Safety in our school laboratories should be a top priority to protect our children. Yesterday, a common school experiment using chemicals and fire to create a rainbow of colors has gone wrong…once again…resulting in the injury of 12 Texas preschoolers.
Dangers in the school lab prompted the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to produce a 2013 safety video entitled “After the Rainbow”, focused on potential dangers in high school laboratories. Subsequently, in January 2014, the American Chemical Society issued a safety alert on the "rainbow" demonstration.
NFPA Codes and Standards address this topic as well. NFPA 45 is a Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals, 2015 edition. Chapter 12 addresses Educational and Instructional Laboratory Operations with general requirements including a documented hazard risk assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and a safety barrier. Section 12.3.2 specifically addresses standards for the performance of experiments or demonstrations. Laboratories can be an educational environment for our children, but it needs to be done safely.
Teachers have an obligation and responsibility to teach and perform safe laboratory practices. The NFPA addressed this issue in the NFPA Journal article Unsafe Science. The safety habits that children develop in school laboratories will last them their entire life…to the rainbow’s end.