“Safety Begins in the Classroom” videos now available from #ACSSanDiego
May19

“Safety Begins in the Classroom” videos now available from #ACSSanDiego

ACS has now posted videos from the National Meeting held in March in San Diego, including those from the Division of Chemical Health & Safety’s session on “Safety Begins in the Classroom: Demonstrations, Awareness & Pre-Lab Planning”: “Wild, wild west to GHS: Reflections on my first year as a general chemistry laboratory coordinator,” by Rebecca Sansom & Matthew B. Allen of Brigham Young University “Chemical demonstrations: The good, the bad, the ugly,” by David A. Katz, self-described “chemist, educator, expert demonstrator, science communicator, and consultant” “Development of demonstrations – a collaborative project between the safety office and teaching assistants,” by Debbie Decker & Joshua Greenfield of the University of California, Davis The division already posted slides from this and other sessions at the...

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Lessons from methanol flash fires
Jan19

Lessons from methanol flash fires

From a letter to the editor in this week’s C&EN: Yet another methanol flash fire has occurred with injuries when a high school teacher was demonstrating the “rainbow” flame test (C&EN, Nov. 9, 2015, page 6). While “rainbow” demonstrations have been conducted safely many times, they become dangerous if a large bottle of methanol is brought back to the demonstration to add more methanol. This same mistake has been repeated many times with catastrophic results. … The big lesson learned is that undergraduates (tomorrow’s teachers, graduate students, scientists) need a solid safety laboratory education—the long-term fix. Today’s undergraduates get safety training, not a safety education. Safety education teaches the “why” behind hazards so the student can understand and learn to respect the need for safety. Understanding the “why” teaches students the basis for safety measures and rules—making them more likely to use and follow them. Safety education teaches the student to think critically about safety. More than once, I have heard, “There’s not room in the curriculum” for safety education. We need to rethink our priorities, values, and ethics. Among various topics in chemistry, safety is the only one that can result in serious injuries or death if it is not taught or valued. Safety education needs to be included in the chemistry curriculum from the very beginning, teaching principle-based safety: Recognize hazards, assess the risks of hazards, minimize the risks of hazards, and prepare for emergencies. Many of our science teachers only take a few courses in chemistry, so we need to get to them early and often to give them as much of a safety education as we can before they move on to other majors—it is clear that flammable hazards need to be understood by these students. Read the full letter here. Find safety resources for demos and student experiments at...

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Creating a culture of safety in the science classroom
Dec08

Creating a culture of safety in the science classroom

Coming up TODAY at 4 pm Pacific/7 pm Eastern: A webinar on “Creating a Culture of Safety in the Science Classroom,” sponsored by the American Association of Chemistry Teachers As teachers we are responsible for generating general safety understanding within the laboratory setting, and for creating a culture of safety in the science classroom from day one. Together we’ll examine important aspects of a safe science laboratory, and participants will learn how to create a culture of safety in their own science classroom. Register...

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“Tales of Lab Safety” webinar
Sep17

“Tales of Lab Safety” webinar

The ACS Program-in-a-Box series is featuring lab safety at its upcoming webinar on Oct. 20 at 7:00 pm Eastern: “Tales of Lab Safety: How to Avoid Rookie Accidents.” The speakers are Mary Beth Mulcahy, of the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board, and me. Hosting should be easy–you arrange for space and gather an audience, while ACS provides the content, promotional materials, activities, and raffle prizes. You can register...

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Denver student hit in chest with jet of flaming methanol
Sep17

Denver student hit in chest with jet of flaming methanol

New incident, same message: Don’t pour alcohol anywhere near a possible flame. At a press briefing yesterday, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators spoke about what they’ve learned so far regarding an incident at a Denver high school that sent four students to the hospital on Monday: The teacher lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties. When the flame didn’t rise as high as desired, he added more methanol from a 4 L container. The fire flashed back into the container, then emerged as a “jet fire” that traveled 15 ft to hit a student in the chest. That student was wearing a synthetic shirt and was seriously injured, others sitting nearby were also hurt. CSB investigators also spoke about the Sept. 3 incident involving a “tornado” demo at a Reno, Nev., museum that sent nine people to the hospital. CSB had previously released details on that one, which involved pouring methanol from a 4 L bottle onto what was likely a smoldering cotton ball. The only new information yesterday was that the demo normally involves three tornadoes in varying fuel/additive combinations to show different flame colors. Also, back when the museum started using the demo, demonstrators had left the 4 L bottle in another area, taking out to the demo table only the amount needed. “Out of convenience, over time, the 4 L container itself had started being used in the demonstration,” CSB inspector Mark Wingard said. “Instructors and teachers are just not aware of the flashback hazard of methanol,” CSB managing director Daniel Horowitz said. “Methanol has a flash point that’s pretty similar to gasoline. I think that if people knew that gallon containers of gasoline were being brought into classrooms right near flames, they would be horrified.” Here are stories I was able to turn up from roughly the past year either definitely were or sound like methanol fires: Sept. 9, 2013, in Frisco, Tex.: Two middle school students and a teacher were injured in a flash fire that arose from a flame test experiment involving methanol. Oct. 3, 2013, in Douglas County, Ga.: One student suffered burns on 25% of her body when, while doing a flame test experiment, “a flammable liquid dispensed from the container unexpectedly fast and ignited, involving a 12th grade female student and catching her on fire.” Nov. 12, 2013, in Avondale, Az.: Four students and a teacher were injured in a “flash explosion” that occurred during a flame test experiment. Nov. 25, 2013, in Chicago, Ill.: A high school student suffered second-degree burns on her hands and four other students were hospitalized when the teacher was doing a flame test...

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Chemical safety for teachers webinar next week
Sep11

Chemical safety for teachers webinar next week

Just a quick post to spread the word that the American Association of Chemistry Teachers is holding a webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 16, from 7-8 pm Eastern on “Chemical Safety for Teachers”: Join professor and chemical safety expert Sammye Sigmann as she discusses laboratory standards, stockroom management, and answers your questions about safety in the chemistry classroom. Register...

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