Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
This book makes a mammoth case for the necessity of safety in science laboratories in middle schools. Much of the advice also applies to high school and college.
An array of topics are presented. The topics are concise, yet broad in scope and address needs of a diverse student population. Safety issues in the following five disciplines are explored: General Science, Chemical Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, and Biological Science. An overview of safety standards by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is found in the introduction. It is noted that OSHA standards only cover employees; however, in light of additional safety concerns new rules have been adopted and can be found on the OSHA website. These concerns have been adapted from the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), a national standard that addresses chemical management and employee safety and the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Further, adjustments needed in science laboratories to comply with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) are highlighted.
Following the introduction, the author stresses the need to improve and monitor laboratories in order to protect students and the entire staff. It is noted that laboratories should be properly ventilated and have both adequate storage facilities and proper signage. Readers are alerted to the importance of understanding the correlation between safety and liability. Emphasis is placed on the fact that the entire staff needs to understand state and local statutes and the “duty of care”. When it comes to liability exposure, the author states that science teachers are unique because of what they do and that the risk of litigation comes with the territory. Extensive planning and preparation are the key ingredients in making laboratories safer. The safety regulations should provide a check and balance system in order to insure the safety of students and staff.
One of the most important notations is that the facilitator has the greatest role in providing safety in the laboratory. Auditing laboratory facilities is another area of concern because of limitations that facilities place on instruction and safety. Safety concerns in five specific disciplines are explored. Some of the major topics discussed in each area are listed. In General Science, the author describes how personal items such as loose clothing and jewelry can be hazardous in the lab. Strategies to avoid burns, falls, and the proper use of fire extinguishers are also included. Chemical Science topics outline techniques to insure flame tests and metal safety. Further, the author warns facilitators to be aware of surprise packages and kits brought by students. In Earth and Space Science, emphasis is placed on safety in geological explorations and the importance of thorough planning and adequate equipment. It is indicated that there is a need for extra caution while using specific tools and certain kinds of clay that present potential health risks. Safety issues related to the use of wireless computers, battery safety and black lights are highlighted in the Physical Science topic. Specific safety regulations regarding the use of pesticides, soil samples, and live animals are expressed in the area of Biological Science.
With a number of areas of concern, it is suggested that further safety training is not an option but a necessity. Further, administrators should be included in these sessions to learn about laboratory designs, construction, equipment, safety regulations, and a plan of action in case of accidents. In addition to administrators, science teachers have the awesome responsibility to inform members of the board of education, legislators, and other governmental agencies about safety issues. Preparing students and parents for safety in science in the early grades is also advocated.
The book culminates with a question and answer section about everyday safety concerns by teachers in General, Chemical, Physical, Biological, and Earth and Space. Topics in the Appendix include NSTA Position Statements on Animals in the Science Classroom, the Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Instruction from Preschool to College, Liability of Science Educators, Safety and School Science Instructions, Science Education for Middle Level Students, and Learning Conditions for High School Science. Also, Internet Resources are listed in addition to Science Laboratory Rules and Regulations and an index. Acknowledgments and Facts about the Author are also included. This book is an excellent resource for science teachers as they seek to ensure safety in the laboratory.
Review posted on 10/25/2012