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Lab Safety Tip of the Week #3:

Tip #3:
Be Ready for the Students to Return to Class!

Required reading for this week:  Worst Lab Accidents in History:  Labs are Dangerous!

In today's lab safety tip of the week, I wanted to present some statistics about accidents in school labs.  After doing some internet searching I have come to realize that there is very little in the way of statistics about school lab accidents.  You can find lots of articles about individual accidents, but there is not any cumulative data that I could find.  How many kids get hurt each year?  How many are burned by heat?  How many suffer from chemical  burns?  I wonder how shocked we would be if we had the answers to these questions.

Many students have already returned to classrooms across the country, and the rest will soon follow as Labor Day approaches.  So the focus of the tip of the week is ... Are you ready for the students to return to class?  I am not referring to such things as having enough desks in your room, or getting paper from the supply room.  What I mean is:  Do you have your lab safety plan in place and ready to roll out when students enter your room?

Here is a checklist of things to consider and to have ready when students return to your class:

  • Lab has been inspected.  You have checked all water faucets, electrical outlets and gas jets.  Work orders have been submitted for any faulty items.
  • You have cleaned and tested the eyewash fountain.
  • You have tested the safety shower.
  • Fire blanket is accessible.
  • Fire extinguisher has been inspected.
  • You have enough goggles for each student.  
  • Lab aprons are clean and readily available. 
  • Lab tables are clean and each lab station is stocked with basic items.  
  • Sinks are clean and drain properly. 
  • Chemicals are properly stored and locked in a chemical storeroom.
  • Any unlabeled chemicals should be discarded from the chemical storeroom.
  • Fume hood has been inspected to insure that it draws properly.
  • Glassware has been inspected.  Chipped and broken pieces have been discarded.
  • Exits from the lab are properly marked and unblocked.
  • Lab safety rules are posted in the classroom and in the lab area.
  • Have a handout of lab safety rules, and make enough copies for each student.
  • Have a lab safety contract and have each student and their parents sign it.  Keep on file all year long.
  • Have a medical emergency form for each student.  Be aware of the allergies or other medical conditions of your students.
  • Lecture on lab safety at the start of the year.
  • Prepare a quiz or test on lab safety.  Require each student to score 100% before allowing them in the lab.
  • Have MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for each chemical you plan on using in a lab activity.
  • Talk to your administrator about how a crisis will be handled.  How will you summon help in an emergency?
Whew! There is a lot to do to get ready for our students to return to class!  To sum it up, the lab safety tip of the week is:  Be proactive, be prepared and be ready when the students return.

Have a great school year!

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