Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Building Safety with Engineering Controls

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Building Safety with Engineering Controls

Article excerpt

Teachers often tell me that they conduct laboratory work without the use of eyewash stations, fire extinguishers, fume hoods, and other safety engineering controls and ask if there should be real concern if an accident occurs. The answer is definitively "Yes!" These are all devices required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other regulatory agencies in academic laboratories to protect occupants, including teachers and students. Conducting hazardous activities in laboratories without appropriate safety devices is not only inviting injury but also litigation against the teacher!

Before conducting any laboratory activities, science teachers need to be in the know about the OSHA-required hierarchy of defense in the laboratory. At the top of OSHA's list are engineering controls, which are designed to reduce exposure to a chemical or physical hazard by using engineered machinery or equipment. The following list contains specific engineering controls required in academic laboratories (Note: Requirements will depend on individual states and which codes or standards they have adopted, but the following are prudent safety practices that represent the professional safety standard recognized by the court in a legal situation.):

* Alarm sensors: Heat sensors or smoke detectors and fire-suppression system sensors are necessary for a safer laboratory, especially during unoccupied periods.

* Electrical safety controls: All science laboratories, storerooms, and preparation rooms should have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in electrical receptacles to protect occupants from electrical shock.

* Eyewash or acid shower: The American National Standards Institute (Z358.1-1998) requires 10-second access to any eyewash or acid shower in the laboratory. For proper use, these devices must provide an uninterrupted flow of tepid water (15-38[degrees]C) for a minimum of 15 minutes at a prescribed flow rate of at least 1.5 L/ min. Preparation rooms also require access to eyewash stations. Acid or safety showers also require 10-second access and must provide a minimum flow of 114 L/min with uninterrupted flow of tepid water.

* Fire blanket: Flame-retardant wool or other types of materials can be helpful in smothering small fires- these should be stored in wall-mounted canisters or boxes with appropriate signage. …

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