NSTA: Chemistry accident Va. high school is reminder about classroom safety

WASHINGTON – A chemistry class accident that left five local students and a teacher injured Friday is an unfortunate reminder about classroom safety, the National Science Teachers Association tells WTOP.

“It’s very, very important, indeed critical for students to be able to actually experience the real thing,” Dr. David Evans, National Science Teachers Association’s executive director. Evans says that’s also the reason it’s important for experiments to be conducted safely.

“There are OSHA regulations for safety procedures,” Evans said. “The EPA has regulations for how hazardous materials are handled.”

Friday morning, a fire broke out during a teacher-led chemistry exercise W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. The students and the teacher were hospitalized with chemical burns and are expected to be OK. Half of the lab was damaged by the fire, smoke and water, WTOP reported.

Evans says the National Science Teachers Association has safety guidelines for working with chemicals in the classroom. “One would expect to see goggles, gloves, aprons,” Evens says.

And where the experiment is being done is also very important.

“If the experiment were being done with a volatile chemical like alcohol or something like that, we’d expect an experiment like that being done under a closed fume hood and not on an open bench,” Evans says.

But these safety reminders shouldn’t deter students and teachers from being hands-on in the classroom.

“It’s important for students to be able to conduct experiments and plan experiments,” Evans says. “And that’s true in chemistry or physics or biology.”

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