Responding in part to a string of student injuries from science demonstrations–often the result of fires from demos that use methanol as a fuel–the National Fire Protection Association has updated its standard 45, which covers fire protection for laboratories using chemicals. Included in the revisions is a new chapter on educational and instructional laboratories, with retroactive requirements to protect students from demonstrations.
“[W]e cannot afford to burn any more students in science demonstrations,” says Andrew Minister, a chief fire protection engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and chair of the NFPA committee that updated the standard, in the NFPA Journal. “These accidents are preventable.” The new requirements cover instructor responsibilities, storing and handling chemicals, and safety controls for demonstrations.
NFPA has the updated standard available on its website for free. The American Chemical Society also has several classroom safety guides, as well as a recommended procedure for flame test demonstrations. Additionally, the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board has a safety bulletin, “Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents from Flammable Chemicals in Educational Demonstrations”, and a video featuring a woman who was burned in a school demo fire when she was 15: