Science class often has dazzling displays of fire and color, which make the lesson engaging for young students, but science class safety is of utmost importance. Serious and painful injuries can result if safety procedures are not in place, as flash fires in Nevada and Colorado showed this month.
Some teachers do not have the training required by law, according to educators and investigators, and they don’t know about putting standard safety measures in place. Putting safety standards and practices in place in the classroom and laboratory can greatly lower the risk of hands on experiments. These experiments are vital to science education.
Ken Roy, a safety consultant for the National Science Teachers Association and longtime teacher knows the importance of both hands on training and safety. “You’ve got to have it hands-on, but you have to make it a safer experience through that training.”
Four students were injured, one seriously, when a teacher was pouring methanol onto a table top and igniting it during a chemistry class demonstration at Denver’s Science, Math and Arts Academy, a charter high school. A 4-foot jet of flame erupted out of the methanol bottle and burned one of the students, investigators said.
School officials said the student’s parents asked them not to release any information about his condition.
On Sept. 3, 13 people, mostly children, were burned by a methanol-fueled flash fire during a science demonstration at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno.
Both incidents are under investigation.
Daniel Horowitz, managing director of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said the board has not been able to find any national standards for teacher training and procedures.
“As long as that’s the case, other schools may fall in to the same trap,” he said.
Schools and museums are not required to report such incidents, so no one knows for sure how often they happen.