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Lab safety is critical in high school, too

The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board yesterday released a new video, “After the Rainbow,” that features a student injured in a high school laboratory fire. Calais Weber was 15 years old when her teacher poured methanol on an open flame in front of students at her desk. An explosion and fire ensued, and Weber was burned over 40% of her body.

I haven’t tracked numbers, but in the few years I’ve been following chemical safety news, I feel like I’ve heard of a lot of alcohol fires in schools. I don’t know why people seem to discount the fire hazard of alcohols, but they do.

Weber has this message for students:

While it can seem daunting, it’s perfectly okay to speak up if you’re not feeling safe, to at least question. And if you’re given a piece of information on safety, read it.

4 Comments

  • Dec 11th 201312:12
    by Ralph Stuart

    >I feel like I’ve heard of a lot of alcohol fires in schools

    My tracking of hazmat responses reported in the press indicate that about 25% of 148 (or 37) of the laboratory responses in 2011 were to high school labs. I would guess that at least half of those were to solvent fires, the majority of those to methanol fires. I’m sure that there are many more that are not reported in the press.

    - Ralph

  • Dec 11th 201313:12
    by Jyllian Kemsley

    @Ralph – Thanks for weighing in! I’m also sure that there are a lot of high school incidents that either don’t make the press or, even if they do, come to our collective attention.

  • Dec 11th 201313:12
    by Lowell Thomson

    As a high school teacher, I’ve decided to NEVER use methanol in my classroom. Maybe this is a bit on the extreme, but I’ve seen too many accidents in the news that involve methanol to think it is worth the risk.

  • Dec 12th 201312:12
    by qvxb

    Chemjobber posted a link to a 2008 Cleveland Plain Dealer article about this. Three young people were severely injured.
    http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2008/01/burned_alive_survivors_story_o.html

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