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Lab Safety Tip of the Week #4

Tip #4:
Wear Your Safety Goggles
('nuff said!)

Required Reading for the Week:  "Wear Your Safety Goggles."

Accidents happen so quickly.  And hindsight is a wonderful thing.  In the above article, a science teacher has permanent damage to the eye after conducting a demonstration with no eye protection.  And a college student goes in late to their organic chemistry lab, and joins a group of two other students at the fume hood.  An explosion occurs in the hood.  The student was present in the lab less than two minutes and now has permanent eye damage.  It seems so simple after the fact.... Why didn't you have on your safety goggles?

As a science teacher, I have to plead guilty.  I have often prepped a lab for my students without wearing goggles. But when my students are engaged in lab activities, I am a stickler for the rules.  We wear the goggles.  Always. No questions asked.  But it is always a battle.  Students do not like to wear safety goggles, and I am constantly having to tell  students to put their goggles back on.  Unfortunately, most of us are having to carry 30 (and sometimes more!) students into the lab.  As soon as you tell one student to put their goggles back on, another student across the room has taken theirs off!  Sound familiar?

You, as the instructor, have to be persistent and consistent.  Establish the rule of wearing safety goggles.  Do not deviate from this rule (EVER!), and have consequences for those who do not obey the rules.  Have a conversation with your school administration about lab safety to establish a plan of action for those students who fail to follow the rules.   You want to make sure that you have "back up" from admin in case consequences to the student need to be doled out.

Let's move away from student behavior, and on to the goggles themselves.  What kind should you use?  Are all goggles the same?

All goggles are not the same!  And even though many types of goggles might meet regulations and guidelines and be approved for our school labs, some of them are not the best choices for our students.  In my opinion, eye protection should have a complete and snug fit around the eye, and be held to the face by a strap that goes around the back of the head. Yes, the students hate these types of goggles, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Here is an excellent article from Flinn Scientific about regulations and standards of safety goggles.

Next topic:  The storage and sanitation of goggles.  I took this picture a few years ago while visiting in a neighboring high school.  If you are going to use one classroom set of goggles, and students will be sharing goggles with other students, please take great care in the sanitation of goggles. This picture shows a great goggles sterilizer, but it was not being used correctly.  Goggles were not placed in individual slots.  They were haphazardly thrown in the cabinet.  The inside of the sterilizer was dirty, and it was obvious the goggles had never been washed. Here is an excellent video on the use of the goggles sterilizer.  If at all possible, I highly recommend that each student have their own pair of goggles that are not shared with another student.

In summary:

  • Students must wear goggles and this is not negotiable!
  • Make sure you purchase eye protection that meets the safety standards.
  • Practice what you preach!  The instructor needs to be be the role model in laboratory safety.
Have a great school year!

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