Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.7 Maintenance

5.7.0 Maintenance of Exterior Surfaces

Standard last updated 09/27/2022.

Early care and education programs should be aware of potential hazards on exterior surfaces around buildings and facilities. Exterior surfaces such as porches, decks, steps, stairs, walkways, gates, fencing, handrails, and driveways/parking lots should follow these guidelines to prevent falls or injuries:

  • Be free from water, ice, or snow
  • Be free of loose or sharp objects
  • Be free of deteriorated paint (e.g., cracking, chipping, or peeling)
  • Be in good condition (e.g., no splintering wood, loose boards, or broken railings)
  • Have a non-slip surface (e.g., slip-resistant mats or textured surfaces in wet areas)
  • Be free of any trip hazards (e.g., extension cords, hoses, tools)

All early care and education programs buildings built before 1978 should have annual inspections of exterior surfaces to make sure the paint is intact and there is no friction/rubbing where lead-based paint may be present. Pre-1978 buildings should also have annual inspections to fix roof and water leaks, which will reduce paint deterioration caused by exposure to moisture.2–3 For more information on lead testing or removal, see CFOC Standard

Walking surfaces that are slippery, have uneven surfaces, or are in poor condition can lead to falls, which may lead to injury.However, falls can be prevented by removing potential hazards to make the environment safer for children, families, and staff. 

Walking surfaces coated with lead-based paint are lead poisoning hazards. Lead is especially dangerous to children, because their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to lead’s damaging effects, and their young bodies can absorb more lead. Babies and young children also often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects may have lead dust on them, particularly if a child is crawling on floors contaminated with lead dust. Once ingested, lead can lead to several negative health effects in children.4 

The manufacture of lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but many older buildings around the country still have it. Lead exposure during childhood can cause brain damage, loss of IQ, poor memory, behavior problems, and death. When lead-based paint breaks down, chips and dust settle onto surfaces children can easily reach, such as floors and other walking surfaces. Contaminated dust can be inhaled or ingested and is hazardous even if the particles are too small to see.5
A state or local childhood lead poisoning prevention program, health department, or certified risk assessment professional can help early care and education programs test for lead hazards and write a “remediation plan” to reduce paint, water, or soil lead hazards. 

See Caring for Our Children Standard for details on testing for and remediating lead hazards, including interim controls and lead abatement. Lead-related hazards on porches, stair railings, and handrails are discussed in, Structure Maintenance

For more information on lead exposures, visit the EPA’s Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead Web page.
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Inspection of Buildings Assessment of the Environment at the Site Location Structurally Sound Facility Testing for and Remediating Lead Hazards Construction and Remodeling Maintenance of Exterior Surfaces Structure Maintenance

Standard last updated 09/27/2022.