Marie A. C. Langham,South Dakota State University
With August's arrival, planning for a new school year races forward. However, laboratory safety must be an integral component of every science class (including plant pathology!) and should not be forgotten during the hurried rush of the new school year. Developing safety plans, procedures, and fundamentals are the foundation of a safe classroom environment. Building this foundation requires coordination and cooperation from administrators, teaching faculty, and students.
Administrative responsibility includes assigning appropriate student numbers to laboratories, reserving science laboratories for only science classes, maintaining and repairing facilities, providing laboratories with appropriate safety equipment, and initiating faculty safety planning and coordination. Administrators can also function as the team leaders for disseminating new safety information to the faculty.
Students have the responsibility to learn and follow the safety practices for each of their laboratory classes. It is the student's responsibility to utilize the safety equipment provided and to learn safe laboratory practices and procedures. Having the best safety equipment will not protect the student who removes their safety glasses every time the teacher is looking elsewhere or the student who drinks an unlabeled liquid. To emphasize the importance of the student's responsibilities, many teachers develop laboratory safety contracts for the students to sign. Also, learning safe lab procedures should begin early. Students who learn good practices in elementary school will be better prepared to learn new safety techniques and principles in middle and high school.
Cooperation and coordination between each of these levels is required for laboratory safety. With everyone's assistance, the goal of teaching laboratories with no accidents or injuries becomes a teaching reality.
For more information on laboratory safety practices, procedures, and guidelines, try the following websites:
From the American Chemical Society, Safety in the Elementary (K-6) Science Classroom (http://membership.acs.org/c/ccs/pubs/K-6_art_2.pdf) provides a guide to laboratory safety for elementary schools. It covers safety guidelines for plants, animals, chemicals, and general laboratory procedures.
The Council of State Science Supervisors provides Science & Safety: Making the Connection (http://www.csss-science.org/downloads/scisafe.pdf). Specifications for laboratory design, precautions for working with plants and animals, legal responsibilities, etc. are discussed in this publication.
Daniel E. James has tailored Nine Safe Practices for the Microbiology Laboratory for working with bacterial and fungi (http://www.carolina.com/labsafety/micro_safety.asp). It is located on the Carolina Biological Lab Safety website (http://www.carolina.com/labsafety/Default.asp). Also at this site, Start the School Year Safely (http://www.carolina.com/labsafety/start_safely.asp) by Dr. Ronald Hammond discusses the need for planning ahead to create lab safety.
Provided by the National Science Teachers Association, Contracting for Safety (http://www.nsta.org/main/news/pdf/tst9909_36.pdf) by Anne Davidson discuss the need to involve students in laboratory safety and the creation of safety contracts for students and parents.