions for their child care facility. In particular, the OCSP initiative seeks to address the following environmental issues:
Former use of the site. Has a building or plot of land that has been chosen to host a childcare center ever been used for purposes that may have caused toxic chemicals to be present at the site? Some former uses which may be cause for concern include hair and/or nail salon, dry cleaner, funeral home, shooting range, warehouse that stored toxic chemicals or heavy metals like mercury, landfill, scrapyard, and Superfund/Brownfields site. Additionally, underground storage tanks can sometimes present an environmental health risk. Potential childcare center operators are encouraged to find out as much as they can about the history of their site.
Nearby sites and nearby activities. Sometimes, neighboring businesses or industries can present an environmental health risk if they are currently misusing or improperly disposing of toxic chemicals. Some neighboring industries which may be cause for concern include hair and/or nail salon, dry cleaner, funeral home, shooting range, gas station, agriculture or farmland, landfill, scrapyard, and Superfund/Brownfields site. It's important to note that not all industries that use toxic chemicals as a routine part of their businesses will cause contamination. Potential childcare center operators are encouraged to know what kinds of businesses and industries neighbor their site and to know whether any spills or releases have ever occurred there.
Naturally occurring contamination. Toxic substances can occur naturally in Ohio, including radon gas, arsenic in the soil, and harmful algal blooms in bodies of water. Potential childcare center operators are encouraged to find out as much as they can about any naturally-occurring contaminants on their property.
Safe drinking water. Although the use of lead has been banned in new construction, older buildings that have not been completely renovated may still have lead fixtures or lead plumbing which can cause lead contamination in drinking water. Potential childcare center operators are encouraged to ensure that their fixtures and plumbing are lead-free. Additionally, sites using private wells to provide drinking water should be sure that the water they are using is free of toxins and microbial (i.e. bacteria, parasites) contamination.
To develop this program, ODH has worked closely with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio Department of Education (ODE), Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Understanding the Issues
When exploring potential sites for a child care center, operators may not be aware that children and staff can come into contact with dangerous environmental chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, and pesticides. A new program might open in a contaminated industrial building that was never cleaned up, or next door to a dry cleaner mishandling harmful chemicals.
This can put staff and especially children – who are more sensitive to the effects of chemicals because they’re still developing and who tend to put objects which could be contaminated into their mouths – at risk of health problems. In some cases, these health effects may be irreversible.
Who Participates in OCSP?
Beginning April 2019, OCSP began engaging potential child care center (as defined by ODJFS) operator applicants. This includes first-time applicants seeking initial licensure and operators seeking re-application/license amendment as part of a change of location or a change of ownership.
At this time, OCSP does not include home-based child care (Type A, Type B), preschools, day camps, or other types of child care as defined by ODJFS or ODE in its focus. In the future, OCSP may be expanded to also include these groups. However, operators of these types of child care may still find the information presented here important to protecting the health of their staff and children, and they are encouraged to review the information on this webpage.
For more information on the types of child care in Ohio, visit the ODJFS website.
The OCSP pilot program will continue through March 2020. Incorporating feedback and lessons learned, ODH will continue the OCSP program indefinitely beginning April 2020.
How Do I Participate?
As a child care center operator applicant, the best thing you can do is be informed and aware. Consider the four key elements to safe siting and be sure you have all the information you can get. Have you talked to the landlord and/or zoning officials about former use of your site or building? Do you know what businesses your neighbors operate? Are you sure the water your staff and children will drink is safe and free of chemical contaminants?
Follow these steps to help protect your business' children and staff:
Begin by downloading the OCSP Factsheet and reviewing the information. ODH recommends taking this factsheet with you as you visit potential properties where you think you might like to locate your child care center.
Next, use the Ohio Environmental Resource Guide to search for any information that may exist about the site(s) you are considering.
After searching for information about your site, take the Ohio Choose Safe Places Environmental Questionnaire. This is a brief survey which will prompt you to consider the key elements of safe siting.
Use any additional resources in the section below ("Resources for Child Care Center Operator Applicants") to guide your safe siting choices for the location of your child care facility, and contact the appropriate agency(ies) if you have any questions.
Resources for Child Care Center Operator Applicants
The following resources should be used by child care center operator applicants when deciding where to locate their facilities.
Ohio Choose Safe Places Environmental Questionnaire. Take this quick survey to test your awareness of potential hazards at your site.
Ohio Choose Safe Places (OCSP) Information for Operator Applicants factsheet (PDF). Keep this factsheet with you when visiting potential properties where you think you might like to house your child care center.
Ohio Environmental Resource Guide. Use this guide to easily find sources of information on potential environmental contamination and hazards in Ohio.
OCSP Contact Directory. Use this directory to help you reach out to the right agency to answer any questions you may have about contamination at your site.
Resources for Licensing Specialists and Facility Inspectors
The following resources can assist early child care and education facility licensing specialists and inspectors in understanding their role in OCSP and in helping to identify potential environmental hazards.
Ohio Choose Safe Places (OCSP) Licensing Inspector Training (PDF). Review this training made specially for licensing inspectors who visit child care centers and who assist in the licensing process.
Ohio Environmental Resource Guide. Use this guide to easily find sources of information on environmental contamination and potential hazards in Ohio.
OCSP Contact Directory. Use this directory to hep you reach out to the right agency to answer any questions you or the applicant with which you are working may have about contamination at a child care site.