Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Article excerpt

November 2012, Best Practices for Safety Issues in the Science Classroom and Laboratory

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Adopting STEM Safely

With the new emphasis in many high schools on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), more students are designing and building projects using hand and power tools. Activities range from using such simple equipment as scissors, staplers, pushpins, and so on to construct an anemometer to using lathes, table saws, and grinders to construct a green/sustainable building. While such tools may be common in technology-education, vocational-education, or shop classes, science teachers newly involved in STEM activities may not have safety training or hands-on experience in using or supervising the use of dangerous hand and power tools.

Furthermore, a shop or technology classroom is designed with special benches, tabletops, and supports that allow for safer use of power tools, and many science labs are not. This is an accident waiting to happen. Before any hand and power tools are used, safety programs and precautions must be in place. No teacher or student should ever attempt to use a hand or power tool without proper safety training or in an improper setting not designed for such use.

Where can you learn more about tool safety? An excellent place to begin is the OSHA website (see "On the web"). This resource provides critical hazard and safety precaution information especially for teachers and students working on STEM-type engineering projects. Here's a sample:

Employees (and students) who use hand and power tools and who are exposed to the hazards of falling, flying, abrasive and splashing objects, or exposed to harmful dusts, fumes, mists, vapors, or gases must be provided with the particular personal equipment necessary to protect them from the hazard.

Hazards involved in the use of power tools can be prevented by following five basic safety rules:

* Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.

* Use the right tool for the job.

* Examine each tool for damage before use.

* Operate according to the manufacturer's instructions.

* Provide and use the proper protective equipment.

The OSHA website also lists these suggested general precautions:

* Never carry a tool by the cord or hose. …

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