Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 17:24:16 EST
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From: Jim Kaufman <Labsafe**At_Symbol_Here**AOL.COM>
Subject: Occupancy Load/Class Size
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SAFETY**At_Symbol_Here**, CHEMCOM**At_Symbol_Here**listserv.BUFFALO.EDU,
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BreazealeW**At_Symbol_Here**, joseph.hunter**At_Symbol_Here**, LJCharp**At_Symbol_Here**,
Robert.MacCormick**At_Symbol_Here**, cdillard**At_Symbol_Here**,
Comments: cc: LSIAdams**At_Symbol_Here**, erg_hk**At_Symbol_Here**
The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI) been looking at the problem of
overcrowded school science classes for the past 28 years.  Not much has been done to
improve the situation.  Now is a good time to do something about it.

First some background ...

In 1991, LSI published a report on the subject authored by Marilyn Steele of
Tweksbury HS, "There's No Safety In Numbers."  This year LSI will publish the
most current research on the subject.  Dr. Sandra West of Texas State
University - San Marcos.  This data for both Texas and the nation shows that as the
student teacher ratio increases the frequency and severity of lab accidents

A few weeks ago was the anniversary of the tragedy at the Rhode Island
nightclub.  Too many people in a space that was not designed for the occupancy load.
 Over 100 died when the stage fireworks ignited the room.  Overcrowded school
science classrooms are a disaster waiting to happen.  Many of you saw the
recent stories about mercury and chemicals in schools in the news.

In preparation for auditing some school labs in Michigan, I looked into the
administrative rules for the state. I found that Michigan, like many state fire
codes and building codes, relies on the NFPA Life Safety Code 101 "occupancy
load."  One occupant per 50 square feet (net) for school shops, vocational
areas, and science laboratories.  New York is the same.

So, by Michigan code, a 1,000 square foot (interior wall to wall) science
classroom should have no more than 19 students and one teacher!  A school science
laboratory properly sized for 24 students and one teacher would be 1,250
square feet.

The Michigan agency that approves new and existing construction says that if
they were to receive a complaint, that they would investigate.  If there were
a violation, they would send the school district a letter requesting a plan to
address the issue.  No fines or penalties exist.

Most science teachers I meet are concerned about the student teacher ratio
and the crowding/safety problem that it creates.  Most want something done but
don't know what to do or how to deal with the problem.

My question ...

LSI is gearing up to do something constructive about this issue.  What
suggestions do you have for a best course of action?

For example, we would happily write to all the science department heads in
Michigan and ask if they would like the occupancy load violations at their high
school to be listed as part of a letter of concern from LSI to the state
agency, to all the school boards, to all the PTAs/PTOs, and all the local
newspapers in the state.  And, then on to the next state!

Would you like LSI to create a directory of the specific state regulation and
the name, phone number, email, and address of the person and agency in each
state to whom written expressions of concerns should be addressed?

Your thoughts please.

Regards, ... Jim

                               James A. Kaufman, Ph.D.
                        The Laboratory Safety Institute
                   Safety in Science and Science Education
                    192 Worcester Road, Natick, MA 01760
        508-647-1900  Fax: 508-647-0062  Cell: 508-574-6264
                        Email: jimkaufman**At_Symbol_Here**
                      Web Site:


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