ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

The National Safety Council has estimated that 5000 safety-related accidents occur in American schools each year, at least ten per cent of these are science classroom related (Stroud 2009). Moreover, state safety data extracted from research studies spanning 75 years establish school lab safety as a national problem. Clearly, teachers and students, if trained in safe lab procedures, would decrease the risk of injury and death resulting from accidents. Legal standards of care are prescribed to schools with costly consequences for non-observance of these standards. Even so, few school districts implement or monitor OSHA recommendations. According to the Next Generation Science Standards (released in April 2012) and AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy (first released in 1993), science courses must provide firsthand hands-on science experiences for students. With these increased number of hands-on experiences, especially in the primary grades, the risk of injury increases. As part of a study to ascertain the science safety readiness of South Dakota schools, in 2009 and 2012, science safety surveys were disseminated to science teachers. Among questions posed were: Is science taught safely through recommended hands-on inquiry methods and which factors determine if science is being taught safely? In an earlier South Dakota pilot study of classroom teachers statewide, 18% were found not to be specifically certified in science and 85% indicated that they never had formal science safety instruction. These data are typical of results from similar studies in other states that document the severity of the school science safety problem. The purpose of this paper is to examine science lab safety in South Dakota and support a strong recommendation (as OSHA has) that pre-service science teachers (as well as all science teachers already in classrooms) be trained and certified explicitly in safe science procedures before conducting science experiments with students.
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 149
DANGER IN THE SCHOOL SCIENCE LAB:
ARE STUDENTS AT RISK?
C. M. Ezrailson
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
School of Education
University of South Dakota
Vermillion, SD 57069
Corresponding author email: cathy.ezrailson@usd.edu
ABSTRACT
e National Safety Council has estimated that 5000 safety-related accidents
occur in American schools each year; at least ten per cent of these are science class-
room related (Stroud 2009). Moreover, state safety data extracted from research
studies spanning 75 years establish school lab safety as a national problem. Clearly,
teachers and students, if trained in safe lab procedures, could decrease the risk of
injury and death resulting from accidents. Legal standards of care are prescribed
to schools with costly consequences for non-observance of these standards. Even
so, few school districts implement or monitor OSHA recommendations. Accord-
ing to the Next Generation Science Standards (released in April 2012) and AAAS
Benchmarks for Science Literacy (rst released in 1993), science courses must
provide rsthand hands-on science experiences for students. With this increased
number of laboratory experiences, especially in the primary grades, the risk of in-
jury increases dramatically. As part of a study to ascertain the science safety readi-
ness of South Dakota schools, in 2009 and 2012, science safety surveys were dis-
seminated to science teachers. Among questions posed were: 1) Is science taught
safely through recommended hands-on inquiry methods, and 2) which factors
determine if science is being taught safely? In an earlier South Dakota pilot study
of classroom teachers statewide, 18% were found not to be specically certied in
science and 85% indicated that they never had formal science safety instruction.
ese data are typical of results from similar studies in other states that document
the severity of the school science safety problem. e purpose of this paper is to
examine science lab safety in South Dakota and support a strong recommenda-
tion (as OSHA has) that pre-service science teachers (as well as all science teachers
already in classrooms) be trained and certied explicitly in safe science procedures
before conducting science experiments with students.
Keywords
Science, safety, laboratory accidents science, South Dakota science teacher
safety training, K-12 science safety, science safety responsibilities of schools.
INTRODUCTION
e Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), released in April 2013,
endorse student-centered, hands-on methods of inquiry for learning science
150 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
over traditional lecture-only methods An increase in the number of lab activi-
ties increases the risk of accident for students and teachers. Teachers and their
students, made aware and trained against safety risks, will be more successful in
avoiding accident. Not all mishaps can be prevented, however. Should they oc-
cur, teachers and schools must be prepared with an action plan in place in order
to minimize injury. Schools are charged with “due diligence” and a well-delin-
eated “standard of care” outlined by Occupational Safety and Health Adminis-
tration (OSHA) recommendations (Stroud et al. 2009). Although several studies
show laboratory safety is a growing concern for schools, little national data exist
on the current safety of facilities, equipment, and practices (Brazas 2013). Fur-
ther, school administrators and science teachers, who bear the responsibility for
student safety, appear to receive little systematic safety training (Singer, Hilton
and Schweingruber 2005). Although, according to the South Dakota Science
Safety Survey, many attempt to gain safety expertise on their own.
Science teachers must know and apply the requisite regulation for storage, use
and care of materials used by students in the classroom. ey are also charged
with following safety rules and mandates established by regulating bodies such
as OSHA, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the American
Chemical Society (ACS) as well as state and local regulating agencies. Admin-
istrators and teachers must work together to take an active role in working with
their district and state to make sure that every science lab and classroom is
equipped with required safety equipment.
According to America’s Lab Report (Singer et al. 2005), teachers’ responsibili-
ties include:
e duty of instruction. Teachers must instruct students prior to any labora-
tory activity, providing accurate, appropriate information about foreseeable dan-
gers; identifying and clarifying any specic risks; explaining proper procedures/
techniques; and describing appropriate behavior in the lab. ese instructions
must follow professional and district guidelines.
e duty of supervision. is includes not tolerating misbehavior, providing
greater supervision in more dangerous situations, providing greater supervision
to younger students and those with special needs, and never leaving students
unattended.
e duty of maintenance. is requires that the teacher never use defective
equipment, always le written reports for maintenance or correction of hazard-
ous conditions or defective equipment, establish regular inspections of safety
equipment and procedures, and follow all guidelines for handling and disposing
of chemicals.
Unfortunately, these regulations are rarely adhered to which may be due to lack
of funds and awareness.
Courts have ruled that if teachers fail to properly supervise or instruct a class
in safety procedures, responsibility for injuries may fall on the teacher. It is
therefore imperative that teachers be well trained in proper procedures. Districts
have a responsibility to provide this training before teachers perform lab science
with students. Teachers must always weigh educational value versus possible ac-
cident risk in deciding what type of laboratory investigations to conduct. Finally,
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 151
according to NSTA, science experiments must be appropriate for the type of
classroom, size of classroom and ages of the students.
METHODS OF STUDY
In early 2008, supported by a South Dakota Board of Regent’s Seed Grant at
the University of South Dakota, I undertook a pilot study (n=30) of classroom
safety practice. Its purpose was to determine whether South Dakota teachers
who taught science at all levels experienced similar safety issues as were faced
by teachers in other states, to identify those issues and to recommend how to
address them. Also examined was the status of classroom science safety train-
ing and practice in South Dakota schools. e results of this study were to be
used in the design of a training program in science safety for pre- and in-service
teachers. e assumption was that accidents would be reduced once teachers
were trained in science lab safety. (Ezrailson et al. 2008).
On the basis of the pilot survey, a follow-up survey was constructed, inter-
rater reliability was established and a wider cross-section of science teachers
was then surveyed (n=92) late in 2008. e 25-question Science Safety Survey
was disseminated through the South Dakota Department of Education science
teacher listserv. is survey can be found in Appendix II.
Although submitted to the South Dakota Department of Education in De-
cember 2011, the Science Safety Survey 2 was disseminated in January 2012.
e intent of the re-dissemination of the survey was to ascertain if the climate
of science safety in schools had changed (96 participants responded to the 2012
survey). A comparison between the data from the 2009 and 2012 surveys was
to discern and highlight persistent school science safety issues.
e research questions examined for this study were:
• Are South Dakota teachers aware of proper (and safe) practices (as outlined
in the NSTA Guidelines) when teaching science?
• Are South Dakota teachers trained in safe science practice?
• What are the key safety issues facing the South Dakota teacher who teaches
science? How does this vary by grade level?
• To what extent do teachers apply safe practices when teaching science in their
classrooms?
Highlighted in Appendix I is also a concordance between science safety lan-
guage in the South Dakota Science Content Standards and the accepted “best
practice” for science safety procedures used in classrooms as outlined by NSTA
and the Council of State Science Supervisors (Comer 2000). is concordance
established that gaps existed between what is commonly accepted as safe science
practice and the wording in the South Dakota state science standards that guide
the teaching of science for K-12 teachers.
South Dakota Science Survey questions consisted of multiple choice questions
that were open-ended, and logistics questions. ree specic science safety sce-
narios were also included. ese scenarios asked respondents to judge a science
safety situation and make decisions based on their training and experience.
152 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
RESULTS: SURVEY DATA
Participants responding to the 2009 survey included 8.7% PreK-2nd grade
teachers, 6.5% 3rd -5th grade teachers, 29% 6-8th grade teachers and 54% high
school teachers with one administrator who also taught. In the 2012 survey,
participants included 0% PreK-2nd grade teachers, 3.1% 3rd -5th grade teachers,
23% 6-8th grade teachers and 74% high school teachers.
Responses to the 2009 survey indicated that 14 teachers had taught 0-5 years,
10 had taught 6-10 years, 36 teachers had taught 11-25 years and 23 teachers
had taught more than 25 years. In the 2012 survey, 14 teachers had taught 0-5
years, 18 had taught 6-10 years, 42 teachers had taught 11-25 years and 22
teachers had taught more than 25 years.
According to the survey data, few teachers had any formal training in science
lab safety before beginning to teach science in South Dakota. Results from the
initial pilot survey had found that almost 18% of the responding teachers in-
dicated that they were not certied in science. In the wider studies conducted
in the fall of 2008 and early 2012, 35% of respondents had general K-8 certi-
cation (survey question 8) not indicating a specialty in science. In the 2012
survey, 20% of respondents were K-8 generalists. Several additional issues were
examined including the structure of the classroom, whether science safety was
also taught to students, how long the respondents had been in the classroom and
responses to two ctional science lab emergency scenarios.
In Table 1 is a comparison of the proles of the respondents’ lab situations. In
the 2009 survey (Table 1A), 65% of respondents had a lab area compared with
76% of respondents to the 2012 survey (Table 1B). Conversely, in 2009, 26%
did the best that they could with a less than ideal classroom situation. In 2012,
21% were challenged with teaching in this situation.
Table 1. Question 10: Survey respondents’ lab areas 2009 and 2012.
2009
Answer Choices % #
a) I have a lab area 65 55
b) I use a different classroom or area in the building to conduct science
activities
3.2 8
c)Iamunabletoconductscienceexperimentsbecausemyclasslacksa
science area
1.2 1
d)IdothebestIcanwithmysituation–Idescribemysituationbelow 26 22
2012
Answer Choices % #
a) I have a lab area 76 70
b) I use a different classroom or area in the building to conduct science
activities
9.5 3
c)Iamunabletoconductscienceexperimentsbecausemyclasslacksa
science area
0 0
d)IdothebestIcanwithmysituation–Idescribemysituationbelow 21 19
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 153
In 2009, 29 percent of respondents indicated that they administered a science
lab safety test to their students (Table 2A, question 10 from the survey). In
2012, an excess of 49 percent had administered a science lab safety test (Table
2B). According to respondents’ comments, the middle range shown indicates
teachers who did not always administer a lab safety test prior to instruction, did
not administer a formal test or gave safety instruction in another manner, such
a verbally before a lab was conducted.
Table 2. Question 13: Survey respondents’ safety instruction for students 2009 and 2012.
2A. 2009 1- Least like
my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 – Most like
my situation
My students take a science lab
safety quiz prior to instruction 42% 11% 7.1% 3.5% 2.4% 4.7% 29%
Number 36 9 6 3 2 4 25
2B. 2012 1- Least like
my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 – Most like
my situation
My students take a science lab
safety quiz prior to instruction 13% 12% 4.3% 5.4% 8.6% 7.5% 49%
Number 12 11 4 5 8 7 48
Participant comments in the 2009 survey (Table 3A) gave further evidence of
the dearth of science lab safety training programs participated in by respondents.
Alternative measures mentioned in the comments were exploration of safety ma-
terials online, safety mentioned in college science courses, experience with safety
issues in previous occupations and word of mouth from other teachers.
e following were some typical statements from respondents: “I have handled
some safety equipment...but I haven’t been trained on specic procedures.
“Some [safety] concerns have been covered in classes I’ve taken but nothing has
specically been in a class on science safety.”
In the 2012 survey (Table 3B), similar comments were presented, for example:
“No formal course, only the general training given in each lab during college.
“I had basic training, but not a specic course in college, however. I have only
received informal training since then all based on my own need and interest.
154 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
Table 3. Question 15: Profile of Respondents’ Formal Safety Training
3A. 2009 1- Least like
my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 – Most like
my situation
As the teacher, my training in
science safety includes a formal
course or other training
40% 19% 13% 12% 3.5% 5.9% 7.1%
Number 34 16 11 10 3 5 6
3B. 2012 1- Least like
my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 – Most like
my situation
As the teacher, my training in
science safety includes a formal
course or other training
43% 11% 11% 12% 8.7% 5.4% 8.7%
Number 34 16 11 10 3 5 8
ree emergency science lab scenarios were posed to respondents in each of
the 2009 and 2012 surveys. e rst scenario (Question 22 on the survey) with
responses are given below:
Sixth grade science teacher, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is heating mothballs to simulate
magma. She is heating a test tube in an open ame. e glass tube cracks and
the mothballs fall into the ame, and catch re. If you were Mrs. Fitzgerald,
what is the rst thing you would do in this situation?
a) Run to the phone and call the janitor for help (2.4%)
b) Grab the re extinguisher and make sure all the ames are out (60%)
c) Ask students to help put out the re (0%)
d) Other (please explain (38%)
Several responses involved the teacher taking action to put out the re rather
than evacuation of the classroom and pulling the re alarm because chemical
fumes can be overwhelming in a closed space without good ventilation. One
2009 respondent had had prior training and knew the important steps to follow:
“e proper procedure with any re is to Rescue, Alert, Contain, Extinguish
(RACE). Students must be rescued rst. en extinguish the re.
A 2012 respondent would react rst: “Reality - I’d probably grab the re extin-
guisher if the ames were out of control. If the burning produces a clean ame
and isn’t going to quickly damage the table, “I” would probably be more likely
to try and scoot the mothballs in a sink with tongs or something, rather than
making a mess with the extinguisher.
e second scenario in the survey (Question 23) states:
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 155
Dr. Smith’s class is learning about amphibian anatomy by dissecting frogs.
Dr. Smith briey demonstrates to the class what they will be doing but does
not explain safe procedures to his class. Students are then instructed to go to
their lab benches and begin dissecting. After a half hour, Sam, a student in Dr.
Smith’s class notices that his eyes are starting to itch. He puts his ngers to his
face and rubs his eyes. Sam’s eyes continue to itch and become more irritated
throughout the lab period. However, Sam leaves class without mentioning
anything to Dr. Smith. When Sam gets home from school his mother notices
how red his eyes are and that he is constantly rubbing them. She asks Sam
what he did at school, and Sam tells her they dissected frogs in science class.
Sam is taken to the doctor and they discover that Sam must have gotten form-
aldehyde in his eyes when he rubbed them during class. Who is responsible for
the outcome of the student injury?
a) e student for not taking care in lab (80%)
b) e teacher for failing to give proper safety instruction (0%)
c) e manufacturer of the dissecting specimen (3.7%)
d) Other, please specify (22%)
Several responses referred to actions that should have been taken before the
lab or put the onus on the student. Only a few expressed how they would deal
directly with the situation. For example, one 2009 respondent suggested: “…
Let’s not forget Sam’s parents for not teaching him to keep his hands/ngers
out of his eyes ALWAYS...not just in bio class. e teacher should ALWAYS
discuss safety. Laying of blame is not applicable and counter productive.” And,
a 2012 respondent voiced concerns of several respondents when he stated that
the “Student should have told the teacher about his itchy eyes before leaving the
classroom.”
e third scenario in the survey (Question 24) sets up the following situation:
Science teacher, Mr. Scott, is making soap with his students and accidently
adds too much lye to the mix, which caused some of the students to experi-
ence chemical burns. If you were Mr. Scott, what is the rst thing you would
do in this situation?
a) Soak the burn or rinse o the chemical as soon as possible (77%)
b) Leave the classroom to get help (0%)
c) Put ice water directly on the burn (2.2%)
d) Other (please specify) (21%)
Some of the respondents indicated in their comments that they would ush
the burns with water or summon the nurse. Typical comments were as follows:
A 2009 respondent would “Have students leave the room. Call the oce, next
door for help.” A 2012 respondent explained, “I don’t know how to handle
this because I don’t do this lab. If I did I would need to nd out how to protect
students if an accident occurred.
e South Dakota Safety Study results indicate that teachers may not typically
and specically be trained in safe classroom science methods or equipment. In
the 2009 survey, only 7.1% of respondents said that they had participated in
156 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
science safety training either formally or informally (Table 3A, survey question
15). By 2012, that number had risen only to 8.7% (Table 3B).
DISCUSSION: SOUTH DAKOTA IS NOT ALONE
Laboratory investigations are essential for the eective teaching and learning of
science. A school laboratory investigation (“lab”) is an experience in the labora-
tory, classroom, or the eld that provides students with opportunities to interact
directly with natural phenomena or with data collected by others using tools,
materials, data collection techniques, and models (Singer et al. 2005). Inherent
in laboratory-based activities is the potential for injury. As professionals, teach-
ers of science have a duty of care to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and
sta. Duty of care is dened as an obligation, recognized by law, requiring con-
formance to a certain standard of conduct to protect others against unreasonable
risk. “e breach of a particular duty owed to a student or others may lead to
liability for both the teacher and the school district that employs that teacher.”
(Ryan 2001). As such, science educators must act as a reasonably prudent per-
son would in providing and maintaining a safe learning environment for their
students (National Science Teachers Association 2007).
e results of the South Dakota Science Safety Survey suggest that although
many teachers may be aware of some basic safety issues, a consistent statewide
K-12 teacher safety program does not exist in South Dakota at this time. Many
piecemeal eorts produce gaps in the school science safety expertise of teachers
and introduce an atmosphere of risk and liability for school districts, teachers
and administrators in South Dakota. Research into studies conducted in other
states highlight a national problem.
Unfortunately, national and state incident report data are not readily avail-
able. No national repository of information on school science accidents exists.
What data there are have typically been gathered by individual states, public enti-
ties or researchers, which make a nationwide study dicult but vital as this issue
aects every community and school. Although government agencies, states,
school districts, and professional associations make eorts to notify schools
about safety policies and practices, evidence suggests that schools tend to react to
accidents when they occur rather than taking preventative action to avoid them.
Many regulations in place are commonly ignored.
e costs of adequate safety can be very large. For example, between 2000 and
2003, the Chicago Public Schools spent $570,000 to conduct chemical sweeps
in schools, at a cost of approximately $2,600 per school. Even though preven-
tive safety measures are expensive, the costs of accidents and injuries may be
even larger (Singer et al. 2005). e lack of publicly available data on laboratory
accidents and injuries may be due in part to the fact that many legal cases are
settled before trial. As a result, there are few articles discussing legal precedents
and ndings in cases related to laboratory science (Standler 1999).
A survey of the research into school science accidents revealed the ndings
listed in Table 4.
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 157
Table 4. Supporting studies in laboratory safety.
Research Group Scope/Data Findings/Conclusions
National Science
Teachers
Association
(NSTA)
302 secondary science teachers
in 47 states and 3 territories.
Questions included school
science facilities, science equip-
ment, procedures used in
teaching science.
Very serious safety concerns.
Teachers unaware of applicable laws, codes, and
standards and uninformed about safety issues and
procedures. Many labs and storerooms were sub-
standard or inadequate; chemicals (e.g., mercury,
sodium and potassium) and other equipment had
never been inventoried cataloged or stored to re-
duce accidents (Gerlovich and Parsa 2002).
Federal Agency
for Toxic
Substances and
Disease Registry
(ATSDR)
423 chemical incidents re-
ported nationwide in public
schools during 2002-2007
895 people were injured in the
incidents
Improper and unsafe chemical storage/ use of ma-
terials or equipment (Stroud, 2009)
New Jersey
Science
Supervisors
Association
102 New Jersey secondary
school science teachers 4,721
accidents
irty-seven percent of re-
spondents reported a major
accident had occurred during
their teaching career.
Teachers with more education and experience had
signicantly fewer accidents.
Lab facilities had inadequate eye protection (Kra-
jkovitch 1982).
Texas State
Science Teachers
Association
(CAST Meeting
and 12
laboratory safety
professional
development
sessions)
590 respondents
36 percent of respondents
reported a total of 460 minor
laboratory accidents in one
school year
Facilities on average were smaller than the size rec-
ommended by NSTA.
Texas Hazard Communications Act requires all sci-
ence teachers new to a school to participate in pro-
fessional development focused on laboratory safety,
but only 33 percent of respondents indicated that
they had done so (Stephenson et al. 2003).
Hong Kong
Ministry of
Education
401 secondary schools, 29% of
which reported injuries during
2011-2012
348 students and four sta
persons injured
Laboratory accidents revealed that school science
safety is a worldwide issue (Ministry of Education
2011).
ese studies and surveys add weight to the argument that strongly recom-
mends (as OSHA requires) that all K-12 teachers of science be trained and certi-
ed explicitly in safe science procedures before being allowed to conduct science
experiments in the classroom with students. NSTA guidelines for preparing
science teachers emphasize competent science safety knowledge and recommend
that teachers should model science safety procedures, training students explicitly
during instruction -- not leaving this important issue to chance (National Sci-
ence Teachers Association 2003).
Additional data indicate that large class sizes may pose a threat to safety in
school laboratories. Average science class size in California, for example, was
30.1 students per teacher in the 2003-2004 school year and that exceeds the
NSTA standard of 24 students per teacher in science classes conducting science
158 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
experiments. It may be extremely dicult for teachers in classes of 30 students
to perform the “duty of supervision” and maintain safety during laboratory
experiences (Stephenson et al. 2003). Data from a Texas study indicated that
accidents occurred frequently, although most were minor and involved cuts and
minor burns; however, many were more serious and resulted in severe injury
to students and teachers. Most occurred during student hands-on activities or
when students performed experiments in the lab or classroom (Stephenson et al
2003).
e data suggest that safety in the science classroom and lab can no longer be
ignored. Better training in laboratory safety can provide information that helps
schools and teachers enforce legal requirements for maintaining student safety.
More organized and explicit professional development is required in order to cre-
ate uniform and lasting changes in science safety methods coincident with the
sustained professional development, which supports changes in teaching practices.
CONCLUSION: IMPLEMENTING SAFE SCIENCE
Although clearly in some cases, science is being taught in safe environments
where teachers are well informed and trained in safe use of equipment and mate-
rials, all too often, however, the opposite is true. Safety instruction provided to
teachers, no matter how they may have been educated and certied is rarely con-
sistent, explicit or in-depth (Stroud 2009). Safety practices in the classroom are
too important for the health and welfare of students to be left to happenstance.
Safe science procedures should always be taught explicitly and completely to all
pre-service and in- service teachers as well as their students.
e Council of State Science Supervisors provides a comprehensive and prac-
tical guide for teachers and students appropriate for teachers in K- 5 classroom
situations. NSTA, through its website, web seminars and journals, e Science
Teacher, Science Scope and Science and Children, provides many safety resources,
videos and articles important to science teachers K-12. In addition, NSTA is-
sued a Position Statement on the Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory
Safety in 2003, which clearly states the responsibilities of teachers relative to
science safety (National Science Teachers Association 2003). e full text of the
position statement can be found on the NSTA web site.
Facilities are another place to start. Several studies have documented that the
smaller the lab space and the larger the class, the higher the risk for accidents
(National Science Teachers Association 2003; Stephenson et al. 2003). e
National Science Teachers Association (2003) has called for a minimum of 45
square feet per student for a standalone laboratory and 60 square feet per stu-
dent for a combination laboratory-classroom. is translates into at least 1,250
square feet for a laboratory and 1,440 square feet for a combined laboratory
classroom and recommends a maximum class size of 24 students in high school
laboratory science classes.
OSHA has established standards of care to protect the health and safety of
all employees, including teachers and sta. One of the most important OSHA
standards of care for school laboratories is the Laboratory Standard (29 CFR
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 159
1910.1450). is standard requires school science teachers to create and main-
tain a chemical hygiene plan (CHP). In most schools, a science teacher or teach-
ers develop this CHP, which outlines policies, procedures, and responsibilities to
increase student, teacher, and sta awareness of potentially harmful chemicals.
e CHP requires proper labeling of all chemicals, and the meaintenance of
Material Safety Data Sheets which outline important safety information, and
safe storage of chemicals. ese data sheets must be made available to school
employees and must be kept in a safe but easily accessible location. e National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health provides guides for proper separa-
tion of incompatible chemical families (Wattigney 2008).
e U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also administers several
laws and regulations aecting safety in high school science laboratories. ese
include (1) the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, (2) the Emergency
Planning and Right-to-Know laws and regulations, and (3) the Toxic Substances
Control Act. To carry out provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recov-
ery Act, EPA issues regulations and guidelines governing safe storage of labora-
tory chemicals, equipment, and supplies. Title III of this act governs emergency
planning and right-to-know (about potentially hazardous chemicals), and Title
IV governs chemical disposal related specically to school science laboratories
(Wattigney et al. 2008).
A few practical measures can prevent most school lab accidents and go a long
way to inform schools. ese measures include:
1) e creation of a national database of science safety best practice
2) A published set of uniform, sustained and tested science safety training
programs for teachers, administrators and state ocials
3) A national, organized and consistent eort to infuse the teaching of
science with safe practice.
4) e will to update poor science facilities, unsafe equipment and materials.
5) e disposal of dangerous chemicals in aging science storerooms in schools.
An immediate call to action is imperative in order to rectify this under-exam-
ined and overdue national public health problem. Because educators have a duty
to maintain a safe learning environment while providing science instruction, this
duty must also be shared equally among school leaders, district administrators,
school boards, parents, and students themselves. is is an urgent issue -- teach-
ers and administrators must communicate regularly and fully on the essentials of
safe instruction for students that reect the latest research on classroom size, safe
use of equipment and safety training.
e reality of science in schools is this: appropriate scientic instruction
should always include providing students the opportunity to actively engage in
scientic investigations. But, if teachers lack training and condence in their
knowledge of science safety, are unsure of how to manage science experiments,
and administrators are no more knowledgeable than their teachers, then students
will be at risk and fewer recommended hands-on and inquiry-based science
activities will be done in primary and secondary classrooms. us, another gen-
eration of American students would miss out on science experiences that would
produce a more scientically literate populace.
160 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
LITERATURE CITED
American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1993. Benchmarks for Science
Literacy Available from http://www.project2061.org/publications/bsl/online/index.php
[Cited 4/4/13].
Brazas, S. 2013 . Liability for School Science Experiment Accidents, Law Info. Available
from http://education-law.lawyers.com/school-law/Liability-for-School-Science-Experi-
ment-Accidents.html [Cited 3/3/13].
Comer, C. 2000. Science and Safety Making the Connection. e Council of State
Science Supervisors, Virginia.
Everett J. S., R. Axelrad, W.A.Wattigney. 2006. Healthy and safe school environment,
part II, physical school environment: results from the School Health Policies and
Programs Study Journal of School Health (77):544-56.
Ezrailson, C.M. 2009. Report: Evaluating Safe Science Teaching Practice in the U.S.
(Phase II). PER ComPADRE Collection. Available from http://www.compadre.org/
per/items/detail.cfm?ID=7521 [Cited 7/23/13].
Ezrailson. C. M., P.G. Millard, and R. Kludt, 2008. Report: A Design and Evaluation
Study for Teaching Science Safely in South Dakota Schools. PER ComPADRE.
Available from http://www.compadre.org/per/perc/2008/Detail.cfm?id=799 [Cited
7/12/13].
Gerlovich, J. A., D. McElroy, R. Parsa, and B. Wazlaw. 2005. National school science
safety indexing project: A beginning. e Science Teacher 72 (6):43–45.
Krajkovitch, J. G. 1983. A Survey of Accidents in the Secondary School Science Labora-
tory, New Jersey Science Supervisors Association.
National Science Teachers Association. 2003. Position Statement on Science Safety.
Available from http://www.nsta.org:about:positions:safety.aspx [Cited 3/2/13].
Next Generation Science Standards. 2013. Achieve, Inc., Washington, DC. Available
at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards [Cited 4/19/13].
Ryan, K. 2001. Science Classroom Safety and the Law: A Handbook for Teachers. Flinn
Scientic, Inc., Batavia, Il.
Secretary of Education. 2013. Education Bureau Circular Memorandum No.55/2013.
Hong Kong Ministry of Education, Available from: http://applications.edb.gov.hk/
circular/upload/EDBCM/EDBCM13055E.pdf [Cited 8/2/13].
Sinclair, L., J. Gerlovich, and R.A. Parsa, R. 2013. South Carolina Statewide Science
Safety Project, Journal of the South Carolina Academy of Science: 1:1, 5. Available
from: http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/jscas/vol1/iss1/5 [Cited 3/15/13]
Singer, S.R., M.L. Hilton, and H. Schweingruber. 2005. America’s lab report: Investiga-
tions in high school science, p 186-9. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
Stroud, LM. 2009. e Science Reector. Newsletter - North Carolina Sci. Teach.
Assoc.
Stroud, L.M., and K. Roy. 2009. OSHA Training Requirements and Guidelines for
K–14 School Personnel, NSTA.
Stephenson, A.L., S.S. West, J.F. Westerlund, and N.C. Nelson. 2003. An analysis of
incident/accident reports from the Texas Secondary School Science Safety Survey,
2001. School Science and Mathematics Journal 103:6.
Wattigney, W.A, M. Stat, M.S. Orr, and G.D. Williamson. 2008. Div of Health Stud-
ies, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Jones, S.E., Division of
Adolescent and School Health, CDC. 2008, Nov 7. Hazardous Chemical Incidents
In Schools---United States 2002-2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Weekly, 57(44):1197-1200. CDC.
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 161
APPENDIX I. South Dakota Science Safety Standards Concordance.
Safety Statement Found in
2003 SD Science Standards
Grade
Level(s)
Indicator or
Content Standard
How Addressed
(G**, S***)
Students are able to:
Practice Science Safely* KIndicator 2:
Supporting Skills G
Use safety procedures in conducting science investi-
gations. 1Indicator 2:
Supporting Skills
S
Example: Explain why food used in an
experiment is not for eating…. S
Recognize importance of safety procedures and
equipment. 2Indicator 2:
Supporting Skills
S
Example: Direct projectiles away from peers
when ying gliders S
Use appropriate scientic equipment and proper
safety procedures in all investigations. 3Indicator 2:
Supporting Skills G
Apply the skills necessary to conduct scientic
investigations 4Indicator 2:
Supporting Skills G
Describe how designing a solution may have
constraints 5Indicator 1:
Standard 5.S.1.2.
G
Example: cost, time, space, materials, and safety G
Describe and demonstrate various safety factors
associated with dierent types of scientic activity. 6Indicator 2:
Standard 6.N.2.1.
G
Example: Use appropriate scientic equipment
safely in all investigations. G
Describe and demonstrate various safety factors
associated with dierent types of scientic activity. 7 Indicator 2:
7.N.2.1.
G
Example: Demonstrate appropriate use of
apparatus and technologies for investigations. G
Describe and demonstrate various safety factors
associated with dierent types of scientic activity. 8 Indicator 2:
8.N.2.1.
G
Example: Wear appropriate attire. G
Students are able to practice safe and eective
laboratory techniques.
9 to 12 Indicator 2:
9-12.N.2.2.
G
Handle hazardous materials properly. G
Use safety equipment correctly. G
Practice emergency procedure. G
Wear appropriate attire. G
Practice safe behaviors. G
*Note: ese skills should be taught and practiced in grade-level study of Physical, Life, and Earth/Space Science
although mastery is not expected at K-2 levels.
** GENERAL (G) designation here means no specic step-by-step direction given to students
*** SPECFIC (S) designation here includes appropriate steps for students to follow.
162 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
APPENDIX II. School Science Safety Survey.
1. Please give the information indicated below. Your survey will be assigned a code. No identify-
ing information will be associated with survey results. is information is encrypted and cannot
be accessed on the web or o.
School District Name City/Town: Zip Code:
2. Please select the choice below that best represents your current teaching assignment
___PreK-2nd grade___3rd-5th grade ___ 6th-8th grade___9th-12th grade ___ Administrator
3. Additional grade levels you have previously taught. (Check all that apply).
___PreK-2nd grade___3rd-5th grade ___ 6th-8th grade___9th-12th grade ___ Administrator
4. Number of years that I have been teaching ____
5. Number of years that I have taught science____
6. Subject(s) taught previously include (check all that apply)
____Elementary (general) ____Elementary Science/math____Elementary Language Arts/Social
studies____Physical Science ____ Chemistry ____Biology ____ Life Science____Earth Sci-
ence____ Space Science____Technology/Computers ____Basic Mathematics ____Advanced
Mathematics ____ English/Reading/Literature ____ History/Social Science ____Fine Arts
____Other
7. Please indicate the subjects that you currently teach (Check all that apply).
____ Elementary (general)____ Elementary Science/math____ Elementary Language Arts/
Social studies____ Physical Science ____Chemistry ____ Biology ____Life Science____Earth
Science ____ Space Science ____Technology/Computers ____Basic Mathematics____Advanced
Mathematics ____ English/Reading/Literature ____History/Social Science
8. Teaching Certication
____K -8____ 7- 12 ____other endorsements, please specify:
9. Please select the number for the following that most ts your classroom situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____In my science classroom, I have a special area dedicated to science activities/demonstrations.
____Other – please specify
10. If you do have such an area, please mark choice A. If you do not have a special laboratory
or science activity area in your classroom where you teach science, please mark the choice below
that best describes your situation:
____ a) I have a lab area.
____b) I use a dierent classroom or area in the school building to conduct science activities/
demonstrations.
____ c) I am unable to conduct science experiments because my classroom lacks a science area
____ d) I do the best I can with my situation (describe my situation below:)
11. In the space provided, please write a detailed description of where you conduct science activi-
ties/demonstrations and what that area/room/space looks like.
All survey participants should answer the following questions.
12. Please select the number that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least true of my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most true of my situation
____Science lab safety instruction is more likely to take place in my classroom at the beginning
of the school year.
Comments
Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013) 163
13. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____My students take a science lab safety quiz/test over the science safety instruction.
Comments
14. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____I have a science safety contract that students and parents sign.
Comments
15. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____As the teacher, my training in science safety includes a formal course or other training in
science safety.
Comments
16. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____Safety equipment in my lab is inspected at least once per year.
Comments
17. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation.
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____I always teach science safety in my science classes.
Comments
18. Please select the response that most ts your classroom and science teaching situation
1 Least like my situation 2 3 4 5 6 7 Most like my situation
____I know how to purchase, handle and store science equipment.
Comments
19. e following safety equipment is available to me when I teach science (select all that apply):
a) Safety glasses for each student b) Safety aprons for each student c) Eyewash station d) Fire
blanket e) Fire extinguisher f) Sinks g) Telephone h) MSDS manual i) Safety posters j) Other
(please specify)
20. I am prepared to handle the following safety concerns when teaching science:
a) Allergies (e.g. nuts, latex) b) Light sensitivity c) Odors d) Fire e) Chemical spill f) Cuts and
lacerations f) Other (please specify)
21. I demonstrate the proper use of the following safety equipment and other topics to my class
prior to lab activities (select all that apply):
a) Fire blanket g b) Fire extinguisher g c) Eyewash station d) Proper handling of glassware
e) Wearing proper clothing/shoes in lab g f ) Emergency proceduresg g) Other (please specify)
22. Sixth grade science teacher, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is heating mothballs to simulate magma. She
is heating a test tube under an open ame. e glass tube cracks and the mothballs fall into
the ame, and catch re. If you were Mrs. Fitzgerald, what is the rst thing you would do in
this situation? a) Run to the phone and call the janitor for help b) Grab the re extinguisher
and make sure all the ames are out c) Ask students to help put out the re d. Other (please
explain)
164 Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science, Vol. 92 (2013)
23. Dr. Smith’s class is learning about amphibian anatomy by dissecting frogs. Dr. Smith briey
demonstrates to the class what they will be doing but does not explain safe procedures to his
class. Students are then instructed to go to their lab benches and begin dissecting. After a half
hour, Sam, a student in Dr. Smith’s class notices that his eyes are starting to itch. He puts his n-
gers to his face and rubs his eyes. Sam’s eyes continue to itch and become more irritated through-
out the lab period. However, Sam leaves class without mentioning anything to Dr. Smith. When
Sam gets home from school his mother notices how red his eyes are and that he is constantly
rubbing them. She asks Sam what he did at school, and Sam tells her they dissected frogs in
science class. Sam is taken to the doctor and they discover that Sam must have gotten formalde-
hyde in his eyes when he rubbed them during class.
Who is responsible for the outcome of the student injury?
a) e student for not taking care in lab b) e teacher for failing to give proper safety instruc-
tion c) e manufacturer of the dissecting specimeng d) other, please specify
24. Science teacher, Mr. Scott, is making soap with his students and accidently added too much
lye to the mix, which caused some of the students to experience chemical burns. If you were Mr.
Scott, what is the rst thing you would do in this situation?
a) Soak the burn or rinse o the chemical as soon as possible b) Leave the classroom to get help
c) Put ice water directly on the burn d. Other (please specify)
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Science safety in is a vital issue in 2008 because: 1) it is tested on many state science content tests, 2) pre-service teachers take the Praxis test which also requires knowledge of safe science practice, 3) teachers are being trained in alternative ways that may omit safe science methods, 4) science content standards in many states emphasize doing science without specific safety guidelines, especially for middle and elementary classrooms and 5) science methods curricula have not always included planning for and conducting experiments safely. National Science Education Standards (NSES) encourage active science learning with"bestpractices" promoting inquiry-based and hands-on instruction at all instructional levels. Teachers who teach science are using equipment that may or may not be developmentally appropriate for their students (using open flames in K-2nd grade, for example). Accidents occur and go unreported. Based on a survey of practice in South Dakota schools, a national survey of science teaching practice K-12 is proposed.
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated safety in Texas secondary school science laboratory, classroom, and field settings. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) drew a random representative sample consisting of 199 secondary public schools in Texas. Eighty-one teachers completed Incident/Accident Reports. The reports were optional, anonymous, and open-ended; thus, they are unique in capturing the strengths and weaknesses of safety practices in school science settings as perceived by the teachers. Pertinent findings include: a) incidents and accidents (mishaps) increased from 8% to 62% as the class enrollment increased from <14 students to >24 students (p < 0.05), b) mishaps increased from 11% to 66% as classroom space per student decreased from >60 ft2 per student to <45 ft2 per student (p < 0.05), c) mishaps increased from 11% to 47% as room size decreased from >1200 ft2 to <800 ft2 (p < 0.05) d) 35% of teachers did not have adequate safety training within the last year, and e) 69% of teachers had a written safety policy. The findings of this study can be used to develop science classroom, lab, and field safety guidelines on a classroom, school, district, state, and a national level.
Book
Laboratory experiences as a part of most U.S. high school science curricula have been taken for granted for decades, but they have rarely been carefully examined. What do they contribute to science learning? What can they contribute to science learning? What is the current status of labs in our nation's high schools as a context for learning science? This book looks at a range of questions about how laboratory experiences fit into U.S. high schools: What is effective laboratory teaching? What does research tell us about learning in high school science labs? How should student learning in laboratory experiences be assessed? Do all student have access to laboratory experiences? What changes need to be made to improve laboratory experiences for high school students? How can school organization contribute to effective laboratory teaching? With increased attention to the U.S. education system and student outcomes, no part of the high school curriculum should escape scrutiny. This timely book investigates factors that influence a high school laboratory experience, looking closely at what currently takes place and what the goals of those experiences are and should be. Science educators, school administrators, policy makers, and parents will all benefit from a better understanding of the need for laboratory experiences to be an integral part of the science curriculum and how that can be accomplished. © 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Article
As society continues to focus on the importance of academic achievement, the physical environment of schools should be addressed as 1 of the critical factors that influence academic outcomes. The School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2006 provides, for the first time, a comprehensive look at the extent to which schools have health-promoting physical school environment policies and programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the SHPPS every 6 years. In 2006, computer-assisted telephone interviews or self-administered mail questionnaires were completed by state education agency personnel in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and among a nationally representative sample of school districts (n=424). Computer-assisted personal interviews were conducted with personnel in a nationally representative sample of elementary, middle, and high schools (n=992). One third (35.4%) of districts and 51.4% of schools had an indoor air quality management program; 35.3% of districts had a school bus engine-idling reduction program; most districts and schools had a policy or plan for how to use, label, store, dispose of, and reduce the use of hazardous materials; 24.5% of states required districts or schools to follow an integrated pest management program; and 13.4% of districts had a policy to include green design when building new school buildings or renovating existing buildings. SHPPS 2006 results can guide education and health agency actions in developing and implementing evidence-based tools, policies, programs, and interventions to ensure a safe and healthy physical school environment.
Report: Evaluating Safe Science Teaching Practice in the U.S. (Phase II) PER ComPADRE Collection: Available from http://www.compadre.org/per/items/detail.cfm?
  • C M Ezrailson
Ezrailson, C.M. 2009. Report: Evaluating Safe Science Teaching Practice in the U.S. (Phase II) PER ComPADRE Collection: Available from http://www.compadre.org/per/items/detail.cfm?ID=7521 [Cited 7/23/13].
Liability for School Science Experiment Accidents, Law Info
  • S Brazas
Brazas, S. 2013. Liability for School Science Experiment Accidents, Law Info. Available from http://education-law.lawyers.com/school-law/Liability-for-School-Science-Experiment-Accidents.html [Cited 3/3/13].
Available at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards
  • Inc
  • Dc Washington
Next Generation Science Standards. 2013. Achieve, Inc., Washington, DC. Available at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards [Cited 4/19/13].
A Survey of Accidents in the Secondary School Science Laboratory
  • J G Krajkovitch
Krajkovitch, J. G. 1983. A Survey of Accidents in the Secondary School Science Laboratory, New Jersey Science Supervisors Association. National Science Teachers Association. 2003. Position Statement on Science Safety. file://localhost/Available from http/::www.nsta.org:about:positions:safety.aspx[Cited 3/2/13].
Science Classroom Safety and the Law: A Handbook for Teachers. Flinn Scientific, Inc., Batavia, Il. Secretary of Education Hong Kong Ministry of Education, Available from
  • K Ryan
Ryan, K. 2001. Science Classroom Safety and the Law: A Handbook for Teachers. Flinn Scientific, Inc., Batavia, Il. Secretary of Education. 2013. Education Bureau Circular Memorandum No.55/2013. Hong Kong Ministry of Education, Available from: http://applications.edb.gov.hk/circular/upload/EDBCM/EDBCM13055E.pdf [Cited 8/2/13].