Science Safety

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Chapter 2


School Board and Superintendent
School Administration

School Science Safety Officer

Science Teacher

Science Student
Legal Aspects of Science Safety

Responsibility for ensuring a safe environment in the science classroom is shared at five levels:

  • school boards and superintendents
  • school administrators
  • school science safety officers
  • science teachers
  • science students

School Board and Superintendent

The school board and superintendent should

  • initiate planning for the necessary improvements and procedures outlined in this manual
  • ensure that school administrators carry out the safety responsibilities outlined in this manual
  • set up a school division Workplace Safety and Health Committee with representatives from the school division administration, school administration, teachers (one representative from each school), and the public to consult with this committee on matters of science safety
  • provide in-service training and encouragement to ensure that professional staff have the necessary expertise to develop and maintain a safe working/learning environment (consider a risk management presentation)
  • make provision for staffing to permit safe operation and maintenance of science facilities on a day-to-day basis, possibly through the use of laboratory technicians/assistants, including volunteers
  • provide any special safety facilities needed for students with special needs and students for whom English is a second language

School Administration

School administration should

  • designate a science safety officer, and support him or her in maintaining a safe working/learning environment in the school
  • ensure that all safety concerns that can be dealt with at the school level are corrected
  • direct any safety concerns that cannot be corrected at the school level to the appropriate school division/district personnel
  • ensure regular (annual and special) safety inspections of science facilities (checklist provided in Appendix D of this manual is a useful instrument for safety inspections)
  • ensure that the school has effective policies and procedures to follow in case of accidents and emergencies
  • ensure that all teachers and substitute teachers of science have the expertise to teach the curriculum assigned to them in a safe and effective manner
  • ensure that the size of science classes allows for a safe learning environment which can be properly supervised
  • support teachers in providing a safe working environment by
    • supporting science laboratory safety equipment needs
    • enabling teachers and technicians to obtain in-service training in science safety
    • supporting and providing disciplinary measures to ensure safety in science classes
    • ensuring safety procedures identified in this manual are carried out
    • making provision for the safety of students with special needs, cultural or language difficulties
    • ensuring teachers have the necessary resources to carry out their safety responsibilities
  • cooperate with outside personnel and agencies in encouraging science safety (e.g., Fire Commissioner's Office, Manitoba Hazardous Waste Management Corporation, Manitoba Hydro)
  • ensure that a telephone is easily accessible in each science laboratory

School Science Safety Officer

The school science safety officer should

  • ensure that the intent and the details of the Science Safety Resource Manual are followed
  • establish safety awareness training for science teachers
  • ensure that science equipment and facilities conform to safety standards
  • follow the safety procedures in this resource manual
  • implement and maintain safe storage and waste disposal systems for potentially dangerous substances used or produced in the course of laboratory work
  • report immediately any recognized safety hazards to the appropriate school or division/district authority

Science Teacher

The science teacher should

  • instruct students regarding their responsibilities (as outlined in this manual) at the beginning of each year or course of study and, where appropriate, obtain written confirmation from these students that these responsibilities are understood and accepted (note the safety contracts in Appendix C)
  • instruct and model safety procedures appropriate to current learning activities, including general safety procedures given in chapters 5-8 of this resource manual
  • follow the safety procedures in this manual
  • report any safety defects in science equipment or practices to the school science safety officer
  • report any injuries or accidents to the school principal immediately (verbally followed by a written report)
  • maintain a list of students with allergies, contact lenses, and other corrective medical devices, and special needs (e.g., hearing deficiency)
  • record periodically any special medication used by students

Science Student

A science student should

  • give undivided attention in science activities, behave in a safe and careful manner in the science classroom, and follow all safety procedures and instructions
  • carry out science activities only with the teacher's permission
  • inform the teacher of any allergies, contact lenses, or other medical devices, special needs, and special medications used
  • report any unsafe situations or accidents to the teacher immediately

Legal Aspects of Science Safety

The following guidelines are not intended to provide comprehensive coverage of the law governing science safety. They are included to

  • increase teacher awareness of some of the risks in many science activities
  • promote a questioning and cautious attitude

The following definition of negligence should serve as a guide as teachers plan for science safety.

  • Negligence: May be defined as conduct that falls below a standard of care established by law to protect others against an unreasonable risk of harm. Major types of negligence are
    • malfeasance: violation of a duty or a procedure
    • misfeasance: improper performance of a lawful act
    • nonfeasance: failure to do what should be done
  • Guidelines to Safe Practices: Teachers are expected to
    • protect the health, welfare, and safety of students
    • foresee the reasonable consequences of their actions and inactions
    • plan carefully all activities. Use the following questions to guide planning for a particular unit or activity
  • What are the hazards?
  • What are the "worst case" scenarios?
  • How can I best prepare for the "worst case" scenarios?
  • What practices, safety equipment, and protective facilities are prudent and appropriate?
    • instruct their classes before allowing students to perform a given experiment or attempt an individual project (particular emphasis should be placed on describing any risks inherent in a particular experiment or activity)
    • repeat safety precautions before every experiment
    • create an environment in which appropriate laboratory behaviour is maintained
    • be present at all times to assure adequate safety supervision
    • report all hazardous or potentially hazardous conditions to supervisory personnel immediately (reports should be written and the teacher should retain a copy for his or her personal records away from the laboratory)
    • keep and maintain adequate records of all aspects of laboratory operations
    • be aware of division/district and provincial policies related to laboratory activities