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CSB issues guidance on safety during science demonstrations

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Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington – Three recent incidents that left both children and adults with burn injuries have prompted the Chemical Safety Board to issue a safety bulletin on educational science demonstrations that use flammable chemicals.

The report details how 13 people were injured during a flash fire on Sept. 3 at a museum in Reno, NV. The fire occurred when methanol inside a container ignited after an educator performed a “fire tornado” demonstration. The bulletin also describes how four students were burned in a flash fire on Sept. 15 at a Denver high school, and three Cub Scouts and an adult were injured on Oct. 20 in Raymond, IL, when methanol was poured onto boric acid near an open flame.

“We consider this a national issue, and children exposed to these demonstrations are at risk,” CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said during an Oct. 30 conference call.

CSB provided the following guidance:

  • Use small quantities of flammable chemicals instead of bulk containers.
  • Implement strict safety controls, including written procedures, effective training and appropriate personal protective equipment for participants.
  • Conduct a comprehensive hazard review before performing the demonstration.
  • Provide a safety barrier between the demonstration and audience.