Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science: April/May 2016, Better Practices for Safety Issues in the Science Classroom and Laboratory

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science: April/May 2016, Better Practices for Safety Issues in the Science Classroom and Laboratory

Article excerpt

Preventing Alcohol-Based Laboratory Fires

Accidental fires in classroom science labs have made headlines in recent years. According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, at least 18 alcohol-based fire accidents have happened in educational demonstrations since 2011 (AIHA 2016). At least 72 people were injured in these incidents.

In such cases, accidents might have been prevented if the school districts and teachers had followed legal standards and better professional practices. For example, the school districts should have provided the training stipulated in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazard Communications and Laboratory Standards. The teachers should have used a fume hood and personal protective equipment (PPE) and should have followed preventative measures, as noted in Safety Data Sheets for the chemicals involved. Teachers performing lab demonstrations involving flammables should closely follow current legal standards and better professional practices.

Legal safety standards

* The latest edition of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 45 standard requires teachers to perform a hazard risk assessment before carrying out demonstrations. Its purpose is to identify the potential demonstration hazards based on legal safety standards and better professional practices. Note: The revised NFPA 45 requirements should be adopted by state and local fire departments but even when they aren't adopted, they can serve as better professional practices that schools should follow.

* OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29CFR1910. 1200) and Laboratory Standard (29 CFR1910.1450) require a written safety plan and a chemical hygiene plan with an appointed chemical hygiene officer. The standards focus on employee training in correct handling, use, labeling, and storage of hazardous chemicals; included are appropriate engineering controls, including an eye wash station and shower, and personal protective equipment (indirectly vented chemical splash goggles and nonlatex gloves) based on standard safety operating procedures.

Better professional practices

* National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): The NSTA has released a variety of safety position statements and Safety Advisory Board (SAB) white papers. …

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