Science Laboratory Safety Manual
by Linda M. Stroud

408 pp.
Science & Safety Consulting Services, Inc.
Raleigh, NC
2008
ISBN: 9780978879617


Grade Level: 1-College


Reviewed by Dutchie Riggsby
Professor


Spiral bound and formatted for ease of use, this manual is a great resource for teachers. The author not only summarizes laboratory safety concerns for all who may use it but also addresses environmental concerns by publishing on 100% SFI-certified paper to promote sustainable forest management. This comprehensive, up-to-date publication promotes the best educational, health, and safety practices to make laboratory experiences positive for students.

According to the author, “The purpose of this manual is to provide the guidelines, procedures, and references to raise the standard of science safety. It will help make school laboratories and classrooms the secure and safe environments we are obligated to make them, both for the sake of our students and staff and for the scientific experience itself.” Every lively page supports improvement in school science labs and the practices associated with them. This book discusses the supplies, procedures, personnel, and facilities necessary for safe science. It also engages readers by using photography to best illustrate the reasons for standard guidelines; for example, it shows the best facial protection from splatters.

Going beyond the limits of the traditional classroom, the manual addresses such issues as science teachers working in nonscience classrooms and nonscience personnel working in science classrooms. Both may contribute to dangerous situations. It also discusses potential liability. When schools do not adequately equip themselves and teachers with simple precautions such as emergency showers, secondary exits from labs, and shut-down procedures, they create risks. Torts in education are discussed, with examples of cases and the resulting rulings. This provides a much more realistic assessment of the level of legal responsibility than just saying you might be liable.

It's hard to imagine that, as of 2007, there were 27 states that had no OSHA inspections of schools. Tough guidelines are emphasized, such as liability based on adherence to state standards from course of study, safe performance of the investigation or substitute activity, and direct supervision. As students are engaged in the program, the author stresses “OSHA regulations do not protect students in the science laboratory/classroom. Professional standards, moral and ethical obligations, prudent practices, and local/state health and safety regulations protect students.”

The manual also discusses infectious diseases in schools. Control of these is part of school safety; they present an ever-present danger because lab cultures and the human factor may increase the spread of biohazards. Even the proper use of hand sanitizers is addressed, as these have become more popular in classrooms where there is no water source for washing hands; first aid skills necessary for proper management of situations that may be encountered are also addressed. Of particular use is the section on the design of school facilities and the necessary inventory guidelines for successful and safe laboratory facilities. This book would be good prerequisite study before developing plans for any new school, elementary through college, that will have science classrooms. When the initial planning is based on safety needs and standards, it is far easier to engage in safe practices, rather than trying to adapt improper facilities.

Because safety is everyone’s responsibility, it's wise to start with knowledge of all the factors considered essential for setting the bar for such safety. There's much more to be found between the covers of this work. The references, research reports, and illustrations all enrich the content, as do the appendices, one of which is the NSTA Position Statement, "The Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Education." A lot of work has gone into this manual, and a lot of benefit may come from it at all grade levels.



Review posted on 2/11/2009


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