Whenever a serious incident takes place in a school chemistry laboratory or classroom, fire and safety officers often pontificate on the incident by quoting the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). However, how many of you have read such documents in full? In UK schools we have perhaps 200 to 400 chemicals on the shelves. Have you read the MSDSs for each chemical?
I recently spoke by email with Bob Worley as he prepared an article, But Surely That’s Banned, sharing some thoughts on chemical safety for teachers from his UK perspective. Part of the discussion revolved around our shared concern for using methanol for demonstrations. The Fire Tornado demonstration, that was part of the September 2014 Nevada museum incident, can easily be found in written form and video in a quick Google search.
The Royal Society of Chemistry became increasingly frustrated in 2004 when academics (the “when I was a lad” variety”), National Tabloids (it’s “‘elf un safety gone mad” variety), and many teachers were quoting health & safety fears as the reasons not to do practical science work and demonstrations.
Statement from the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety regarding the “Tornado Experiment” Explosion in a Science Museum in Reno, Nevada
Another chemistry demonstration accident has happened. This one was at a museum in Nevada. In preliminary reports, it looks as if several children were injured. One child was held overnight in the hospital. See the article posted on Yahoo News. (Thanks to Tom Kuntzleman for the link.)
Chemistry classroom accidents have been in the news too often recently. I hazard to suggest that there are smaller incidents that never make the news because there are luckily no serious injuries. We need to be vigilant in our safety concerns to protect our students and ourselves from any accidents and exposure to hazardous substances. We also need to be aware of theft concerns. Unfortunately, students may be looking for ingredients to experiment with explosives or to manufacture illicit drugs.
I was at a chemistry teacher workshop recently and we participated in a common Hess’s Law laboratory. Part of the procedure required us to measure about 2 grams of solid NaOH and add it to 100 mL of 0.5 M HCl. We also added 50 mL of 1 M NaOH solution to 50 mL of 0.5 M HCl solution. We then compared the energy change of both containers.
Robert H. Hill, Jr., Ph.D., Chair, ACS Committee on Chemical Safety asked us to post the following alert about the Rainbow Demonstration. I hope chemistry teachers will share the alert with their networks.
As I follow the conversations about the most recent chemistry classroom accident in Manhattan (see my previous blog post), I see that many agree that we need to advocate for adequate required safety training of our present and pre-service teachers. A good starting point is to pursue training on our own. This past year I began watching the Flinn Safety videos. I know they are good ones. I haven’t seen other free training like this available, but I would love to hear of other opportunities to share here. Read this message from Dr. Irene Cesa, Senior Scientist and Technical Consultant for Flinn Scientific, Inc. If you are interested in seeing a video clip specific to the recent tragedy, she gives precise information so that you can easily find the correct video excerpt.