Lab fire protection standard updated to include class demos
Sep09

Lab fire protection standard updated to include class demos

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...

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“I was blinded by a school science experiment”
Jun23

“I was blinded by a school science experiment”

Via @adchempages, a personal story of the repercussions of being blinded by a school science experiment, by Meredith Plumb: Throughout my childhood, I had 20:20 vision. But two weeks before my 12th birthday, in my first year of secondary school in Cheshire, my teacher asked me to conduct a science experiment, and gave me a pestle and mortar. I was told to measure three kinds of powder: black, orange and white. I did as I was told, but when I mixed them together, they exploded. I saw the flash, and then, what seemed like ages later, I heard the supersonic bang. Molten lava hit me in the face, but I felt no pain. ... I was taken to hospital, but the doctors didn’t know what to do with me. They hadn’t seen burns like that since the war, and never on a child. I was later flown to Barcelona and then Houston for surgery; between the ages of 13 and 16, I had 40 operations. As each operation came and went, my vision would come back, then fade again. Eventually, it faded completely and I had what was left of my eyes removed for cosmetic reasons. The powders aren't identified, but they may have been charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate--aka gunpowder or black powder. For those living in New England, note that the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety and the Lab Safety Institute are offering various discounts and scholarships for K-12 science teachers to attend safety workshops at the ACS meeting in Boston in August. Information is here (scroll down to see the workshop...

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#SafetyTuesday and #MyChemSafetyTip for teachers
Jun09

#SafetyTuesday and #MyChemSafetyTip for teachers

If it's Tuesday, that means it's #SafetyTuesday on Twitter. The American Association of Chemistry Teachers promotes the hashtag as a means to discuss and share safety information. #SafetyTuesday Hazard symbol infographic from @compoundchem http://t.co/JYh5zHPXU4 AND pls share your #MyChemSafetyTip! — AACT (@AACTconnect) May 26, 2015 Emphasize the importance of lab safety rules with this safety demo from the #AACT resource library: http://t.co/sCnaTFzPiu #SafetyTuesday — AACT (@AACTconnect) April 14, 2015 AACT also teamed up with the ACS high school ChemClub last month to get people to share #MyChemSafetyTip on social media. Here are a few examples: @ACSChemClubs @AACTconnect Hot glass looks the same as cold glass. So do ring stands, bunsen burners, tongs, hot plates...#mychemsafetytip — Mrs. Walsh (@ReitzChemistry) May 24, 2015 And from Facebook: Wear your googles. I give a few extra credit points for labs to students who put their goggles on (over their eyes!) and leave them on the entire lab without needing to be reminded. They'll do almost anything for extra credit, so this works great! ChemClub has the responses compiled over at its blog, so head over there for more. And check out today's #SafetyTuesday...

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Three Florida students burned in flame test demo
May28

Three Florida students burned in flame test demo

Via the Tallahassee Democrat, an incident from last week: A chemistry experiment gone wrong injured three Lincoln High School students Friday morning. Leon County Emergency Medical Services responded to the call, along with the Tallahassee Fire Department and the Sheriff's Office. Two students were admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with burns suffered during the incident, and another student was released to parental care. Both hospitalized students are in stable condition, confirmed Chris Petley, spokesman for Leon County Schools. A flame test being demonstrated by an experienced teacher during an AP chemistry class resulted in the accident. ... The experiment is performed underneath a fume hood on a lab bench. A flammable solvent – in Friday's accident it was alcohol – is used to ignite the flame. But it also creates the conditions for a flash fire. Once again: Here's the safer way to do the demo, by soaking wooden applicators in salt...

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Charges against Denver teacher dismissed
Apr13

Charges against Denver teacher dismissed

Last fall, a Denver teacher, Daniel Powell, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a classroom fire seriously burned a student. Powell had lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties, then tried to add more methanol from a 4 L container, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators said in September. The fire flashed back into the container, then jetted out to hit the student in the chest. Other students sitting nearby were also injured. The charges against Powell have been dropped, says Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney's Office. "As the case moved forward, further review of the facts led the prosecutor to the conclusion that we did not a reasonable likelihood of conviction – and once that conclusion was reached we had an ethical obligation to dismiss the case," Kimbrough says. A search for either the school's or teacher's names does not find any civil filings in state courts, says Rob McCallum, a public information officer for the Colorado Judicial...

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Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school
Jan06

Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school

Three lawsuits have now been filed by families of students injured a year ago when a New York high school teacher poured methanol from a gallon container during a "rainbow" flame test demonstration. New York Post stories about the lawsuits give some details of the students' injuries: Alonzo Yanes suffered second- and third-degree burns on his body, head, face, neck, torso, and hands. “He’s horrifically scarred, wearing all sorts of protective clothing and a brace on his neck,” the family’s attorney, Jeffrey Bloom, told the Post. His parents are suing the city for $27 million. Julia Saltonstall suffered first- and second-degree burns to her arm, torso, and face. Her family is suing for $10 million. Sara Salitan has respiratory problems and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and crying fits. Court papers in this suit did not list a specific amount. h/t Chemjobber. For a safer flame test demonstration, use wooden applicators soaked in salt...

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