When it comes to science, hands-on learning is considered essential to the comprehension of the subject matter. Seeing the effect of their experiments in action tends to result in a firmer understanding of what brought upon the result. That’s why a science lab can be found in most middle school, high school, and college science classrooms.
Even though this hands-on learning style in lab classrooms is an essential tool for students, these rooms are also places where students can be placed in dangerous situations. Discover Magazine found that accidents in schools and colleges are 100 to 1000 times as frequent as those occurring at major chemical companies.
Using proper methods to keep labs and the students within them safe is therefore paramount. The following safety tips can help keep everyone in a lab as safe as possible
The best way to prevent lab accidents is to lay out a clear explanation of the experiment that will be performed and a printed version of specific guidelines and instructions should be provided to the students. It is essential to explain the experiment before entering the lab. After students enter, they may be too distracted by the supplies and tools to hear the experiment instructions, cautions, and warnings. They may also want to get a jump start on the work. Students should be encouraged to read the printed steps for the experiment ahead of time, more than once if necessary for a firm understanding. By explaining everything before the work starts, the distractions can be mitigated.
Students may have questions before the start of the experiment and it is essential to make sure that all of those questions get addressed. These questions may not be exactly relevant but it is always good that they are asked and answered before starting as they may touch upon safety topics that need to be restarted or clarified.
Students should be encouraged to ask their questions if they are not sure of certain details as it pertains to the experiment’s ingredients, or the experiment itself. Doing so could clear up any misunderstandings that can lead to accidents.
One of the key components of lab safety is taking every precaution necessary. This includes wearing lab appropriate gear. When dealing with heat or dangerous chemicals, it is vital to wear protective clothing. These pieces should be provided to the students, should be put on as soon as they enter the lab, and no activity should start until everyone has confirmed they have what they need.
The gear required for a lab may vary depending on the experiment. Lab coats are almost always a must as many things can damage or ruin clothes. For certain experiments, lab aprons are called for. When dealing with heat or chemicals, gloves are also essential to protect the students’ skin.
Eye protection is vital. Aside from being tempted to touch them with hands which may have harmful particles on them, the eyes are sensitive enough to be affected by splashes, burns, and even vapors from certain experiment components.
Long hair should always be pulled back into a ponytail before an experiment begins to protect it from getting caught in equipment, burning, or being exposed to chemicals. Any loose clothing, like scarves, should also be removed before starting.
Ensure Quality Equipment
The equipment used in lab classrooms may be expensive, but it’s far less costly than a malfunction that could bring harm to a student, instructor, or the school. It is always worth investing in high quality laboratory equipment that are durable and that meet the required standards, rather than opting for cheaper alternatives.
If a piece of equipment is malfunctioning, it should be thoroughly repaired if possible. If a complete repair cannot be performed, it should be disposed of and replaced.
All water sources, including eyewash stations and showers, should be confirmed to be functional. All exhaust hoods should be verified as working. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets should be present. A bucket with 90% sand and 10% vermiculite (properly labeled) should be securely tightened, but available.
Heat safety equipment like gloves, mittens, and tongs should be available and required during the use of experiments dealing with handling cold and hot objects.
After the experiments have completed, it is important to have all of the equipment put away and for all used work surfaces to be wiped, which should remove any corrosive materials and help prevent injury from those using it next.
All equipment should be fully turned off and debris should be properly disposed of. Burners, warmers, any other equipment that requires being turned on should be disposed of. Any items that remain operational, especially when no one is around, could cause serious and irreparable harm to the lab and the school building.
Haines Educational is one of the leading providers of school science equipment and laboratory supplies in Australia. They have a wide range of products to meet all your curriculum needs, and their customer service team is always available to assist you in choosing the right items. Visit Haines Educational to find out more.