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Chemical Safety Board reminds schools of hazards in chemistry labs

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Washington — In response to a recent fire in a high school chemistry laboratory that resulted in multiple injuries, the Chemical Safety Board is calling on schools and educators to review agency guidance for lab and classroom work involving flammable liquids.

CSB states that although it isn’t investigating the Oct. 12 incident at Dinwiddie High School in Virginia, it’s reminiscent of past instances that prompted an incident investigation. In those cases, an individual, as part of a lab demonstration, poured the flammable chemical methanol from a bulk container onto flames. A flashback to the bulk containers led to fires that caused injuries.

Tips from the agency:

  • Don’t use bulk containers of flammable chemicals in educational demonstrations when small quantities are sufficient.
  • Implement strict safety controls when demonstrations necessitate handling hazardous chemicals – including written procedures, effective training and the required use of appropriate personal protective equipment for all participants.
  • Conduct a comprehensive hazard review before performing any educational demonstration.
  • Provide a safety barrier between the demonstration and audience.

“Classroom demonstrations involving flammable chemicals can be important teaching tools, but they must be done safely,” CSB member and interim executive Steve Owens said in a press release. “We urge school administrators and teachers to review and follow the CSB’s safety lessons for these kinds of demonstrations so that no one is harmed by these preventable accidents.”

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