By Ken Roy
Posted on 2023-06-23
The school summer recess is an opportune time to conduct housekeeping activities in your instructional space (laboratory/classroom) and storage areas (storeroom, preparation room). With the beginning of the school year approaching, one very important focus needs to be on reviewing and updating your chemical inventory and ensuring everything is in order. The following is a checklist to help you make your science/STEM instructional space and storage areas safer for your staff and students.
○ Equipment should not be stored on top of shelving units or at a height that requires a ladder to remove the material.
○ Make sure any storage is no closer than 18 inches from the ceiling.
○ In some cases, schools turn off their air conditioning over the summer. It is crucial that the air temperature is set to an appropriate level in the chemical storage areas and that they are maintained over the summer. See your Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for acceptable temperature ranges.
○ Make sure filters are changed periodically (about four times a year), and use minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV)-13 if equipment can accommodate it.
○ The appropriate chemical cabinets must be in working order for acids, bases, corrosives, and flammables.
○ Chemical storage cabinets must be clear to open and in good working condition.
○ If precipitates, crystals, or other potential reactants form on the outside of the bottle, remove the chemical and adequately dispose of it. Use caution when dealing with peroxides. Crystal formation could potentially cause an explosion. If crystals appear, do not touch or remove the container. Contact your local fire marshal and have the fire department on-site to evaluate and remove the bottle. Always check the SDS disposal instructions for each chemical before removing them.
○ The PPE must be available to anyone entering the summer storage area.
○ Anyone using PPE must be trained to put on, use, remove, and clean/sanitize it.
○ Signs can/should include the following:
■ Goggles must be worn.
■ Emergency Exit routes
■ National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Diamond
This is not an exhaustive checklist: There may be other items to add to your checklist, but these are the minimum requirements to keep your storage areas safer, based on legal safety standards and better professional safety practices. Even in the summer months, you must keep your instructional space and storage areas safer for anyone who may enter the space (custodians, maintainers, visitors, etc.).
NSTA Chief Safety Blogger Dr. Ken Roy wishes to sincerely thank nationally recognized District Supervisor of Science Kevin S. Doyle, Ed. D., Morris Hills Regional District, Rockaway, New Jersey for his professional review of and contributions to this commentary.
Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.