Years ago I interviewed for a job as a high school chemistry teacher (in another state). The opening was for two sections of chemistry, two sections of general science, and one section of physics. I was an MS level chemist who also had a teaching certificate with standard endorsements in chemistry, physics, and general science. However, the goal was to fill the next open teaching position with someone who could also run the after-school wrestling activity - which wasn't specifically mentioned in the details of the job description. I don't recall science ever coming up during the interview. And I was not the successful candidate.
Eric Clark, MS, CHMM, CCHO
Safety Officer, Public Health Scientist III
Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Laurence Doemeny
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2014 9:33 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Colorado methanol fire case
First, let me explain that I have no knowledge of the course requirements for becoming a school chemistry teacher. From the discussion I image that it may not be a degree in chemistry but even if the qualifications for chemistry teacher includes a degree in chemistry just how much of that instruction prepares the teacher for conducting demonstrations and do the required courses for school teachers include safety issues.
Now with that said let me add:
When investigating mishaps such as this we look for the root cause of the incident. In past cases it was learned that one incident involved the further addition of methanol to a demonstration resulting is a serious flair up and spilling a large amount of methanol. Was this really the root cause? Most will be quick to blame the person in the line of fire or active cause, but active causes are rarely the sole or root cause of
accidents. I suggest that that the root causes,
or latent ones, were the demonstrator's lack of understanding due to chemical safety not being part of the education process and that the institution did not vet the use of chemicals or have a safety officer conduct a hazard analysis for the demonstration. Several of this list server members, the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety, and the Committee on Chemical Safety continually campaigns for teaching chemical safety in the chemistry curricula so clearly it could be that many chemistry graduates are ill prepared for conducting demonstrations. Now transfer that to the curricula for science teachers and the situation could be even less safety training.
It appears that this teacher may be bearing the burden for several systems that failed him. Yes, he conducted the demonstration but the school may have failed to review the teacher's safety knowledge, and may have failed to review the safety of what was occurring (active cause). .
I have been saying that the employer should conduct due diligence for what chemicals they are letting people use on their premises, and this case is no different. I hope that the investigation of this situation goes back to what the employer and the educational institutions may have failed to do.
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List
[mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Ralph Stuart
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2014 10:13 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Colorado methanol fire case
I was struck the story in this morning's headlines that the Former Colorado Teacher was charged with four counts of third-degree assault, a Class 1 misdemeanor in the methanol demonstration lab explosion that occurred last month.
This seems much more likely to set a precedent than the UCLA fire, which was based on labor law specific to California. I hope that people who are in Colorado will let us know how this case proceeds, as it's not uncommon for these stories to fall off the press's radar.
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