Welcome to the NSTA Safety Blog

As NSTA’s chief science safety compliance adviser, I look forward to sharing the latest safety compliance information, while helping teachers solve safety-related problems and issues in the classroom, lab, and maker space. I’m also looking forward to interacting with colleagues to help improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the trenches.

Specifically, NSTA has initiated this new safety blog to:

  • share up-to-date information on legal safety standards and better professional practices for a safer working and learning environment and a safer STEM instructional experience;
  • disseminate current information on safety incidents occurring in K–12 classrooms, labs, and maker spaces; and
  • provide support and initiate dialogue in efforts to answer safety-related questions from bloggers, either teaching or supervising in K–12 classrooms, labs, and maker spaces.

Students learn STEM best by doing, not just reading.  Make it a memorable hands-on experience by incorporating safety!  Encourage your friends and colleagues to subscribe to the NSTA Blog and share their experiences and knowledge about safer science education experiences.   

Have a safer day!

Dr. Ken Roy

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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154 Responses to Welcome to the NSTA Safety Blog

  1. Mary Legoria says:

    Dr. Roy,
    I teach science labs to elementary students. Do you have suggests for safety lessons.?

  2. Ken Roy says:

    Mary – great question! Here are a few resources that may be helpful. I am sure others who read this might also be able to provide additional items to share:
    1. Safety in the Elementary Classroom by American Chemical Society or ACS, 3rd edition. A little dated but still very useful. Found at: https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/governance/committees/chemicalsafety/safetypractices/safety-in-the-elementary-school-science-classroom.pdf.
    2. Elementary level video on Lab Safety: Cartoon format – appropriate for elementary students. Found at: http://viewpure.com/tsAHt0FiwNM
    3. Science and Safety: It’s Elementary by Council of State Science Supervisors. Again a little dated but very useful. Found at: http://www.csss-science.org/downloads/scisaf_cal.pdf
    4. Safety Contract – Elementary: Would rename this “Safety Acknowledgement Form” but otherwise again – good to have signed once safety lesson is given initially. Found at: http://www.neisd.net/curriculum/SchImprov/science/safety_contract_elem.htm.
    5. NSTA Press a book I co-authored with a Dr. Linda Stroud. It is titled “Science Laboratory Safety Manual.” Chapter 10 is dedicated to elementary level lab safety. Starting on page 369, there are lab safety practice drills for K-5. These are a series of great activities which can make up safety lessons for students. There are in a card format. The book can be found on-line in the NSTA Press store at: https://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780978879617.
    PS: We also provide a safety acknowledgement form in that chapter!
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Safety Blogger
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser

  3. Denise Kuehner says:

    I am an elementary science lab specialist, and I start each class at the beginning of the year with a lab safety activity that I try to make fun. We’ve done scavenger hunts where the students find clues on the safety equipment they need to know about, and skits where I act out an experiment and they have to catch me doing something unsafe. I’ve also taken the safety rules from the FOSS poster, and switched out one word with a silly one, and had the students make corrections.

  4. Ken Roy says:

    Denise – Great ideas! Thanks for sharing with the group. Most appreciated.
    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Safety Blogger
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser

  5. Mary Legoria says:

    Dr. Ken & Denise,
    Thank you for your ideas and information. This is a huge help.

  6. Dr. Ken says:

    Mary – No problem! Please feel free to post on the blog whenever you have a safety question. I and others will respond and hopefully be able to provide assistance.
    Have a SAFER school year and thanks again —
    Dr. Ken
    PS – also you are welcome to follow me on Twitter@drroysafersci.

  7. Lavinia says:

    In trying to start the school year out right, I am looking to give best practice advise to my science department regarding SDS documents. Currently, all teachers have a binder of chemicals used, but not necessarily grouped by activity. Knowing that there are certain chemicals that are used frequently, would you recommend having a separate set for each activity or is the overall binder suitable?

  8. Dr. Ken says:

    Lavinia – Thanks for that important safety question. First know that OSHA’s HazCom, or the Right to Understand, standard requires employers to ensure that safety data sheets (SDSs) are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. To comply with the accessibility requirement, it is recommended that all SDSs be housed together with a central access point in work areas where SDS guidance is needed. For example, employers can keep SDSs in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area, and as long as back-ups are available for rapid access to the SDS in the event of a power outage or other emergency.
    If your science labs are like most, there could be 100s of hazardous chemicals and accompanying SDSs. In an emergency, time and access are critical. In Glastonbury, where I am the Chemical Hygiene Officer, we require the SDSs, specific to the hazardous chemical being used, to be available in a folder at that site. That way, if there is a chemical incident, not only the teacher but also the school nurse will quickly know how to proceed, instead of having to go through a whole notebook or computer program with 100s of SDSs. This seems to work well. That is the best recommendation. This is what I believe you referred to as a separate set for each activity. The expectation should be (as part of the chemical hygiene plan) that as labs are set up, the appropriate SDSs are pulled and copied for that lab and are available in the lab during the activity.
    Hope this helps!
    Again, thanks for sharing. Let me know how it works out. Also feel free to post others comments on the blog.
    Be safer – subscribe to the NSTA Safety Blog!
    Dr. Ken
    P.S. – you are welcome to follow me on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

  9. Dr. Ken Roy says:

    Questions about safety contracts. The following questions were submitted to me via email by a science supervisor. Permission was provided for placement on the safety blog. My responses are noted below each question.
    1) The current expectation is that students in science classrooms sign safety contracts and the schools keep these for seven years. Let’s say we have a high school with 3,000 students and each takes three science courses (minimum) and signs the same contract three times (that is, three papers per student) and then we keep these for seven years. There is often a hazardous situation with tripping over the boxes or storing them up high in violation of fire codes. So, what are the current recommendations, and do they consider these concerns? Is seven years a “must”?
    Dr. Ken’s Reponse:
    First, you need to find out what your state’s statute of limitations are on these types of documents. For example, if it is just three years, you would need to only hold the document for that length of time. That’s because if there was going to be a lawsuit over an incident, the document would need to be filed during that period of time. The documents are important for a teacher’s defense, should there be a safety incident followed by legal action. After the statute of limitations is up, the documents can be shredded. Some schools only keep them for one year if there are no safety incidents, regardless of the statute of limitations.
    One other note: Instead of a safety contract, I would suggest using a safety acknowledgment form. This is better to use, given that a student’s signature, if a minor, may not be binding for the document as a contract. You can find a sample safety acknowledgement form by the NSTA at the following address:
    2) Is it permissible for the contract to be signed and be kept as the most recent copy on file for a student, instead of holding to three, four, or even more copies of the same document per student? Alternatively, is it permissible to store these as scanned e-copies?
    Dr. Ken’s Response:
    Absolutely, scan the documents. However, a student may take different science courses each year. My advice is to have a document for each course, each year. That way it provides evidence or proof that the safety protocols were covered each year, as a matter of practice. This would be helpful in a legal defense, should there be a safety incident involving litigation.

  10. Dr. Ken says:

    Question about Hazardous Chemical Disposal –
    I received an email with the following inquiry:
    “I have a question from a teacher in my state. Any ideas on how to get rid of Lithium Nitrate and Mercury (I) Nitrate?”
    Dr. Ken’s Response: Here is a list of potential strategies to consider for disposal of hazardous chemicals.
    •SDS Disposal – First check Safety Data Sheets – Section 13 for disposal information. This may or may not be of help.
    •Flinn Chemical & Biological Catalog Reference Manual – Chemical DisposalProcedures.www.flinnsci.com – this is a great resource for properly disposing of hazardous chemicals. Note that Flinn has discontinued selling elemental mercury, mercury compounds and mercury thermometers. It does address disposal of Lithium Nitrate however.
    •Local Hazardous Waste Day – local or county – your state or county may have these options also – check it out.
    •Commercial – there are commercial companies that can appropriately dispose of these items for a fee.
    •Industry or Academia Sources – Local business and industry and/or academic institution may sometimes take them free of charge out of your inventory.
    •Local fire marshal – Check with local fire marshal or town HazMat team – they may also help you dispose of the hazards.
    Bottom-line – Schools owns it cradle to grave! Make sure however if it is gotten rid of that there is documentation for appropriate disposal!
    Thanks –
    Dr. Ken

  11. Dr. Ken says:

    The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease have been detected in part of the water supply at the University of Washington Medical Center, where officials said a second person linked to an outbreak has died.
    An ice machine and two sinks in cardiac units of the hospital’s Cascade Tower were found to be contaminated with the germs that can cause the potentially deadly form of pneumonia, officials said Wednesday.
    Science teachers need to make sure water fountains and sinks in their labs, science classrooms and other locations in the school are sanitized each day by the custodial staff. Also make sure water is run down a sink drain at least once a week for several minutes!
    For more information – http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/uw-medical-center-reports-2nd-death-from-legionnaires-bacteria-is-in-water-supply/
    Be Safer –
    Dr. Ken

  12. Dr. Ken says:

    The National Science Education Leadership Association just launched its latest position statement titled: “SAFETY & DUTY OF CARE!” This is a must read for science teachers and supervisors to help keep them out of harm’s way legally.
    Check it out at: http://nsela.org/about-nsela/position-statements/631-safety-duty-of-care
    Post any questions or comments on the NSTA Safety Blog or email Dr. Ken at: safesci@sbcglobal.net.
    Be Safer –
    Dr. Ken

  13. Dr. Matthew Bobrowsk says:

    Dr. Ken –
    I thought maybe you could shed some light on this. I’m looking at the MSDS for ethanol, denatured, 70%.
    What puzzles me is that the first aid measures in Section 4 seem to warn against skin contact, for which it says to remove immediately, and rinse skin. What is the danger with skin contact? We drink ethanol, but skin contact is problematic? Do you know why?
    Best regards,
    Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky
    Adjunct Professor
    University of Maryland University College
    E-mail: matt.bobrowsky@faculty.umuc.edu
    Tel. 443-812-5466

  14. Dr. Ken Roy says:

    Dr. Matt –
    Great question about Ethanol and the skin contact under SDS Section 4.
    Current evidence suggests that ethanol may be a potential carcinogen believe it or not! It also topically acts as a skin penetration enhancer which can effect the transdermal absorption of Xenobiotics. That is one reason why I advocate the use of just soap and water – not alcohol based hand sanitizers!
    I would suggest you check out the following:
    Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596158/
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  15. Dr. Mary Loesing says:

    Is there any regulation that states that only science teachers should have a key to the chemical storage room? If not, is this something that the district can write into their Chemical Hygiene Plan?

  16. Dr. Ken says:

    Great question! I actually wrote about this in one of the NSTA journals a number of years ago. OSHA notes that areas such as boiler rooms, electrical closets, hazardous chemical storage areas are considered “secured areas” given the high risk of injury from hazards in those areas. Many of the chemical categories such as toxins, corrosives, etc. are specifically noted in the OSHA App. C of HazCom as follows: “storage:- locked up.” (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10102)
    Point is, only trained employees – e.g. science teachers – are to have access to areas where there are stored hazardous chemicals. Locks should be unique to those storage areas with limited access as noted for only science teachers, administrators and custodians (training in chemical safety). There never should be master keys available to all staff for these areas. And yes – this security/safety issue should be in the Chemical Hygiene Plan.
    Thanks –
    Dr. Ken

  17. Dr. Ken says:

    A curriculum consultant posed an inquiry about working with a teacher who wants her students to design and test “mini-compost” bins in her classroom as an engineering project recently. A great resource for this activity is as follows: “Health & Safety Guidance for Composting in the School Setting by the Cornell Waste Management Institute” found at – http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=manuals
    It addresses many critical health and safety aspects of this activity. Below is an outline of the document’s contents. I would urge any science teacher thinking of composting activities to read this document first.
    1. Protect those likely to be most sensitive.
    2. Consider the type of compost bin. Most school compost
    3. Turning the compost.
    4. Where to put the composting activity?
    5. Manage the compost well.
    6. Practice good hygiene.
    7. Recognize potential symptoms.
    Dr. Ken
    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Consultant & Safety Blogger

  18. Dr. Ken says:

    Just an FYI for Safety Blog Subscribers from Dr. Ken —————————
    Making his third appearance on Lab Out Loud, we welcome Dr. Ken Roy back to discuss safety in science classrooms and other potentially harmful areas (such as makerspaces). This fall, Ken launched the NSTA Safety Blog to share commentaries on the latest safety issues, legal standards and better professional practices. Ken reminds us about important science safety practices such as yearly safety training, our duty of care when working with students in foreseeable harmful situations, and the need to make sure your eye wash station works before you do labs that might require its use. Listen to the show to hear how you can learn important safety tips and how to submit your own questions to the NSTA Safety Blog.
    To hear the interview – go to: http://laboutloud.com/2016/11/episode-154-nsta-safety-blog/

  19. Alyson Paige says:

    Dr. Ken – I have stepped into the science teacher (grades 7 and 8) position at a new school. I have been going through chemicals (putting my knowledge to use from the previous safety training programs!) and planning on ordering safety supplies including splash goggles with ports caps.
    Could you please let me know if these would be appropriate for the middle school science lab?
    Thank you very much!
    Alyson Paige

  20. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Alyson Paige’s comment:
    This is a common question that I get when I do safety training programs and safety inspections at schools. This type of safety goggle would be OK however – anecdotally and from my own experience when teaching chemistry, I find students tend to pull out the caps which makes these goggles directly vented – not safe for working with hazardous chemicals. To be on the safe side, I would suggest you find indirectly vented chemical splash goggles without vents with caps which can be removed. You want fixed indirect vents. That way they always remain indirectly vented for a safer experience by students in working with liquids that are hazardous. Hope this has been helpful.
    Thanks –
    Dr. Ken

  21. Andrew Bean says:

    My school is looking into buying our first 3D printer and was seeing if anyone had any advice as to which make and model we should purchase. I have heard good things about Makerbot but wanted to ask the list serve for any advice. Also am interested in any safety considerations.

  22. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Andrew Bean’s comment:
    Andrew – The short answer to safety considerations relative to 3D printers is appropriate ventilation! Research though limited suggests health and safety issues with 3D printers if there is inappropriate ventilation.
    The long answer is I will have a commentary this month on this very issue so watch for it in the coming few weeks. It will get into the research results and specifics on how to protect yourself and students.
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken
    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Consultant & Safety Blogger

  23. Beth Bonvie says:

    Hi Dr. Ken,
    What is the best way to update the GHS labels? Do we have to purchase new labels from a company or can we just get plain labels and write the required info?
    Thanks for any help you can provide.

  24. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Beth Bonvie:
    Beth – thanks for that popular question. I am assuming you are talking about older labels on chemicals that you had purchased prior to the implementation of the GHS system under the 2012 OSHA HazCom Standard revision. Please note the following response below on how OSHA treats this situation. The quick answer is – NO! Labels do normally need to be updated so you can leave them as they are save an exception which the narrative addresses. Please let me know if this answers your question!!
    Have a safer day – Dr. Ken
    Q: I have chemicals purchased before the GHS changes with old labels that are not compliant with the revised standard. Do I have to re-label these chemicals?
    A: No, employers/employees using hazardous chemicals are not required to re-label old, original chemical containers provided by the manufacturers unless there is a significant change in hazard information as follows:
    1910.1200 Hazard Communication. (f) “Labels and other forms of warning.”
    (11) Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers who become newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical shall revise the labels for the chemical within six months of becoming aware of the new information, and shall ensure that labels on containers of hazardous chemicals shipped after that time contain the new information. If the chemical is not currently produced or imported, the chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor, or employer shall add the information to the label before the chemical is shipped or introduced into the workplace again
    For additional information see OSHA Brief on Labels and Pictograms: http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3636.pdf

  25. Jan Hermansen says:

    Our district does not have a chemical hygiene officer nor a chemical disposal plan. I would like to know how to go about writing a chemical disposal plan myself for our district. Is there a way? Or should the district hire someone to write it. They aren’t going to hire a trained chemical hygiene officer.

  26. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Jan Hermansen’s comment:
    Jan – First of all, if your district is under Federal or a state OSHA, by default – it is my understanding that the superintendent of schools as CEO is the Chemical Hygiene Officer – so you probably do have one but he/she doesn’t know it!!!! The following OSHA Fact Sheet on the Lab Standard notes the requirement for a chemical hygiene officer or CHO. I would share this with your superintendent. Even if your district is not under an OSHA, better professional practice dictates you have a CHO!
    OSHA Fact Sheet Internet address:
    For waste management, check out the OSHA Toxic and Hazardous Substances
    • Standard Number: 1910.1450 App A – section 3. Waste Management. It can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=10107
    There are many sample plans which can be found just by Googling “chemical waste management plan, public schools.” For an actual plan example, check out ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
    RISK MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT – Section X – waste management found at:
    Hope this all helps!
    Dr. Ken

  27. Mary Reilly says:

    I am thoroughly appreciating all the comments, suggestions, and tips that are being posted about here. I know that safety will always be my number one priority in my classroom, so it is nice to know that I can come here for ways to keep my future high school students safe!

  28. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Mary Reilly’s Comment:
    Mary – your comment about the NSTA Safety Blog is most welcomed for certain. The safety blog provides a unique opportunity for teachers to share a safety concerns, become aware of safety issues, allow me to provide information based on legal safety standards and better professional practices relative to individual teacher situations, and much more. Thanks again for your commitment to having a safer science program – most appreciated! Also kudos to NSTA for addressing the need for providing safer hands-on science..
    Dr. Ken

  29. Dr. Ken says:

    HOT OFF THE PRESS: New Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations by The
    American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Education. This is a great resource for science teachers – check it out: http://www.divched.org/content/safety-guidelines-chemical-demonstrations
    Dr. Ken

  30. Barbara King says:

    Dr. Ken – I am currently working on updating our lab safety guides for elementary, middle and high school teachers to have for reference in an effort to maintain consistency among the schools within our district. We have items for safety protocols that have been provided for all schools, but they seem to get lost, misplaced,etc., as staff changes. Having one developed locally will help us have a consistent approach to address safety for all levels of science investigations. It can be posted in many different areas for easy access.
    Do you have recommendations for different resources to include in these?
    Thank you in advance for your advice.
    Barbara King

  31. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Barbara King –
    Barbara – One of the best sources for safety resources is the NSTA Safety Portal which was developed by the NSTA Safety Advisory Board. In addition to important safety papers, there are also recources from commercial sources, state programs, etc. Also they are arranged by elementary, middle and high school. The portal is usually updated several times a year. I do know the list of state resources is currently being updated and should be out in the next few months.
    The Portal can be found at: https://www.nsta.org/safety/
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Roy

  32. Kit Nielsen says:

    Dr. Ken – We have a student who would like to disassemble a computer monitor. Safety Concerns? I know we discourage them from doing old tvs.
    Thanks and happy holidays!

  33. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Kit Nielsen –
    Kirsten – Thanks for the great question. There is a real risk of electric shock from capacitors in TVs and monitors (especially older one!). When charged, there can be enough juice to electrocute you – this is even when the power source is unplugged. Capacitors store the electrical charge. There also are a number of sharps and other hazards. It would be safer to have the student watch a YouTube version to see what is inside or even better have a school computer tech person who is trained in doing monitor repairs work and safety trained to directly work with the student.
    Hopefully this helps! And yes – Happy Holidays!
    Dr. Ken

  34. Heather says:

    I am working on appropriately outfitting an elementary classroom for some basic chemistry activities involving hydrogen peroxide, bleach, iodine etc. I know we need to provide an eyewash station – what are your thoughts about products like these? https://www.amazon.com/PhysiciansCare-24-102-Mountable-Station-Bottles/dp/B001S98EBO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1483027774&sr=8-3&keywords=eye+wash+station
    I understand this product to be OSHA compliant, but what are your specific thoughts about the efficacy of these versus more expensive faucet mounted eyewash stations? We would lose the use of our one sink if we converted it into an eyewash station for the week. Thanks.

  35. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Heather-
    Heather – This an often overlooked items at the elementary classroom/lab level. Thanks for asking it. First of all the chemicals you have listed are considered hazardous being corrosive, toxic, etc. In addition to the need for engineering controls such as an eyewash which you noted, specific personal protective equipment and training are also required.
    As to engineering controls – you should be looking at both an eyewash and shower. Check out the Safety Data Sheet for bleach for example. It notes – “In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes.” We are talking a shower here! The eyewash should be plumbed so it also can provide a minimum of 15 minutes exposure to tepid water. I would not recommend the bottled eyewash in that it is limited to exposure time by the amount of water it holds to begin with. As you noted, the faucet mounted eyewash could be purchased but you would lose access to your sink. It is worth the extra expenditure to do it correctly by installing a separate eyewash/shower engineering control. Remember – it is cheaper then a law suit from an employee or student getting seriously injured form a splash and you not having the appropriate safety engineering control!
    Having said all of this, I would recommend trying to find safer alternatives to these hazardous chemicals. I don’t know what investigations you would be doing but – there usually are safer alternatives. Always do a hazards analysis, risks assessment and appropriate safety response before undertaking an activity. If the hazards and resulting risks are too great and can’t be addressed, find an alternative!
    Hope this helps. Feel free to send me examples of eyewash/shower controls for review should you decide to go that route.
    Dr. Roy

  36. Felicia Sternberg says:

    A few teachers have items hanging from their ceilings in the labs such as reminder cards, student work, plants, etc. I was wondering if the OSHA standard that states items cannot be stored 18 inches from the ceiling vertically/horizontally from sprinklers applies to all items hanging from the ceiling? Or is it okay as long as they are at least 18 inches away?
    Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!
    Mrs. Felicia Sternberg
    Grade 8 Team 8 Science Teacher

  37. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Felicia:
    Felicia – Thanks for the question – I would note first that this is an OSHA and NFPA fire code issue.
    Bottomline: Always keep an item used or stored in a room a minimum of 18 inches below the sprinkler head. This is a horizontal wall to wall level.
    However – having said that – Please check out this OSHA letter send to a person asking a similar question – it should be very helpful to you. The letter can be found at the following OSHA Internet address:
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  38. Rob Lefkowitz says:

    Looking for recommendation for a gas burner for middle school kids???

  39. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Rob Lefkowitz:
    Rob – interesting question! Gas Burners are a classic heating source which tend to be used more often in high school or college science laboratories than middle school science labs. The reason being is less control relative to specific temperatures and other inherent dangers associated with use of a flammable gas. Middle schools more often use hot plates as a heat source. Heating organic liquids such as alcohol with a gas burner is very dangerous and a fire will more than likely develop. The burner should be limited to primarily heating only nonflammable solvents such as water or aqueous solutions such as salt water.
    Having said that, if you are going to use a gas burner, there are a few safer alternatives. For example, micro butane burners usually have a number of built in safety features that could be used at the middle school if you can’t use safer heat source alternatives like hot plates. Please – just do not use alcohol lamps as a heat source. They are extremely dangerous as the number of serious lab accidents have proven.
    I wrote an article in the Dec 2005 Science Scope titled “Turn up the Heat—-Safely!” A free copy can be found at: http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=51424. The column also lists safety operating procedures when using any type of gas burner. You might want to check it out.
    Unfortunately you did not indicate what you were heating but I hope this information helps – let me know!
    Dr. Ken

  40. Christopher Walsh says:

    Dr. Ken –
    My question is involving disposal procedures. Do we need to contract a hazardous waste disposal company to dispose of preserved specimen fluids? We use Ward’s and Carolina who preserve their specimens in formalin and Carosafe.
    Thanks in advance!

  41. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Christopher Walsh’s Comment:
    Hey Chris – good question! It depends of a few factors like – company you purchased the specimens from, what type of preservative, what the Safety Data Sheets note for disposal, septic system, etc.
    For example – check out the following procedure from Carolina Biological –
    Preserved Specimen Disposal Guideline at: http://www.carolina.com/teacher-resources/Interactive/preserved-specimen-disposal-guidelines/tr10906.tr
    Preserving Fluids
    If your preserved specimens are in pails of Carosafe® or Carolina’s Perfect Solution® , the fluids can often be discharged into a sanitary sewer system. This is because neither fluid is classified as a federal hazardous waste and the quantities are generally small. However, you should check with the local wastewater authority (e.g., the local governmental authority that handles wastewater treatment or the local wastewater treatment plant) to make sure that this is an acceptable practice. If it is, you can pour the fluids into a sink and flush them down the drain with running water.
    Another one is Wards. They note the following at their site – Preserved Specimens FAQs:
    How do I dispose of my specimens when lab work is completed?
    You should check with your state and local authorities to insure proper disposal. In most instances, specimens can be disposed of as ordinary household waste, and may either be placed in a landfill or incinerated.
    I believe their advice of checking with local and state regs, in addition to the local water treatment plant operator is good advice before any dumping down the drain ideas!
    I believe Delta has a program to ship it back and they will dispose of it. (http://holscience.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Biological-Specimens-Handling-and-Disposal.pdf)
    If still in doubt – I would call a hazardous waste contractor and have them removed. What ever you decide to do, remember to act in an environmental conscious way and also – remember your district owns it from cradle to grave – legally!
    Final thought – remember – with all good chemical management – think how the hazardous chemical would be disposed of and any ramification like cost – BEFORE you decide to purchase it!
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  42. Dr. Jackie Bowman says:

    One other piece of advice. If you can dispose of specimens as ordinary household waste, it is wise to use black not clear plastic bags. Ordinary citizens can become quite concerned when they see large numbers of specimens in clear plastic bags.

  43. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. Jackie Bowman’s Comment:
    Dr. Jackie – School trash bins can be an attractive nuisance for sure! I would also add that some schools now send out notifications to parents/guardians about upcoming dissection activities. Some states like Connecticut have passed “Dissection Choice Laws.” The Connecticut dissection-choice law allows students to opt out of participating in or watching classroom animal dissections and instead be provided with “humane non-animal learning methods,” such as realistic models and interactive computer programs.
    Point is – you never know who might be rummaging through school trash bins or dumpsters. Which can be unsafe to begin with. Just make sure notification has gone out to parents and guardians as required! Don’t need any negative front page headlines in the town newspaper.
    Thanks again for the comment –
    Dr. Ken

  44. Dr. Ken says:

    Doing Lab Demos in a Safer Way!
    I received this anonymous question for the blog by a high school science teacher:
    Dr. Ken – Are there some guidelines I can use for chemical demonstrations to make them safer? With the number of accident doing lab demos I read about, I am concerned about not only safety for me and my students but also my liability. Thanks in advance
    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous:
    As luck would have it, the American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Education released (Oct 2016) a newly written document which directly addresses your question. It is titled: Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations and can be found at (http://www.divched.org/sites/default/files/documents/SafetyGuidelinesforChemicalDemonstrations_101416.pdf)
    This document is well written and starts with the statement – Because no such set of guidelines can address all possible issues, only persons who have appropriate education and experience in chemistry and chemical safety should perform chemical demonstrations. Accordingly, these guidelines are intended for use only by experienced chemical practitioners.
    It then goes into detail focusing on safety procedures to follow before the demo and during the demo. There are also sections on Special Notes for Outreach or Public Demonstrations and Resources.
    Again this is a great resource and I would urge all of our colleagues to read it before doing their next demo!
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  45. Dr. Sandra West says:

    A colleague asked me for input on a district’s possible decision to place a Chemistry teacher in a portable. I responded with the following information and believe it may be helpful to others in a similar situation:
    If a district plans to house a chemistry teacher and class in a portable building, it would seem that the district would need to guarantee two things to those students assigned to that room, to the parents of those students, to the future employers of those students, and to those taxpayers in that district.
    The first guarantee is that all students including those students would receive an equivalent chemistry education and experience. This would include meeting the TEA requirement that the students engage in investigations 40% of the instructional time. All of the chemistry TEKS are effectively taught and learned using science Better Professional Practices.
    The second guarantee is that those students and their teacher will be in a safer teaching/learning environment like other chemistry labs based on legal safety standards and better professional practices. For example, this would mean that all of the safety engineering controls are in place. All portable building facilities would meet commonly accepted legal safety standards and better professional practices as found in the TEA Facilities standards for new or renovated chemistry rooms in 19 TAC Ch. 61, Subchapter CC (58 sf/student, 1,400 sf, a one pass air ventilation system, a chemical fume hood, dual eyewash/safety shower that meets ANSI standards, a separate chemical storeroom, 6 linear ft/student of horizontal work surface, an instructor controlled exhaust fan that will provide an air change every 15 min., emergency shut-off controls).
    Will the room pass the Fire Dept. inspection for a facility that houses flammables? Will the NFPA codes be adhered to?
    Will the building be secure against chemical, particularly flammables, theft? Portables typically do not have locking windows, but do have raised flooring that is notoriously insecure against break-ins as suggested by my grandson.
    Will the classes be held to 24 or fewer students in any one class as per research-based national standards from the National Science Education Association and the American Chemistry Society?
    The TEA Educators Code of Ethics has requirements for all educators to protect students.
    §247.2. Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators.
    (3) Ethical Conduct Toward Students
    (B) Standard 3.2. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently
    treat a student or minor in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the [student’s]
    learning, physical health, mental health, or safety of the student or minor.
    (E) Standard 3.5. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
    engage in physical mistreatment , neglect, or abuse of a student or minor.
    Dr. Sandra West,
    Biology Dept,
    Texas State University

  46. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Dr. Sandra West’s comment:
    This is great information to provide when there is “displacement of the traditional chemistry lab!” This often happens when there is school construction or renovations involving science labs. The two priorities as Dr. West noted are securing academic equity and maintaining a safer teaching/learning instructional site. In addition to what information she presented, I would recommend checking out the NSTA Science Teacher Safer Science column I wrote addressing this issue in Jan 2011. See the information below on how to access this article:
    Safer Science: Building Safety in Foreign Language (Free from NSTA Press for NSTA members found at: http://www.nsta.org/store/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/tst11_078_01_8
    Article summary: A school is about to undergo major renovations and new construction to handle a growing student population. So some science classes and labs are assigned to other parts of the building temporarily. Most teachers are excited about the opportunity to help design the new facility—but many are unaware of the challenges that lie ahead. Therefore, science teachers and their supervisors need to get on board early in the planning stages for new construction and renovations. This includes planning for safety-smart temporary lab facilities. An alternate instructional site where all legal standards and professional best practices can be addressed is critical.
    Please note the legal safety standards for your state may be different than the ones noted by Dr. West. Her references are for the state of Texas. Consult with your state and local fire marshal, building inspectors and state department of education for starters.
    Dr. Ken

  47. Dr. Ken says:

    Recently on the General Science Listserve there was a discussion about culturing mold in the lab. This is a real faux pas for sure safety-wise! Below is my response –
    Unless you are running an advanced/AP high school science lab course or a college level Mycology course – there should be NO culturing of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi in any school classroom or lab, based on better professional practices and legal safety standards.
    For example, the NSTA Safety Advisory Board has a safety paper on the NSTA Safety Portal titled: TIPS FOR THE SAFER HANDLING OF MICROORGANISMS IN THE SCIENCE LABORATORY. It can be found at: http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/TipsForSafeHandlingOfMicroorganisms20160412.pdf.
    The paper clearly notes the risks of culturing microorganisms and the limitations.
    The problem is you just don’t know what you are culturing in a general survey type growth and therefore there is a real health and safety risk! Even in advanced science lab classes as noted, usually only known commercial type cultures are used. The risk is some fungi can be pathogenic – e.g. MRSA, etc. Obviously the potential for bio-hazard level risk and issues.
    In addition, mold allergies can be very serious health issues for some individuals – students and staff upon exposure. For example, serious respiratory issues can present themselves upon exposure to mold allergens.
    Even when the cultures are “sealed” with tape, etc., accidents can happen which expose lab occupants to allergens. Professionals who work in the field with years of experience still have accidents. Obviously a middle or high school level student is not “immune” to accidents either!
    Bottom-line is – please – do not culture bacteria or mold in your school classroom or labs. Just not a safe thing to do! Given the numerous resources on the Internet, there are a variety of photos which can be used and also commercially prepared slides can be useful.
    Thanks –
    Dr. Ken
    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser
    National Science Teachers Association

  48. Kenneth Roy says:

    IMPORTANT CHEMICAL ALERT: Science Lab Safety Warning on 2,4 dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) – This chemical is extremely shock sensitive when dried out. Normally contains 30-35% water as a stabilizer. In the UK, soldiers were called to nearly 600 schools nationally following a Government warning about 2,4 dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) who carried out 589 controlled explosions. The chemical has been used to test for and identify carbonyl compounds.
    For latest information – check out what the UK is doing about it in school science labs: at http://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/bomb-squad-called-to-eight-lincolnshire-schools-over-chemical-explosion-fears/story-30070611-detail/story.html#tkRJcxbHKjABt7SL.99http://www.lincolnshirelive.co.uk/bomb-squad-called-to-eight-lincolnshire-schools-over-chemical-explosion-fears/story-30070611-detail/story.html
    At the K-12 level – this needs to be a “ban” level chemical! If you find it in your inventory consider removing by calling your local fire marshal and/or hazmat team. Better safe than sorry as the saying goes!!!
    Stay safer –
    Dr. Ken

  49. Claudia Bhagat says:

    Dr. Ken, going through my school’s chemical cabinet I’ve found a glass bottle with glass stopper, engraved “sulfuric acid dil H2SO4” (the types of bottles probably used in the 1960’s or before). It contains approx. 200 ml clear fluid with some white precipitate. I do not know how dilute it is (maybe 1M, maybe anywhere from near 0 to 18M). I cannot remove the stopper (tried soaking in water and carbonated water as well as gentle heating). How do I discard this bottle? Glass trash and hoping it is well diluted? Crashing it and risking injury from glass and acid? None of these options seem wise. Any other ideas? Or only commercial hazard waste disposal?

  50. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Claudia Bhagat’s Comment:
    Claudia – Thanks for the question – I know many science teachers “inherit gifts” like the one you have noted. Normally, neutralization would be the plan A. However – in your case – there are too many unknowns and in addition, the sealed bottled issue. For starters – I believe you don’t know how old it is – no date; you don’t know the concentration; you don’t know if in fact it is sulfuric acid (you did not bottle it); and more.
    At this juncture, I would say plan B is the safer way to go – containerized for removal by a contracted waste management company. Find a waste management company and explain your problem. Ask them what type of container they would like you to use and how they want it labeled. Also get a generic dilute sulfuric acid SDS and placed it with the bottle. Always get a firm quote from the company prior to contracting them. Some school districts have their facilities department or science chemical hygiene officer do annual chemical waste disposal programs in place. You need to explore that avenue first.
    Store the bottle in a safe and secure place like a shelf in your chemical storeroom. Dedicate that shelf location for disposal items and label the shelf –“Items for disposal.” Also have a spill pan placed under the bottle in case it should happen to leak.
    In the interim – please – do not heat the bottle – could explode! Do not smash the bottle – you could get cut and splashed by projectiles! Do not place in water or any other liquid – could start an exothermic reaction – nasty! Remember when diluting acids, never add water to acid – always the reverse – Always Add Acid to the water (AAAw method!). Adding water to acid may cause it to boil very violently, splashing concentrated acid out of the container!
    Hope this is helpful!
    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser/Blogger

  51. Jan Hermansen says:

    Dr. Ken;
    It has been brought to my attention by another teacher and parent about the dangerous use of the ozone machines our school has purchased and are using. I have been so involved in preparing lesson plans and making sure the lab is running soundly with my second year of teaching, this issue completely missed my attention.
    What are your thoughts, resources, etc. about using ozone machines in confined spaces with poor ventilation?
    Thanks for your reply.
    PS I have contacted our county environmental health director to come do pollution testing. I also would like to add the ozone machines to the list of pseudo-science articles for students to research. The pseudo-science topic is new for me this year but I feel very important to discuss.

    Jan Hermansen

  52. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Jan Hermansen Comment:
    Jan – Good question and one I have personal experience with. We have a copy room and a paraprofessional who runs 3 copying machines in it. A few years ago she complained to me as safety compliance officer of getting headaches, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc. when working in the office after about one hour. I visited her and could quickly smell the presence of what I suspected was ozone. Fast forward – I had it tested by a state certified lab and as a result I required all of the copiers to be directly vented to the out side. Symptoms vanished once venting was operational.
    Unfortunately, man-made ozone from copiers and other office machines is corrosive and toxic. Continuous initial exposure provides acute symptoms like I mentioned above. Long term exposure can cause chronic symptoms leading to lung damage and infections.
    Ozone concentrations can build up to unhealthy levels with insufficient ventilation. Concentrations as little as 0.25 ppm can effect eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, olfactory sensation issues and more. It is my understanding that prolonged exposure to a few ppm is known to seriously damage lungs.
    Bottom-line is – I would suggest you have an IAQ test done specifically including ozone levels but make sure the copiers are running for a while as in normal operation during the testing phase. I would also have the facilities department check into directly venting each machine that produces ozone. Supposedly, newer models of copier have reduced levels of ozone. It does depend of the model but again, small areas with no or little ventilation still allows ozone levels to rise.
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  53. Beth Bonvie says:

    Dr. Ken –
    Subject: Powdered Gloves to Be Discontinued Following New FDA Regulation
    Received this from our school secretary – see below.
    I assume we are to comply throughout the district and destroy and powdered gloves?
    FYI: Fisher Scientific
    Prepare: Make a Smooth Transition to Powder-Free
    Dear Valued Customer,
    The FDA issued a final ruling December 19th and banned the use of powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and the use of powder to don gloves in a health care setting. The ruling becomes effective January 18, 2017. To ensure that you receive the highest quality of personal protective products, Thermo Fisher Scientific has discontinued the sale of such products, effective immediately, in support of the FDA’s request to withdraw such products from the marketplace.
    Based on the FDA’s recommendation, we are requesting that you destroy any of these products in your possession. Please note that use of these products for any other purpose is considered off-label use from the FDA’s perspective, and therefore, we request that you not repurpose these products for any other application.
    Thanks for your help as always –
    Beth Bonvie

  54. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Beth Bonvie re: FDA’s Ban on Powered Gloves:
    Beth – Yes – this is true about the new FDA ban on powered gloves starting 18 Jan 2017. “Prudent avoidance” are always the safety words to follow! As an fyi – I have copied the introductory part of the Fed Reg below along with the website. I would urge all teachers who use these glove to read this important information.
    Hopefully this will be helpful!
    Dr. Ken
    Banned Devices; Powdered Surgeon’s Gloves, Powdered Patient Examination Gloves, and Absorbable Powder for Lubricating a Surgeon’s Glove
    Purpose and Coverage of the Final Rule
    Medical gloves play a significant role in the protection of both patients and health care personnel in the United States. Health care personnel rely on medical gloves as barriers against transmission of infectious diseases and contaminants when conducting surgery, as well as when conducting more limited interactions with patients. Various types of powder have been used to lubricate gloves so that wearers could don the gloves more easily. However, the use of powder on medical gloves presents numerous risks to patients and health care workers, including inflammation, granulomas, and respiratory allergic reactions.
    A thorough review of all currently available information supports FDA’s conclusion that powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove should be banned. FDA has concluded that the risks posed by powdered gloves, including health care worker and patient sensitization to natural rubber latex (NRL) allergens, surgical complications related to peritoneal adhesions, and other adverse health events not necessarily related to surgery, such as inflammatory responses to glove powder, are important, material, and significant in relation to the benefit to public health from their continued marketing. FDA has carefully evaluated the risks and benefits of powdered gloves and the risks and benefits of the state of the art, which includes viable non-powdered alternatives that do not carry any of the risks associated with glove powder, and has determined that the risk of illness or injury posed by powdered gloves is unreasonable and substantial. Further, FDA believes that this ban would likely have minimal economic and shortage impact on the health care industry. Thus, a transition to alternatives in the marketplace should not result in any detriment to public health.
    This rule applies to powdered patient examination gloves, powdered surgeon’s gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove. This includes all powdered medical gloves except powdered radiographic protection gloves. Because we are not aware of any powdered radiographic protection gloves that are currently on the market, FDA lacks the evidence to determine whether the banning standard would be met for this particular device. The ban does not apply to powder used in the manufacturing process (e.g., former-release powder) of non-powdered gloves, where that powder is not intended to be part of the final finished glove. Finished non-powdered gloves are expected to include no more than trace amounts of residual powder from these processes, and the Agency encourages manufacturers to ensure finished non-powdered gloves have as little powder as possible. In our 2008 Medical Glove Guidance Manual (Ref. 1), we recommended that non-powdered gloves have no more than 2 milligrams (mg) of residual powder and debris per glove, as determined by the Association for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D6124 test method (Ref. 2). The Agency continues to believe this amount is an appropriate maximum level of residual powder.

  55. Kenneth Roy says:

    LIsten to Pre K-12 School Science Safety Expert Dr. Ken Roy’s interview (26 January 2017) on Education Talk Radio focusing on important safety issues at

  56. Gerri St. Clair says:

    Dr. Ken –
    Our school system is in the planning stages of designing a new high school facility. They are considering having teachers be mobile to travel on carts between classrooms. We would like some safety information on this practice that we can pass along to them to consider as we feel that this could be a huge liability for teachers due to the possibility of spilling chemicals, dropping glassware, etc. while moving instructional items between classes.
    Gerri St. Clair

  57. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Gerri St. Clair Comment – Temporary Classroom Assignments
    Gerri – Thanks for the question – There are a number of issues in this type of action
    1. As you noted – increased and serious risk of transporting hazardous chemicals, glassware, and other science equipment/materials in hallways. For example hazardous chemicals must be properly protected and packaged for transport in case they are dropped accidentally. If you do a hazards analysis and risks assessment on this, it could be shown this is an unsafe and risky choice! Included in this process is the planning and training for transporting hazardous chemicals in hallways, having a clear path free of trip/fall or slip/fall hazards, potential exposure to others using the walkway, etc. Bottom-line is science classes should be assigned in labs where materials are present and not moved around in the building. Again – depending on what is being transported, the potential hazards and resulting levels of risk could just too high.
    2. Another big concern also would be if non-lab temporary classrooms have all of the engineering controls required like ventilation, fire extinguishers, master power shut-offs, eye wash stations, etc. Science labs are under a whole set of other NFPA, OSHA, etc. standards and regulations which must be adhered to when compared to other non-lab instructional spaces. If these regulations/standards are not being met – no labs should be done – the teacher and school would be liable if there is an accident.
    Hope this helps.
    Dr. Ken

  58. Nancy Freid says:

    Dr. Ken – My school is proposing placing a door between the lecture portion of the science room and the lab portion. They intend to have math classes and study halls running simultaneously in both rooms. There is overcrowding and a need for more rooms; however, I have a number of concerns about this idea. Are there any legal/liability concerns I should make the administration aware of?
    Thank you,

  59. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Nancy – Legal Risks in Sharing Science Lab with Non-Science Classes
    Nancy – Thanks for this great inquiry. To be sure, not all administrators are aware of their and your liability as a science teacher based on legal safety standards and better professional practices in this type of scenario. Bottom-line here using science laboratories for non-science instruction or study halls are very risky for both you and the school district.
    You did not mention what state your school is in so I don’t know if you are under a state or federal OSHA. You also may be covered under a state agency which addresses school employee safety in lieu of a state OSHA. You need to find out which one covers you as an employee. I will assume you are covered under OSHA or OSHA-like standards. Science labs are covered under OSHA’s Lab Standard or Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=Standards&p_id=10106) along with other standards like OSHA HazCom and Bloodborne Pathogens. Any school employee working in a science lab given the biological, chemical and physical hazards are required to receive appropriate training under these standards. It doesn’t matter if you are a science teacher, math teacher, study hall monitor, etc. – given the risks – just being in the lab and having potential exposure to these hazards requires the training. There also is risk for students given the attractive nuisances – lab equipment, chemicals, etc. Students and teachers as employees are also covered under what is known as “duty of care.”
    Your principal as the chief building administrator representing the employer is charged with “duty of care” for any employee working in the science lab. I would suggest you and your principal review the following position statements by the NSELA and NSTA dealing with “duty or standard of care.” Both were vetted by legal teams of experts:
    1. NSELA:
    Safety & Duty of Care (http://nsela.org/publications/position-statements/631-safety-duty-of-care)
    2. NSTA:
    Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory Safety (http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/liability.aspx)
    Bottom-line is both you and the principal have joint liability should anyone get injured in the lab – be it used for science or even non science as is being suggested. Given you provide ongoing safety training for your science students, your risk legally is reduced considerably for you and your own science students. This is not the case for the principal if he assigns non-science classes in science labs or even lecture rooms designed for demos, etc. with all appropriate engineering controls, etc.
    The principal needs to rethink the idea of using instructional spaces designed and designated as science lecture/laboratory sites for non-science assignments. Again given the risks under duty of care along with other better professional practices and legal safety standards, this is just not a wise choice!
    Do you have a Chemical Hygiene Plan and assigned Chemical Hygiene Officer as required by the OSHA Lab Standard? If not – you should remind the school they are responsible for doing so – that is the law! Also remind them you are telling them to protect both you and them liability-wise! If you do have a CHO, did you secure input from that person for added support? I also know school district insurance companies can send out inspectors to check these thing out. Not say you should go there at this point but down the road if the plan doesn’t change, this could be another option for your union to explore.
    Hope this helps.
    Dr. Ken
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser
    National Science Teachers Association

  60. Julia Renberg says:

    Greetings, Dr. Roy,
    I received the following question from one of our HS Department Chairs:
    Does there need to be a sink in the chemical cabinet? We are trying to replace our acid cabinet and the dimensions of the new styles do not fit into the space we have currently and the sink would need to be removed. I just wanted to know if the sink was a requirement.
    Could you, please, help with this?
    Julia Renberg

  61. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Julia Renberg: Need for sink in chem storeroom.
    Julia – Thanks for the question. Bottom-line is in the chemical storeroom, you do not need a sink. The sink(s) should be located in the preparation room and science lab.
    There are prep rooms that also are used to store chemicals in appropriate cabinets like flammable liquid and acid cabinets. In this case, again if the room is designed for preparations also , a sink or sinks are a must! Hope this helps.
    Dr. Ken

  62. MIchelle Douglass says:

    Hi Dr. Ken,
    I have a question about growing chicks and safety. I saw a youtube video on an ex ovo culture of chicks. I am a research mentor for ISEF science fairs and vertebrates have a ton of rules to follow.
    Now, I don’t want to grow them for any science fair project, but I wanted to know if there are any guidelines that I need to be aware of for my A&P class. I have searched the VA doe site and can’t find anything specific to growing chicks outside of the shells.
    Thanks so much for your time,
    Michelle Douglass, M. S.

  63. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Michelle Douglass – “Ex ovo culture of chicks and safety”
    Michelle – thanks for the question. The National Association of Biology Teachers has an American Biology Teacher Journal resource titled “ Ex Ovo Model for Directly Visualizing Chick Embryo Development.” It can be found at: http://abt.ucpress.edu/content/74/9/628. (The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 74 No. 9, November/December 2012; (pp. 628-634))
    I do echo your concern about institution, local and state regulations. Although this article is great on procedure, it does note the use of teratogens and safety-wise, I would opt out of using them. Having said that – NABT articles usually have great credibility and merit. For additional safety regulatory considerations, I would also suggest you contact your local health department. The health officer should either know the applicable regulations or have the contacts to find them at the state level. Also remember to check your local school policies and protocols for this type of activity.
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  64. Kenneth Roy says:

    Chairs on Wheels in the Lab?? ——————————Anonymous Comment:
    I am a long time follower, first-time submitting on the blog!
    We are getting new tables and chairs in our middle school science labs. We were told the plan is for WHEELS on all of the chairs being put into each of our science labs. They didn’t provide us with any details on the types of tables, but after the wheeled chairs there is growing concern about safety.
    We were asked to submit our concerns in writing to the administration. Does NSTA have any docs on this we can reference? Especially interested in the chairs, but if there are recommended specs for tables you have as well, we’d be grateful for the help in making our case.
    Thanks for all you do to keep us and our students safe in our science labs!

  65. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous Comment titled: Chairs on Wheels in the Lab
    Unfortunately there are no formal NSTA docs to my knowledge that reference this issue. Having said that, I would note the following:
    1. Some middle school curricula – especially STEM based ones require spaces to be flexible to accommodate a wide variety of student-use scenarios and project-driven set ups. It would then be advantageous for lab furniture like tables to have wheels that swivel in all directions so that students can move them easily. However, it is critical that the wheels have locks which help to keep them from moving once you’ve got them in place. This would not be appropriate for lab tables that have utilities anchored in them; e.g. – electrical receptacle, gas and water.
    2. I would have concerns however about student chairs having wheels fostering mobility. This could be a safety concern for a number of reasons, especially when working with heat sources, hazardous chemicals, biologicals and/or physicals. Also given the developmental age and activity of students resulting from high energy levels, their risks of motion/flip and trip/fall hazards are real and elevated. In this way, I would agree that chair should not have wheels on them.
    Hope this helps.
    Dr. Ken

    • Sandra West says:

      I no longer recommend stools (or chairs) in the lab for students. The idea of stools in labs came from the image of a scientist working in the lab all day long at the lab bench. That’s not the case for K-12 students where they have classes that are not even 90 minutes at the max. So, standing up during lab or field investigations is not a problem and we’re learning that standing up is actually good for us.
      Stools can be a trip hazard in the lab. Perhaps more importantly, when labs are built too small and overcrowding occurs, the stools take up valuable space and my research clearly demonstrated that the lack of individual work space links with increased accident rates.
      If you want to see school from a student’s eyes, just be a student for a day! Student teachers who are required to be a “student for a day” report the same thing students report. School is BORING!!!! They report it’s primarily sitting, doing worksheets and memorizing vocabulary.
      Get rid of lab stools or chairs when possible and certainly no stools on wheels in the lab. Have student learn science in an active mode with concrete/hands-on activities and with inquiry when appropriate. Lab stools are expensive and those funds can be better spent on science materials or equipment.
      That’s my 2 cents!

  66. Dr. Ken says:

    When to use gloves and goggles? Anonymous Comment
    Dr. Ken – I am in need of your expert opinion:
    Are gloves and goggles necessary in all science activities? Or are you to use common sense and professional judgement in making these calls? Of course they are necessary in dealing with chemicals or hazardous materials. But when taking students out to test the temperature in a stream – are goggles and gloves needed?

  67. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous Comment – Use of Gloves & Goggles?
    Short answer – no! What has to be done in each case by the teacher is a hazards analysis, risks assessment and then take appropriate safety action (AAA approach to decision making!). For example – if considering using alcohol in an activity – hazards (extremely flammable, toxic), risks (potential to get burn or have an explosion, potential for being poisoned) and resulting safety action: (use splash goggles, gloves, work under fume hood, don’t eat or drink during activity, etc.) If you can’t address the safety action – either eliminate or find an alternative and safer chemical to work with. Hazards are of 3 types basically – biological (mold, bacteria, etc.), chemical (acids/corrosives, flammables, toxins, etc.) and physicals (projectiles, levels, springs, etc.). In the case of temp in a stream using the AAA approach- if in open area – eye protection and gloves would not be necessary under normal conditions. On the other hand, if in a wooded and/or bug infested area (hazards), potential for injuring eye and potential impalement from branches (risks), – yes – at least eye protection required – safety glasses or goggles (safety action).
    Thanks – another great question!!!

  68. Julia Renberg says:

    Good day, Dr. Roy,
    I have a school who asked me about ventilation requirements for a chemical storage room. Could you, please, assist? Are there regulations that pertain chemical storage areas and, if yes, where could I locate them?
    Julia Renberg
    Supervisor of Science and Family Life Education

  69. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Julia Renberg’s Comment:
    Julia – Thanks for that question. This is another question I get from time-to-time and a very important one – especially if dealing with flammables and toxins.
    States that have adopted the legal NFPA fire codes and/or ICC building codes require ventilation in science labs which do not circulate to other parts of the building. This is in concern for spreading the hazards to other classrooms, corridors, etc. in the building. These ventilation requirements are true for labs, prep rooms and chemical storerooms. You need to check with the local fire marshal and/or building code administrator in your town to see which is the latest adoption because they do change from one edition to the next and one adoption to the next. Generally however – the storeroom usually is around 4 room exchanges per hour – on going or more.
    Two resources I would suggest are found at the following sites:
    Laboratory Ventilation ACH Rates Standards and Guidelines:
    A review of recent changes in current lab ACH rate standards, guidelines:
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  70. Kenneth Roy says:

    THE SLIME ISSUE! Is Homemade “Slime” Safe? A young girl had a reaction to the borax when making the slime. Evidently she had a sensitivity to it. That is the bad news. But how could this happen when so many other students have never reported such a reaction. The good news is – come to find out based on the following report – it would seem that safety procedures like diluting the borax were evidently not followed. Check out the article written below for specifics!! Save the slime! Remember the eye and hand protection!!!
    Dr. Ken

  71. Kenneth Roy says:

    Carbon Monoxide Killed Berkeley Couple: 3D Printer Suspect!
    Back in December 2016 I wrote a commentary on the NSTA Blog titled: “The Harmful Particles in 3-D Printers.” It warned teachers about the potential issues of VOCs and particulates when using 3-D printers. Recently, there was a news article titled: “CO Poisoning Killed Berkeley Couple: 3D printer suspect!” (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/01/27/source-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-killed-berkeley-couple/)
    Again for safety sake, I would urge teachers to read this article and also the commentary found on the safety blog at:
    Before you buy or if already bought, make sure you have appropriate ventilation! You and your students’ health & safety could be at risk!
    Dr. Ken

  72. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. Sandra West’s Comment
    Dr. West – Could not agree more about eliminating the use of stools when working at lab benches. Chemistry lab usual are in this category. I have personally seen the stools as trip fall hazards during my years teaching chemistry. Eventually we banned their use.
    I would however note that other science labs like biology and definitely physics tend to have lab tables which are considerably lower than the benches (about 34 inches high). To have students stand and bend over these lower work platforms can be a problem. These tables are designed to have students sitting on chairs to carry out their lab activities. I believe we are in agreement that when this type of lab furniture is in place, it may be safer with most activities to have students sitting in chairs as opposed to standing and bending over the lower table to do work.
    Again, bottom-line – students should be “standing up” for science, providing the have the appropriate lab benches designed for working in that position. This should be considered in earnest when designing new labs or renovating older ones.
    Thanks again for that great comment.
    Dr. Ken

  73. Sandra West says:

    Thanks Ken. Great conversation as always. My answer was based on seeing only the higher (chemistry type) lab benches built over the last 10+ years.
    I’d be interested in hearing back from our colleagues about their observations of new science lab construction in the last 10+ years. What height lab benches are you observing in new construction?

  74. Sue Gasper says:

    Hi Dr. Ken,
    What do you recommend for disposal of iodine solution? Thanks.
    Sue Gasper

  75. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Sue Gasper’s Comment:
    Sue – Very useful question for all science teachers who have to deal with and make decisions about hazardous chemical disposal methods. The very first thing you should always do is check the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet Section # 13 “Disposal Considerations.” In doing so, you will probably read something like this: “Please review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply before proceeding.” I would suggest at that point you check with your local water treatment plant operator for this information. If you have a septic system – check with the town health department director.
    Another great resource that I would suggest is to follow the Flinn Scientific method (#12a) for disposal of oxidizing agents (in the case of the iodine solution) in their Catalog/Reference Manual. If you don’t have their Catalog/Reference Manual, the disposal directions can be found at:
    Another alternative is to have it as part of your annual hazardous waste disposal procedure with a contracted waste disposal company.
    Hope this helps!
    Dr. Ken

  76. Anne Petersen says:

    Dr. Ken,
    I am in the process of developing a curriculum framework and I have heard arguments for and against the use of fire blankets in a high school chemistry lab. What is your stance? what is OSHAs stance?

  77. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Comment by Anne Petersen Relative to Use of Fire Blankets in Chemistry Labs:
    Anne – Almost every science lab I have ever visited or inspected has a fire blanket. Most certainly it has its uses but I would not recommend it as the primary source for putting out a clothing fire. By wrapping yourself in it, the fire is extinguished but the heat is trapped. It also creates the chimney effect which forces the heat, toxic fumes/gases and flames up to your face. I support what is recommended by the American Chemical Society in their publication titled: Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools Fire blankets. It states the following: “These are no longer recommended for the high school laboratory. Practice “Stop, Drop, and Roll” instead.”
    If they shower is near – quickly get under it. The cooler temperature of the water would also lessen the tissue damage from the flames.
    OSHA on the other hand notes in the Lab Standard 1910.1450 App A the following: National Research Council Recommendations Concerning Chemical Hygiene in Laboratories state fire blanket needs to be part of emergency equipment.
    Again I would agree with this statement. In this way the blanket should be used to smother other fire flames, provide a shower modesty curtain, a temporary stretcher, a pillow for the victim if on the floor and a blanket to help keep them warm.
    Hope this helps – Let me know –
    Have a safer day –
    Dr. Ken

  78. Eddie McGrath says:

    Just to add if I may: if a room has a safety blanket, it should be checked (i.e. taken out of the packing and unfolded) occasionally to check condition. I have seen some that disintegrated upon being removed after years on a shelf. Not helpful in an emergency!

  79. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Eddie McGrath’s Comment:
    Eddie – great additional point on fire blanket. There is a word of caution however – older – several decades in age – fire blankets with made out of asbestos. When unfolded – the asbestos particles become friable – no good! I would make sure I knew how old the blanket was and if it contains asbestos before unfolding. “Disintegrating” is also a clue! If not known but suspect an issue – have it replaced. Dispose of the older suspected blanket as hazardous waste via the school district’s protocol.
    Thanks again – great point!
    Dr. Roy

  80. Dr. Ken says:

    Listen to School Safety In Maker Spaces, FAB Labs & STEM Labs: Education Talk Radio 18 April 2017 interview with Dr. Ken:

  81. Dr. Ken says:

    New Publication for Makerspace Educators!
    The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) has just published an important safety article in their Journal Safety Spotlight column titled: Tools and Equipment in Nontraditional Spaces: Safety and Liability Issues. The article was written jointly by safety compliance specialists Dr. Tyler Love (ITEEA) and Dr Ken Roy (NSTA).
    It addresses critical safety and liability issues for Makerspace teachers and administrators. It is one you don’t want to miss and need to be aware of to better protect yourself, your students and your school.
    It can be accessed free of charge at the following ITEEA site: https://www.iteea.org/SafetyMayJune2017TET.aspx
    Have a safer day –
    Dr. Ken
    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Director of Environmental Health & Chemical Safety,
    Chemical Hygiene Officer;
    Designated Asbestos Compliance Coordinator,
    PCB Program Coordinator,
    Glastonbury Public Schools (CT);
    Chief Science Safety Compliance AdviserBlogger
    National Science Teachers Association (NSTA);
    Safety Compliance Officer
    National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA);

  82. Dr. Ken says:

    Dear Ken Roy,
    I am a science teacher and I personally feel that allowing my young students to use Bunsen burner is a risk to the students and my teaching certificate. My current students had difficulties weighing materials and using microscopes appropriately. In this time in education, it is increasingly unpopular for teaching to assert their own autonomy in terms of lesson plans. In the best interest of my students, I have decided not to do this lab and to do a demonstration instead. If I had more compliant students, and perhaps a few paraprofessionals in the room, I would have felt more comfortable. I would like to get your thoughts on this matter.
    Name Requested to be withheld

  83. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Name Requested to be Withheld – Use of Bunsen Burners
    Thanks for the inquiry. Bottomline is – in many if not most states, it is the science teachers who determines if an activity is safe to be done by using a hazards analysis, risks assessment and then taking appropriate safety actions. If you believe the use of Bunsen burners is in fact an unacceptable level of risks, you can either find an alternative and safer heat source like hot plates or find an alternative activity which would eliminate the need for Bunsen burner use or heat or heat sources in general. This also falls under “duty or standard of care.” You legally have a duty to make sure what you are doing is safer for your students under your direct care. If you knowingly have them do something that you believe is unsafe, you could have potential liability.
    I hope this makes sense to you. I would suggest you check out the NSTA Safety Portal paper titled “NSTA” Duty or Standard of Care” found at: http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/ DutyOfCare.pdf
    You might want to share this with your principal.
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  84. Sandra West says:

    What is the age/grade level of the students?

  85. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. Sandra West’s Comment:
    Dr. West – This is a secondary level school.
    Dr. Ken

  86. Sandra West says:

    I have not seen any use of flames (Bunsen burner or otherwise) in middle school in decades.
    The only use of flames in high school currently observed/reported by/ to me have been in Chemistry with the infamous flame tests.
    In fact, for designing new science facilities, Dr. Motz and I have not suggested that gas be piped into any science rooms, except Chemistry. Moreover, if the flame test is the only use of flames, there are much less expensive sources than piped in gas.
    The funds spent on piping in gas could be better spent building an adequate number of science rooms so that every science teacher has his/her own room every year. Districts/architects are notorious for not building enough science rooms initially, then requiring teachers, especially new ones to “float” from room to room with carts that is neither effective nor safe science education for students or teachers.

  87. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. West’s Comments:
    Dr. West – I believe piped gas used in middle schools are handovers from past decades. I agree that current or newer construction/renovations do not include piped gas! It is there so they use it.
    As to newer facilities in the high school level, I still see piped gas being used not only in chemistry but also earth/space science, biology and physics. This is especially true in areas where advance science courses are being taught. I do agree it seems to be waning or at a lower frequency however.
    Again totally agree with the statement about architects underestimating the needs of the facility relative to labs. Sad part is, many administrators take the architect’s work as gospel and do not seek input from the science faculty. Science teachers, supervisors and chemical hygiene officer/safety officers need to make sure administrators hear their concerns when there are renovations/new construction. They need to be part of the planning team through the whole process.
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  88. Claudia Bhagat says:

    Besides the flame tests I use the Bunsen burner for chemical analysis labs (think decomposition of bicarbonates or hydrates) and rough determination of melting points… there is use for it, but I agree, you need mature and well behaved students, and one can teach without it.

  89. Edward McGrath says:

    Regarding legacy piped gas: if the teacher sees it as a liability (as any middle school science teacher should), it’s worth a discussion with the principal, chief custodian, or facilities and maintenance director to have the line shut off. We have done this in all of our middle schools. As for the problem of new construction, so often, the voice of expertise (science teachers, dept heads, chemical hygiene officers) is discounted because it is likely to be costly! The Catch 22 here, though, is that when the voice of science teachers is not heard, the administration often ends up paying for something that sounds necessary but isn’t. Some of our schools decided every science room needs a fume hood. So, many dollar signs later, they have the hoods, but never considered what is needed to maintain them. In fact, the rooms with the hoods are (in many cases) freshmen science rooms and physics rooms that don’t carry out investigations that require hoods!
    The lesson: if I’m the smartest guy in the room, I’m in the wrong room.

  90. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Edward McGrath’s Comment –
    Eddie – Just a comment on the fume hood – under NFPA 45 – Fume hood must be inspected by a licensed technician annuals – must meet certain criteria for operation. Schools should check with their local fire marshal for more information. Chapter 8 NFPA 45 contains the identification requirements for chemical fume hoods and the inspection testing and maintenance requirements for
    lab hoods.
    Dr. Ken

  91. Kenneth Roy says:

    Quick question: if the BULB in a goggle sterilization cabinet is touched with a bare hand, as in when it’s being installed in the cabinet, does touching the bulb render the bulb no longer capable of working properly to sterilize goggles? I’ve never heard of such a thing..

  92. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous on touching UV Bulb comment!
    Touching the UV bulb with bare hands can leave natural oils in the form of a fingerprint on the bulb. It could leave a dead space on the bulb’s surface. Just handle it with clean gloves! Also remember to never handle bulb while in socket and turned on – UV exposure!!
    Dr. Ken

  93. Sandra West says:

    The manufacturer’s information should include guidance on this issue.

  94. Linda Dillard says:

    Hello Dr. Roy,
    I am hoping that you can give me some advice about the use of silver nitrate and potassium chlorate in the high school chemistry lab.
    We have done the silver nitrate and copper reaction at our high school for many years. Recently, I read in the CDC School Chemistry Lab Safety Guide that silver nitrate is classified as a substance with greater hazardous nature than educational utility. Would you agree with this evaluation?
    I stopped using potassium chlorate many years ago, due to its potential to explode. This year we have a teacher new to the department who would like to order this chemical for use in the oxidation of sugar demonstration. Potassium chlorate is classified as a substance with a hazardous nature but may have potential educational utility. I would also appreciate any input you can give me on the safety of potassium chlorate in the high school chemistry lab.
    Thanks for your time and attention.

  95. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Linda Dillard’s Comments on Hazardous Chemical Use:
    Linda – thanks for that great question. On potassium chlorate –
    The American Chemical Society notes the following (https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/chemical-safety/guidelines-for-chemical-laboratory-safety/resources-supporting-guidelines-for-chemical-laboratory-safety/incompatible-chemicals.html):
    Chlorate salts, such as sodium or potassium chlorate are incomparable with acids, ammonium salts, metal powders, finely divided organic or combustible materials.
    Also check Flinn Scientific Catalog – There is a major hazard alert – strong oxidizer, extremely dangerous since the substance, if only slightly contaminated, will explode when exposed to moderate shock or when heated.
    Rehab the Lab (http://www.hazwastehelp.org/educators/chemlist.aspx) – notes if used at all – limited to high school, given it risk of explosion.
    You also be sure to consult with the SDS.
    Bottomline is – after doing a hazards analysis and risks assessment, if safety actions can’t help, you should consider in earnest to either eliminate or substitute with another compound. Your analysis and decision to eliminate the use of potassium chlorate was a wise one!!!
    On silver nitrate – may intensify fire and an oxidizer. Also causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
    Same advice as for potassium chlorate above. Do the hazard/risks process and determine if safety active can meet the issues found. If not – eliminate or substitute with another compound.
    In closing, I would also suggest you check out the NSTA Safety Portal (http://www.nsta.org/safety/)
    Look at the 3 papers on chemical management for direction:
    Managing Your Chemical Inventory (PDF)
    Part 1 [added 2015.04.28]
    Part 2 [added 2015.04.28]
    Part 3 [added 2016.04.12]
    Thanks again,
    Dr. Ken

  96. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Linda Comments on Using Hazardous Chemicals:
    Linda – thanks for that great question. On potassium chlorate –
    The ACS (https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/chemical-safety/guidelines-for-chemical-laboratory-safety/resources-supporting-guidelines-for-chemical-laboratory-safety/incompatible-chemicals.html)notes the following:
    Chlorate salts, such as sodium or potassium chlorate are incomparable with acids, ammonium salts, metal powders, finely divided organic or combustible materials.
    Also check Flinn Scientific Catalog – There is a major hazard alert – strong oxidizer, extremely dangerous since the substance, if only slightly contaminated, will explode when exposed to moderate shock or when heated.
    Rehab the Lab (http://www.hazwastehelp.org/educators/chemlist.aspx) – notes if used at all – limited to high school, given it risk of explosion.
    You also need to consult with the SDS.
    Bottomline is – after doing a hazards analysis and risks assessment, if safety actions (engineering controls, administrative safety protocols and personal protective equipment) can’t help, you need to consider eliminating or substituting another compound. Your decision based on analysis/assessment and safety action for this chemical you noted is a good one!
    On silver nitrate – may intensify fire and an oxidizer. Also causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
    Same advice as for potassium chlorate above. Do the hazard/risks process and determine if safety active can meet the issues found. If not – eliminate or substitute with another compound.
    My last piece of advice is for you to check out the 3 articles on chemical management found on the NSTA safety portal (http://www.nsta.org/safety/). Look at:
    Managing Your Chemical Inventory (PDF)
    Part 1 [added 2015.04.28]
    Part 2 [added 2015.04.28]
    Part 3 [added 2016.04.12]
    Hope this helps.
    Thanks again,
    Dr. Ken

  97. Sindhu Thomas says:

    Hi Dr. Roy,
    I attended your Chemical Hygiene Officer training last year. I have a question regarding lead nitrate disposal. One of our chemistry teachers found some lead nitrate while she cleaning out a prep room – approximately 10ml. I have looked at the SDS and searched several different sites to find out how to dispose of it, but it only says to dispose according to federal and state regulations. Would you be able to offer any guidance on how to dispose of this material? Thanks so much!!
    Sindhu K. Thomas
    Science Department Chair
    Windsor, CT

  98. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken Responds to Sindhu Thomas’s Comment:
    Sindhu – Good to hear from you and the follow-up. Heavy metals and their salts such as lead nitrate normally require licensed hazardous waste disposal. Given the small amount you have, I don’t believe it should be too costly. I would just place it with other chemicals for your annual disposal work. Just make sure it is properly labeled, contained/secured and you have the safety data sheet with it. I would also suggest you work with the administration to have a district-wide annual hazardous waste clean-out. Generators of hazardous waste usually involve the following departments: science, tech ed, art, custodial/maintainers. Also remember to plan on the front end by using micro-chemistry and “greener” chemical alternatives.
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  99. Julia Renberg says:

    Dear Dr. Roy,
    Are public school divisions obliged to store proof of annual safety training for their teachers for at least 30 years? Seem to be excessive to me.
    Julia Renberg
    Supervisor of Science and Family Life Education

  100. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken Response to Julia Renberg’s Comment:
    Julia – Here is my understanding:
    Training Records: OSHA requires that you retain training records for employees for three years. It is generally recommended that you keep employee training records for the length of employment plus a minimum of five years. Check Federal and State Employment laws for Retention of Employee records. Medical Records: OSHA requires that you retain Medical Records for 30 years. MSDSs & SDSs are required to be kept for 30 years to meet the OSHA standard for employee hazardous chemical use and potential exposure under HazCom.
    Having said this, your school district may require longer lengths of time.
    Hope this helps..
    Dr. Ken

  101. Detra Humble says:

    Hello Dr. Roy,
    I am in the process of cleaning out science labs and storage space for some of my middle schools. Many of these labs contain material/equipment dated 30+ years back. How do you recommend handling the old glassware? Should I just clean it or dispose of it. Many of the schools have new boxes of glass ware and other materials. They can not use the new material, due to lack of storage space taken up by the old material.
    Additionally, there are many small plastic containers that were a part of a kit. They are labeled solution A and unknown 1. Should I just allow my district chemical disposal team come in and handle it or can I just throw the small bottles in the trash?
    Thank you!
    Detra Humble

  102. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Detra Humble’s Comment:
    Debra – It all depends on your school district’s policy for waste removal/disposal. For chemicals, I would urge you to have your facilities person hire a chemical waste disposal company. They should be helpful in working with you to deal with old chemicals. Just be careful in handling old chemicals – for example, if there are peroxide producing chemicals, they can be explosive is shaken! Get an inventory first and that way you can also have a quote secured.
    On the other items like glassware, etc – leave that up to whomever is responsible in the school district for waste disposal. They will know if it can go to a transfer station or landfill. Most Boards of Education have written policies on how to deal with school property. Check that out first. You also might want to check with surrounding high school science departments if you have good lab-ware not being used. They might welcome the opportunity to use it.
    Hope this helps!
    Thanks again-

  103. Jen Parthasarthy says:

    Hello Dr. Ken,
    My department is thinking about the beginning of our school year and the student safety contract. Is there a standard contract you think is best? Also, is there a new term for the contract, such as “Safety Recognition Statement” rather than “contract”?

  104. Dr. Ken says:

    Jen – I would suggest you take a look at the model Safety Acknowledgment Form on the NSTA Safety Portal titled “Safety In the Science Classroom, Laboratory, and Field Sites.” It is found at the following address: http://static.nsta.org/pdfs/SafetyInTheScienceClassroomLabAndField.pdf
    i would also suggest you check out the October 2016 NSTA Safety Blog Commentary I wrote on this topic. See: A Safety Acknowledgement Form Is More Than A Safety Contract!
    Hopefully this is helpful – let me know!
    Dr. Ken

  105. mbr sellers says:

    hey nice work. good blog.. regards…..membrane bioreactors

  106. Anne Petersen says:

    Dr. Ken,
    A parent in one of our school divisions will not sign his child’s safety agreement citing that there is currently no policy at the state or federal level concerning the requirement for signed safety agreements for students. OSHA requirements state that personnel are required training and that the employer (I assume school) must keep records of all safety training, Would it be appropriate to cite this as to policy for safety agreements for students? I would assume it should be district policy to require a signed agreement as a part of the training process prior to engaging in lab activities; however, the parent wants any higher up policy concerning safety agreements. At the state level, we have safety manuals that speak to safety agreements; however, there is no official policy in place to cite specifically that each child must have an agreement.

  107. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anne Petersen’s Inquiry on Parent Signing of Safety Agreement:
    Anne – Thanks for that question. I know it has happened to other science teachers. First of all, OSHA only deals with employees – not students. In this way, I would not use this approach with the parent.
    However, legal council has suggested the following:
    Via email or phone call – acknowledge that the parent has declined signing the safety agreement. Let the parent know you respect the position and have documented the fact the they declined to sign the safety agreement and the date of this communication. You also will keep it on file for record keeping purposes. It is best to have hard copy via email if possible. Just attach it to the safety agreement for that student and file it with the others. You need to find out the “statute of limitations” for your state – many are 2 or 3 years. Whatever it is – that is how long you need to keep these documents in case there is a lab accident and legal action follows.
    Hope this has been helpful! Thanks again –
    Dr. Roy

  108. Kay Gamble says:

    Most safety agreements teachers send home to be signed have to do with behaviors expected in the science class lab. Having parents sign the safety contract should indicate they are aware of and have discussed the expected behavior with their child. Students must understand and follow safety rules/guidelines in order to participate in labs.

  109. Christian Dockum says:

    Good Morning Dr. Ken –
    I had a quick question is regards to signage for our chemical storage areas. We have multiple storage areas that have doors to our student hallways. We want to put signs on the doors indicating that these doors should stay looked. Is it prudent to be explicit and state “Keep Door Locked at All Times : Chemical Storage”? or should it be less specific such as “Keep Door Locked at All Times”?
    Thank you for the input.

  110. Dr. Ken says:

    Christian – Thanks for the inquiry – I would use “Chemical Storage: Keep Door Locked at All Times!” This is necessary to help fire fighters know where the chemicals are stored in case of a fire and/or smoke incident. You also are required to post the NFPA 704 signage noting the highest hazard number for each category stored in that room on the outside of the door Check out the OSHA/NFPA Quick Card guide on this -http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/aboutthecodes/704/nfpa704_hc2012_qcard.pdf .
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  111. Mandy Stangeland says:

    Hello Dr. Ken,
    Can you please tell me where I might find an example of a policy/procedures manual for an elementary school life science lab with living animals? Particularly one that houses fish and reptiles.
    Thank you in advance for anything you can point me towards.
    All my best,
    Mandy Stangeland

  112. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Mandy:
    Thanks for the inquiry – Suggest you check out the NSTA Safety Portal – http://www.nsta.org/safety/ – and also the NSTA Professional Papers on animals – http://www.nsta.org/about/ positions/animals.aspx. That should be a good start.
    These are great resources that should help answer your question.
    Thanks again –
    Dr. Ken

  113. Sandra West says:

    I’m so glad that you’re planning on using live animals in, not only in the lab, but hopefully in each classroom! For elementary classrooms, living animals and plants can richly enhance interdisciplinary learning – so many connections!
    Alert: We have seen individuals and groups who make exaggerated claims about the hazards of using animals in classrooms. They have tried to influence state and local standards and practices. Officials and administrators have been inaccurately told about extreme hazards without evidence and are moved to prohibit having animals in classrooms.
    NSTA has rich resources for many safety areas and Dr. Ken has provided the links to those resources which provide guidance on the safe use of animals in classrooms and other Better Practices to enhance students’ science education.
    Thanks Dr. Ken

  114. Julie Christianson says:

    Dr. Ken –
    I am requesting some information about using propane burners in one of my high schools. A teacher leading a group of students at one of our STEM schools is requesting to use a small propane tank (like a camping stove) to be able to melt glass, to drip into distilled water. The standard methane that is in our labs does not burn hot enough for this.
    The teacher plans to be supervising students doing this in the hood.
    We are wondering what are the recommendations surrounding for using and for storing these tanks (if anything would be needed beyond storing in a flammables cabinet), with one concern being that there is no “emergency shut off” on a camp stove.
    I appreciate any advice you can provide.
    Thank you,

  115. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Julie’s Question on Propane Tanks:
    Julie – thanks for the email.  First of all – storage of propane cylinders is to be in a dedicated flammable cabinet. The cabinet is only to be used for those cylinders – no other flammable liquids. Check out the OSHA letter at: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22731
    On the use of the propane cylinders in your lab – it depends on the NFPA standards that your state has adopted.  I would suggest you contact your local fire marshal – the authority of local jurisdiction.  He/she can tell you how to handle this in a lab.  Better safe than sorry as they say.
    Dr. Ken

  116. Sarah Faulkner says:

    Dr. Ken – I had understood that science teachers should not use PTC tasting paper in labs because of allergic reactions in some students.  Recently, though, I’ve seen it listed in several published NGSS activities.  Has the thinking about its safety changed?”
    Sarah Faulkner

  117. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken Response to Sarah Faulkner’s question:
    Sarah – Safety of PTC paper, used for demonstrating the ability to taste vs the inability to taste PTC, has been called onto question as you noted.  I would suggest you check out the STAO blog response on this very issue.  I believe it should be helpful.  However – the suggested substitution – sodium benzoate – has one known cancer danger – If you combine it with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) AND potassium benzoate – you get benzene – a known carcinogen.  The chance of that occurring in the specific lab is certainly unlikely, especially if this warning is known.
    STAO Blog address:
    Great question!!!
    Dr. Ken

  118. Edward McGrath says:

    Hi Sarah:
    Our school districtdiscouragew the use of PTC testing as a genetic test as well; not only because of the properties of PTC but also because tasting in a laboratory situation is an unsafe practice. We have come up with another substitution: cilantro.
    It seems that for about 75 % of the population, cilantro has a soapy aftertaste, but for the remainder, the flavor is similar to parsley (personally,, I think it tastes like detergent!) Chemically, the herb produces chemicals with aldehyde groups. Some individuals produce smell and taste receptors that are sensitive to the aldehyde groups (that register as soapy tasting). As with any genetic situation, there’s more to this, but the allele for “soapy cilantro” seems to be dominant to that of “sweet cilantro” and is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait.
    The advantage to using cilantro in this way (after assessing students for food allergies) is that this part of human genetics can be conducted in the cafeteria (even better if the cilantro was grown in a school-based garden). Furthermore, since cilantro can be purchased in supermarkets, the investigation can be extended to students’ families (Mom says it’s soapy, Dad says it’s sweet, my siblings say…”
    Eddie McGrath
    Wilmington, DE

  119. Kenneth Roy says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Eddie McGrath’s comment –
    Eddie – Just what I was hoping for – another alternative!!! Thanks for contributing!!!

  120. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken – A colleague of mine has a question about using goggles in the laboratory when the students are using microscope slides. She is in favor of the students wearing the goggles, but she is getting pushback. Is there a code, recommendation, and/or a statute that she can reference to aid her side of the argument.
    Anonymous Science

  121. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Anonymous Science question:
    An often asked question! It depends if there are biological, chemical or physical hazards in the lab which could pose risk to students and the instructor. If students are just viewing slides without any of these hazards in place – I don’t see the need for eye protection while viewing slides under the microscope. For physical hazards – safety glasses would be required – eg. using glassware, meter sticks, etc. If biological or chemical hazards are in place and their location presents a hazard – e.g. biological stains for prepping slides, etc. – yes – indirectly vented chemical splash goggles would be required per legal safety standards (OSHA PPE – for employees and state goggle statutes for students) in addition to better professional practices – NSTA safety blog (http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2016/06/13/welcome-to-the-nsta-safety-blog/) and NSTA safety portal papers (https://www.nsta.org/safety/). Also check out Yale Environmental Health & Safety on this question at http://ehs.yale.edu/do-i-have-wear-my-safety-glasses-when-working-microscope. Hope this helps! Again, just a great and practical question. Dr. Ken

  122. Steve Pintavalle says:

    The classroom / laboratory that I use is very well ventilated. I get a fresh supply of air continuously while the exhaust is vented directly outside. There are 4 ceiling mounted multidirectional supply vents away from the windows as well as 3 ceiling mounted linear supply vents along side the windows. The exhaust vent is located between the fume hoods and the windows. As a day to day practice, I keep my windows closed for optimal heating and air conditioning. Fumes generated by lab activities are exhausted quickly. My question concerns the use of the windows during an emergency where rapid exhaust is required. My instinct would be to aid the ventilation by opening the windows. Would you recommend the use of the windows or allow the ventilation system to work as designed? I do not want to reduce the efficiency of the air exchange by introducing large volumes of fresh air to the exhaust system at the expense of the fumes.

  123. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Steve Pintavalle’s Comment:
    Steve – You bring up a great question. First a little background on lab ventilation systems for those who may not be familiar with them. In science labs, NFPA 45 requires ventilation in labs to be limited to each one as a unit. In other words, the supply brings in a quantity of fresh air into your lab and returns or exhausts it directly to the outside of the building. This in theory provides 100% fresh air to the lab, unlike general classrooms that normally get about 20% fresh and 80% recycled from other parts of the building! The air from your lab is not allowed to be recycled anywhere else in the facility. The reason is that there is concern that lab air which may have toxic or flammable vapors could be transferred to other parts of the building exposing occupants and also creating a potential health and/or fire hazard. When the air exhausts, it creates negative pressure so the supply air is sucked in to replace it.
    In those emergency situations where you want as much make up air as can be secured into the lab to provide less resistance for air return or evacuation in the lab case, I would recommend opening the windows if there is time and you don’t put yourself in harm’s way. I would think this would increase the air exchange efficiency.
    Thanks again for that thoughtful question – Ken

  124. Sharolyn Schneider says:

    Dr. Ken
    I was wondering about any bio- hazards in regards to dissection of preserved animals, such as frogs, rats, and fetal pigs or animal parts, such as eyes, the brain, and heart. Is it possible to get an infectious disease from these animals/animal parts or does the preservation fluid kill any bacteria or viruses possibly present?
    Are there special precautions necessary? If so, would you send me a copy of what precautions need to be observed?
    Thank you for your consideration in regards to this reply.
    Sharolyn Schneider
    Science Teacher
    Pius X High School
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  125. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Sharolyn’s question:
    Sharolyn – great question! In fact, I plan on doing a follow-up monthly commentary on that topic in the near future. Let me answer in this way for now:
    Most reputable commercial suppliers of specimens are fixed with preservatives. Usually these can be good for years in some cases if stored properly.
    However – be aware that if you have students working on the same specimen over a period of time – there is potential risk of fungal, bacteriological or viral issues. This is especially true if you have washed off the specimen and also added water to the preservative. This will dilute it and reduce its effectiveness. It would serve to foster fungi and other growth. Check out this Carolina site for proper safety, storage and disposal of preserved specimens: https://www.carolina.com/teacher-resources/Interactive/safety-storage-disposal-of-preserved-specimens/tr11090.tr
    Hope this helps.
    Thanks again,
    Dr. Ken

  126. Dr. Ken says:

    NEW ACS Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations 2-1-2018
    American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Education Appropriate physical and chemical demonstrations in the classroom or in a public venue have both educational and motivational value and are a long-standing pedagogy in chemical education. Individuals planning chemical demonstrations have a responsibility to follow and document safe laboratory practices for each demonstration. These guidelines have been created based on current best practices and provide a checklist of key issues for demonstrators to assure that chemical demonstrations are conducted safely and without incident. Because no such set of guidelines can address all possible issues, only persons who have appropriate education and
    experience in chemistry and chemical safety should perform chemical demonstrations. Accordingly, these guidelines are intended for use only by experienced chemical practitioners.
    Check them out – important for science teachers to know!!!
    Dr. Ken

  127. Dr. Ken says:

    Check out Safety Spotlight: Safer Soldering Guidelines and Instructional Resources – Great resources for not only Tech Ed labs but also STEM and Physics lab teachers!! ITEEA Technology and Engineering Teacher – Volume 77, Issue 5 February –
    Dr. Ken

  128. Dr. Ken says:

    ACS Webinar – Understanding Your Legal Liability! Appropriate for high school science teachers! Important information for all high school science teachers – check it out!!!
    Dr. Ken
    Date and time: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 2:00 pm
    Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)
    Change time zone
    Program: Chemical Educators and Researchers: Understanding Your Legal Liability and How to Protect Yourself
    Duration: 1 hour
    Chemical Educators and Researchers: Understanding Your Legal Liability and How to Protect Yourself.
    If you were approached right now and asked to explain your legal liability coverage, would you be able to? It’s a topic that can be confusing at best and is somewhat complicated.
    Hosted in partnership with Hays Companies, the topics covered in this webinar will include the unique risks faced by Chemical Educators and Researchers in the laboratory, gaps in liability coverage and examples of claims. More importantly, however, is what you can do to protect yourself.
    Richard A. Kissel, Esq. (KPHW), Dr. W. H. (Jack) Breazeale (Consultant to the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety and a member of the Laboratory Safety Institute’s (LSI) Board of Directors) Marta U. Gmurczyk, Ph.D.
    Safety Programs Manager| Scientific Advancement Division | American Chemical Society)

  129. Julia Renberg says:

    Dr. Ken – One of my teachers has a great question and I was wondering if you could clarify. For dissections, they wanted to know if their students could wear safety glasses instead of the chemical splash goggles. As I read through our Science Safety Plan it indicated that the Chemical Splash Goggles are required when there are 1) chemicals, 2) open flame/ heat source or 3) glassware. Since a dissection does not involve any of the three requirements for the goggles would students be allowed to wear the safety glasses instead? Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you in advance for your help and advice!
    Julia Renberg

  130. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken responds to Julia Renberg’s comment:
    Your safety manual is actually correct… indirectly vented chemical splash goggles are required. Safety glasses are not safe in this case given specimens have preservative. Check out the vendor’s SDS for the preservative – all I have seen require indirectly vented chemical splash goggles for eye PPE..
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  131. Tracy Matthews says:

    Dr. Ken – We are purchasing some safety equipment for our high schools and are wondering if sand buckets are necessary for labs if there is already a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the lab.
    Thanks for your help!
    Tracy Matthews
    K-12 Science Professional Learning Specialist
    Department of Teaching and Learning
    Cobb County School District

  132. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Tracy Matthews question:
    Tracy – Good question – usually an ABC extinguisher and fire blanket should do the deed in the lab. Usually sand is used in spill kits as inert absorbents like vermiculite, etc. Sand also can be used on combustible metals like Mg, K, Na, etc. but a type D extinguisher is best. This is the short answer to your question!!!
    Thanks and have a safer day!
    Dr. Ken

  133. Kenneth Roy says:

    Bartlett Student Injured in Science Exp. Gone Wrong; Teacher Suspended! The science teacher at Bartlett High School was reportedly showing students an experiment with liquid nitrogen. The student was lying on the floor as part of the demonstration. The student was severely burned in his groin area after the teacher poured the liquid nitrogen on him. Where is the lab safety sanity? Was there pre-service lab safety training? Was there in-service lab safety training? Was there active supervision of this science teacher by the administration? Check out news story at the following Internet address!

  134. Dr. Ken says:

    Editorial – No Turtles or Tortoises in Schools – Reptiles can make children and adults very ill – heads-up on this interesting issues – especially for Bio teachers and science supervisors – http://news.cision.com/american-tortoise-rescue/r/editorial—no-turtles-or-tortoises-in-schools,c9520307
    Dr. Ken

  135. Dr. ken says:

    Safety Spotlight: “Converting Classrooms to Makerspaces or STEM Labs” – published by ITEEA – Technology and Engineering Teacher – Volume 78, Issue 1 – September 2018 – This is the latest article discussing an emerging issue seen in many of today’s schools and libraries – If you are involved with planning/building or running a Makerspace or STEM lab – this is a must read!!! https://www.iteea.org/SafetySept2018.aspx
    Dr. Ken

  136. Jeff Harris says:

    Dr. Ken – For years we have trained non-science teachers who occupy science classrooms differently than we train science teachers. I am trying to find the regulatory requirement for that training as I need to update it. Can you help?
    Jeff Harris
    Fayette County Public Schools
    Risk Management and Safety

  137. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Jeff Harris’ question
    First of all – You have a state OSHA to my understanding but I believe it is just about identical to the Federal OSHA standards.
    Let me say it is against better professional safety practice to use science labs for non-science instruction! However, being practical – it comes down to a matter of real estate for the building administration in scheduling – a room to put that extra math class or foreign language class. One of the best resources is the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard or Haz Com. Haz Com clearly states in the OSHA Hazard Communications standard 29CFR1910.1200 section 1910.1200(c) under definitions of “Employee” – Employee means a worker who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals under normal operating conditions or in foreseeable emergencies. Key in this definition is “may be exposed.” Point is – even though a non-science employee may be teaching in a science lab – they can be exposed to hazardous chemicals and therefore need to have HazCom training to work in there. Doesn’t matter is they are doing a lab activity or not.
    Again – having non-science classes in science labs carries a lot of potential liability for the administration and potentially also for the science teacher assigned to that lab should the non-science employee or student get hurt. Remember also there are biological and physical hazard in labs, in addition to chemical hazards.
    Hope this helps.
    Dr. Ken

  138. Dr. Ken says:

    More research evidence about 3D printers and toxic particulate/VOCs: 3D Printers Can Spew Toxic Cancer-Causing Chemicals, New Report Reveals: Multi-year research by Georgia Institute of Tech. & UL Chemical Safety suggests low-cost 3D-printing devices could pose health risk by harming IAQ. Make sure your lab is well Ventilated? https://www.iflscience.com/technology/3d-printers-can-spew-toxic-cancercausing-chemicals-new-report-reveals-/

  139. Jean McDevitt says:

    Dr Ken,
    We are under renovations and the head custodian has asked what type of trash cans are to be used the science rooms/ labs.
    Could you please give your guidance on this question. Right now they have plastic type.
    Thank you for your help!
    Jean McDevitt

  140. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Jean McDevitt’s question.
    Jean – great question! I would suggest you check out the following site at the University of Wisconsin titled “Laboratory Waste Disposal” ….https://www.chem.wisc.edu/deptfiles/docs/lab-waste-disposal-portrait.pdf. As indicated – it will depend on the type of waste being created as to how, including what type of container should be used.
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  141. Kenneth Roy says:

    High school teachers – New Safety Resource – American Chemical Society – Chemical Lab Safety Series for High School: New & an outstanding set of 6 videos addressing high school lab safety issues including safety mindset, SDSs, Dress for lab, preparing for emergencies and RAMP strategies. Check it out:
    Dr. Ken

  142. Kenneth Roy says:

    How Deadly A Few Drop of Hg Can Be!

    Tiny Organic Mercury Spill Did This to Scientist’s Brain – A big lesson in lab safety and protocol. Important for all science teachers – a must see! Get rid of all the mercury if you have not done so yet!


    Dr. Ken

  143. Anonymous from Dr. Ken says:

    I am currently a high school science teacher. I teach all my classes and labs in my science laboratory. Like most high school science laboratories, I have chemicals in storage, dissection supplies, and many other potentially hazardous materials. My question to you is, is my employer allowed to assign non-science classes being taught within the laboratory? Thanks – Anonymous

  144. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s response to Anonymous on Assigning non-science classes in science labs:

    Great question! Unfortunately due to lack of instructional space, administrators some time assign non-science classes in science labs. However – the answer to your question is “yes” but, at a potentially huge liability. Given your school is under federal OSHA any employee working in a science lab must have lab safety training based on the chemical hygiene plan and/or hazard communication plan. That means for example – if a math class if being held in the lab, the math teacher must receive appropriate safety training, even though no experimentation is going on, given the existing lab hazards. Students also must be made aware of the hazards and behavioral expectations must be stated and enforced. Bottomline is – just a bad idea! The administration needs to find an alternate site for non-science classes – not the science lab. This would also apply if a school was under a state OSHA Plan or alternative like a state dept. of labor regulations.

  145. Paul Mezick says:

    Dr. Ken –
    We recently closed an elementary school, and redistricted grade 6 into our 7/8 grade school building. Since the move is somewhat temporary, the district ended up utilizing a few classrooms that are less than ideal for science. However, they will suffice for 6th grade science. I have two rooms that were probably math rooms before the move that do not have fire extinguishers. There are no known “BOE approved” curriculum hazards in the 6th grade science curriculum that require immediate access to engineering controls such as a fire extinguisher. Therefore, in this instance am I safe to follow 1910.157(d)(2) or 1910.157(d)(4) regarding 75 and 50 foot access to fire extinguishers for class A or B fires? Access to the nearest extinguisher is 40 feet from furthest point in the classroom. However, it is stored in the hallway immediately outside the classroom doors (the two rooms without extinguishers are adjacent to one another). Can I follow this same interpretation for the “absent” fire blankets in these two rooms?

  146. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken’s replay to Paul Mezick – Fire extinguisher question!

    Paul – This is a question I have received from time-to-time when construction or renovation of science labs runs over schedule into the school year. Here is my understanding on this very topic after discussions several years ago with two fire marshals. If the science rooms (or tech ed, art, etc.) are using any flammable liquids and/or active flames like burners, alcohol, etc., for teacher demos, hands-on student activities, storage, etc., the fire extinguisher must be located in the actual classroom or lab. Otherwise – having them outside in the corridor near the room would be OK. Also make sure your BOE has a policy or protocol for employees to use fire extinguishers – that includes annual training on how to use them. Otherwise – they still should be there but not for employee use but for first responders. Finally, make sure the extinguishers are inspected regularly. According to OSHA [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2), employers must perform a visual inspection on portable fire extinguishers at least once per month. They also are to be recharged at the expiration date by a licensed tech trained in that particular job. On the other note, I believe fire blankets are only recommended, not required. You might want to check with the local fire marshal on this – it can vary locally and state by state.

    Here is a summary by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.38:

    Inspect, maintain, and test all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(1)]

    Visually inspect portable extinguishers or hoses monthly. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2)]

    Perform an annual maintenance check on portable fire extinguishers.

    Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination.

    Record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. Make the record available to the Assistant Secretary upon request. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3)]

    Empty and maintain dry chemical extinguishers (that require a 12-year hydrostatic test) every six years.

    Dry chemical extinguishers that have non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement.

    When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the six-year requirement begins from that date. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(4)]

    Provide alternate equivalent protection when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(5)]

    Hope this helps.
    Have a safer day –

  147. Dr. Ken says:

    Dr. Ken, Dr. Tyler Love, et al Co-authored International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) Journal Safety Spotlight article titled: “Developing a Culture of Safety through Departmental Planning: How can school systems establish consistent policies and practices for addressing T&E education safety issues?” Check out Technology and Engineering Teacher – Volume 79, Issue 1 – September 2019 for the article – great for any one involved with Technology and Engineering Education, Physics, STEM, etc. classes. Start a safer school year from the get go! Article found at: https://www.iteea.org/TETSept19Safety.aspx

  148. Kenneth Roy says:

    Prohibition of Food & Drink in the Lab Challenged by Administrator : Anonymous Safety Question from science teacher:

    I need guidance on a lab safety question. I have prohibited food and drink in my lab and in fact have it in my safety acknowledgement form for students to sign. My school principal recently challenged this rule as a result on complaints by several of my students. Do you have any resources that I could share with the principal that supports my position?

    Dr. Ken’s response – The prohibition of food and drink in science labs is both a legal safety standard and better professional safety practice. For example –

    An example of better professional safety practice is the National Science Teaching Association or NSTA’s position statement titled – “Safety and School Science Instruction” (https://www.nsta.org/about/positions/safety.aspx) notes the following:

    “Materials intended for human consumption, including food and/or drink, should not be permitted in any laboratory or instructional classroom space where laboratory activities will be conducted, or where hazardous chemicals or physical/biological hazards have been used.”

    Another example is the nation’s health protection agency – Centers for Disease Control or CDC document titled “School Chemistry Lab Safety Guide” (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-107/pdfs/2007-107.pdf) noting the following:

    “Hygiene Practices: Food and drink, open or closed, should never be brought into the laboratory or chemical storage area. Never use laboratory glassware for eating or drinking purposes.”

    For legal safety standard – OSHA’s Sanitation standard governing eating and drinking areas, 29 CFR 1910.141 (g)(2) (https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.141) states,

    “No employee shall be allowed to consume food or beverages…in any area exposed to a toxic material.”

    Bottom-line is – with risk of cross contamination from biological and chemical hazards, along with physicals hazards such as electrical in any science lab – no food or beverages are allowed! If the chief building administrator allows lab occupants to violate this legal safety standard/better professional safety practice, he/she is liable under duty or standard of care and probably would be considered “reckless” if there is a lawsuit resulting from someone’s health compromised by eating or drinking in the lab. Your requirement of the food/drink prohibition not only protects student’s health but also the school administration’s liability and your own.

    The administration needs to support your lab safety protocols and explain to the students why there is no drink/food allowed in the lab.

    Dr. Ken

  149. Dr. Ken says:

    “Inclusive Makerspaces, Fab Labs, and STEM Labs” – How can instructors make appropriate accommodations and modifications while maintaining a safer teaching and learning environment for ALL students and themselves? This is a must read ITEEA Safety Spotlight article for any lab teacher!!

    Be aware of how to make it safer for all occupants in your lab when dealing with special need students. Find article at the following address:

  150. Elaine Kotler says:

    Dr. Ken –
    I am a middle school science teacher and I have a question about our lab safety policy. I just read through the 71 page Connecticut Middle School Science Safety: Prudent Practices and Regulations, for which you were a major contributor, and I am not clear on an answer.

    We did a lab/activity the other day in 7th grade that was helping students to learn how to measure correctly. The activity used beakers, graduated cylinders and test tubes to hold and/or mix colored water. All vessels we made of glass. What type of safety goggles, if any should be worn? Must the students were chemical spill safety googles, or can safety glasses be worn. If the student wears prescription glasses, was it necessary, for the lab described, to wear safety goggles over their own glasses. Again, the activity involved glassware and water.

    Thanks for helping me clear up any confusion.

    Elaine Kotler

    • Kenneth Roy says:

      Elaine..Thanks for the question! The safer answer is indirectly vented chemical splash goggles. Here is my reasoning behind it…

      1. You mentioned colored water…if food coloring is used, it often has alcohol as the base which can injure sensitive eye tissue if splashed.

      2. If the glass or even plastic shatters, the water could carry small pieces or slivers of glass as projectiles. Safety glasses would not protect the eyes should the splash go onto the face. There is no flange around the eye with safety glasses like splash goggles to protect eye tissue.

      That would be my opinion. Given the potential hazard and resulting risk, goggles are the best safety action for eye protection in this situation.

      Hope this helps.

      Dr. Ken

  151. Dr. Ken says:

    The new edition of the American National Standard used for safety glasses, safety goggles, side shields, and other eye and face protection devices is ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: American National Standard For Occupational And Educational Personal Eye And Face Protection Devices. Read more at the ANSI Blog: ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: Current Standard for Safety Glasses

    Dr. Ken

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