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If you work in the private sector, you are covered under
federal OSHA or an OSHA program operated by your state
Public sector workers are not automatically covered in
states under federal OSHA jurisdiction – which includes
public schools. Public school students are NEVER
OSHA: More than 500,000 workers are employed in
laboratories in the U.S. The laboratory environment can
be a hazardous place to work. The Laboratory of Safety Institute has found that at least
5,000 school lab accidents, many resulting in serious
injuries or even death, over the past 30 years.
•In 2006, Calais Weber, age 15, had over 40 percent of her
body burned after a “Rainbow” experiment
•The NYTimes January 15, 2014 reports that Accidents in
academic chemistry labs aren't few and far between.
While nobody has solid
numbers on laboratory
accidents in schools,
anecdotally they are
“One of the things that we
find is that in many places
the frequency of safety
training is very low,”
Kaufman, head of the
Labortory Safety Institute
At one school where he
provided training, a
teacher said it was the
first time it had been
offered in 38 years
Based on news headlines
collected by the American
Chemical Society, school lab
incidents occur quite
frequently. “It seems like
there are several of them a
week,” said Neal Langerman,
an officer with the Division of
Chemical Health and Safety.
“We publish those headlines
three times a week and there
seems to be something
always in the K through 12
•As schools meet new science education standards, students
spend more time in labs. Many are crowded.
• Some classes have teachers with no safety training. Some
are in 19th-century buildings ill-equipped for today’s needs.
•Kenneth Roy, advisor on science safety for the National
Science Teachers Association. "What this means is, you
have to have safety concerns as job one, but some schools
•And while teachers are protected in the workplace by state
laws, students are not covered by those laws.
•There is little regulation of school labs, and no government
or private agency collects official data on accidents that
happen there. As a result, the exact number of accidents
•Almost all of the accidents and injuries could have been
prevented with simple safety measures, experts said. But
many teachers are unaware of the dangers.
•There is no formal system to share information on accidents
so teachers can learn from others' mistakes.