Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Safer Science

Article excerpt

Student Tests for Safer Labs

Sometimes science teachers overlook the most important element of science teaching: lab safety. Teachers have a legal responsibility to conduct hazard analysis and risk assessment before any hands-on activities, lab work, or demonstrations. A science teacher's responsibilities under "Duty of Care" (NSTA 2014) include the duty to:

* Notify of safety practices and procedures: Review and have students' parents or guardians sign a safety acknowledgment form. See "On the web" for a form.

* Model safety techniques with students before they work with equipment or carry out procedures. For example, show them the proper way to light a Bunsen burner and cut with a scalpel, and make sure safety goggles fit appropriately.

* Warn students of safety hazards before and during use of potentially hazardous equipment and materials. For example, before students dissect plant specimens, remind them that scalpels can cut skin.

Begin safety training for students based on a hazard analysis and risk assessment. Students must know how to operate engineering controls (e.g., an eyewash station), properly wear personal protective equipment, and use sharp objects. Finally, administer a safety test to determine the level of understanding for safety training, including standard operating procedures, before any lab or demonstration.

The safety test should encompass both theory and practice. The theory component should reflect important standard operating procedures based on legal safety standards and better professional practices, described in the safety acknowledgment form. The practice component should reflect a hands-on performance activity. For example, students should be able to demonstrate how to properly put on safety goggles, light a Bunsen burner, and take off nitrile gloves. Vary the test format. Questions on standard operating procedures might include:

* T or F: All accidents, chemical spills, and injuries must be reported immediately to the instructor. …

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