Teachers who supervise workshop, biology, and chemistry classes in a laboratory are not only responsible for their own safety, but also for that of their students. Especially when working with younger pupils, employees must have a comprehensive understanding of the risks associated with the laboratory and how these can be prevented. Such knowledge can only be achieved through scrupulous safety training.
The most common hazards associated with workshop, biology, and chemistry education include:
Working with Hazardous Materials.Teachers and students must work with a wide range of dangerous chemicals during laboratory sessions. A chemistry class, for example, might require experimentation with acids and bases, which are corrosive in nature and can lead to irritation, burns, and respiratory distress. Some gases and oxidizing agents present similar challenges, while volatile organic compounds like hexane, pentane, methanol, acetone, and others can irritate the skin and cause asphyxiation when released in a confined space. Biological agents – such as fungi and bacteria – are more common in biology classes, but equally dangerous. These can cause anything from mild allergic reactions to serious medical issues and even death.
Working with Students.While teachers have extensive knowledge and experience in working with dangerous materials in a laboratory, many students are new to this setting and may lack the required information to make sound decisions during experiments. In addition, students of all ages may be distracted or inattentive during class, which can lead to grave accidents, especially if they do not pay sufficient attention to the teacher’s instructions. The “buddy” system can mitigate some of the risk of working with pupils, but will not eliminate it completely. It is therefore up to the supervisor to emphasize the importance of safety in the laboratory and to ensure that all safety measures are being observed.
Electrical Injuries.During workshop classes, teachers can demonstrate the nature and properties of electricity by allowing students to experiment with electrical systems. However, the method is not free of risk. If any of the students comes in direct contact with an uninsulated part of an electrical system, this can cause electrocution, burns, and even explosions and fires. Hot plates, magnetic stirrers, and any other equipment plugged into an outlet presents similar risks, which is why the teacher must be prepared to deal with electricity-related hazards at all times.
Explosions and Fires.Solvents such as acetone, ethyl acetate, ethanol, methanol, hexane, and others are highly flammable substances commonly used in chemistry laboratory sessions. Since open flames are also present in such classes, it is essential that students understand the importance of separating such chemicals from any potential igniters. The same holds true for vapors released by these materials, which can be even more difficult to detect and contain.
In workshop, biology, and chemistry education, the responsibility to prevent incidents falls predominantly on the teacher. Employees must therefore be rigorously trained to recognize the hazards associated with their classes and implement measures to halt accidents from taking place. Equipped with this knowledge, teachers can then emphasize the importance of safety during laboratory classes in a way that students will understand.
Unfortunately, children and even teenagers might not fully grasp the dangerous nature of an experiment, which can lead to accidents and serious injuries in spite of the teacher’s diligence. As such, it is equally important for the teacher to be prepared to respond in case of an emergency so as to minimize injuries and property damage. The correct use of personal protective equipment for both supervisors and students cannot be overstated in this respect.
Recommended Safety Courses
WHMIS Online Training
Workshop, biology, and chemistry teachers are routinely exposed to dangerous chemicals and must therefore be able to recognize the latter and to handle them safely. In addition, employees must be able to share this information with students so as to ensure that everyone in a class understands the risks involved in certain experiments.
Fire Safety Training
Working with electricity during workshop classes or with highly flammable chemicals during a laboratory session puts teachers and students at risk. Supervisors must be trained to anticipate possible fire hazards, implement measures to avoid the latter, and respond immediately in case of an outbreak.
PPE Safety Training Course
Wearing the correct PPE – from respirators to special glasses and overalls – can significantly increase the safety of both students and teachers in a laboratory setting. To take advantage of PPE, however, teachers must learn how to use and maintain it correctly.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
As a workshop, biology, or chemistry teacher, your safety and that of your students depends on whether or not you are trained to recognize and avoid common laboratory hazards. This is why your first step towards a better work environment should be to undergo the necessary safety courses, which must be made available to you by your employer.
To consult a more comprehensive list of safety courses best suited for laboratory teachers, please navigate to our Education and Research industry page.
To review a list of safety courses for your industry, please visit our Consultation Page.