By Ken Roy
Posted on 2022-06-01
Science and STEM laboratories can be unsafe teaching and learning sites, especially given the potential chemical hazards and resulting health and safety risks. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to meet the requirements of the Medical and First Aid standard (29 CFR 1910.151). The employer must provide medical and first-aid personnel, and supplies commensurate with the workplace hazards. The details of a workplace medical and first-aid program depend on the circumstances of each workplace and employer. The complete 29 CFR 1910.151 standard can be found at
OSHA also provides two resources on First Aid including the following:
Best Practice Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First Aid Program, publication 3317
Medical and First Aid
In addition to medical first aid, OSHA addresses resulting medical attention in their Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories standard (a.k.a. OSHA Laboratory Standard; 29 CFR 1910.1450). The standard states the following:
“The employer shall provide all employees who work with hazardous chemicals an opportunity to receive medical attention, including any follow-up examinations which the examining physician determines to be necessary, under the following circumstances:
Teachers and supervisors should note that this standard does stipulate that the employer must provide employees working with hazardous chemicals the opportunity to receive medical attention. That would include follow-up examinations, under certain circumstances. Those circumstances include the following:
I. When an employee develops signs or symptoms associated with a hazardous chemical to which the employee may have been exposed in the laboratory;
II. When exposure monitoring reveals an exposure level routinely above the Action Level, or in the absence of an Action Level, the PEL;
III. When a substance is regulated by OSHA and requires exposure monitoring and/or medical surveillance regardless of exposure level; and
IV. When an event takes place in the work area resulting in the likelihood of a hazardous exposure (spill, leak, explosion, or other situation).
The medical examination and consultations must be performed by or under the supervision of a licensed physician with no cost to the employee. This includes no loss of pay and at a reasonable time and place. A written opinion shall be obtained from the physician. In this instance, the employer is required to provide the following information to the physician:
Once the employee is examined by the physician, the employer is entitled to a written opinion that must include this information:
Science/STEM teachers should also be aware that the science supervisor or Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO) may represent the employer when the employee requires medical assistance. The employer’s representative takes an active role in facilitating medical examinations for employees. The employer needs to provide clear guidelines or standard operating procedures relative to their responsibilities in these cases. This information should be noted in the school’s Chemical Hygiene Plan.
Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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