As someone alluded to earlier, to me, it seems like a more base issue than training or regulations. The incidents related to this demonstration aren't just a reflection of the lack of chemistry knowledge - I would argue that burning different substances in methanol has almost nothing to do with the finer points of chemistry - but a lack of critical thinking. This is very similar to adding gasoline to your hot lawn mower before you've finished your lemonade (or beer) break :: lack of common sense. It is also, on a more technical level, a lack of hazard recognition and risk prevention.
I had 6 years of chemistry industry experience before I jumped into safety as a profession. I posit that it was only my industry experience that made me conscious that I needed to perform my own risk assessments and institute my own controls or else be hurt (I needed to use a safety shower twice in my career as an organosilanes R & D Chemist and needed medical treatment in one of those instances). Most people hopefully aren't as dense as I am.
The root issue with chemistry teachers and less-seasoned chemists having incidents is how they are educated and groomed from grade school until they graduate from their undergraduate studies. Some don't even get "it" as tenured faculty. The "it" is the fact that there is safety, compliance, and ethical risks (pick what order you may) in every nuance of science that we do; even refueling our methanol reservoir. The issue is that upcoming chemists (in my observations)are hand-held and never let go.
Institutions give students engineering controls, instructors give students administrative controls and PPE requirements. When they become their own researchers, EHS reviews their engineering controls and gives recommendations concerning administrative controls and PPE. Those that EHS misses usually get by just fine with Heinrich's triangle supporting their ignorance. And those who are the top end of that triangle have EHS scratching their heads and doing incident investigations.
I had many influential, role-model mentors through my education all the way into my career as I'm sure many schools, institutions, and companies have. They helped give me the tools to make me self-sufficient, critical thinking, and reasonably competent. But it wasn't until I was "on my own" in a company (that had time to make money and to just meet compliance and no more) that I learned to use that critical thinking.
The status quo for chemistry is hazard. How do we convince young (in experience) chemists, chemistry teachers, and everyone else that they must evaluate the risk and hazard when they don't realize that we've even been doing it for them all along. When you change the empty toilet paper roll and leave a spare in the water closet for your significant other every time they leave you the empty, you're taking away their opportunity to realize the need to do it. You're also failing to allow them to appreciate you. How do we gradually change behavior so that we're not divorced and so that we're not allowing young scientists to get hurt?
Kyle Angjelo M.S. Chemistry
Chemical Program Manager
Princeton University EHS
262 Alexander St.
Princeton, NJ 08544
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU]
On Behalf Of Monona Rossol
Sent: Monday, November 02, 2015 8:32 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry classroom fire injures 6
Well, good luck on getting the unions involved. Here in NY is it the teacher's union that doesn't want to get behind even the required state OSHA (PESH) hazcom and lab standard training of teachers. The teachers find it boring so the union supports their not going to training which the schools aren't doing anyway. I go into schools where the art teachers have absolutely no knowledge of these regulations. And their classrooms look like it.
And this is coming from a rah-rah union supporter and employee. There good 'uns and bad 'uns.
Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist
President: Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.
Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
181 Thompson St., #23
New York, NY 10012 212-777-0062
From: Michael D Ahler <mahler**At_Symbol_Here**HANCOCKCOLLEGE.EDU>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sent: Mon, Nov 2, 2015 5:09 am
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry classroom fire injures 6
How to Get a Message to All School Teachers:
To get a message about the dangers of the methanol "rainbow" demo to a large, distributed group such as "all middle school and high school teachers" I think it would be useful to find a common denominator that already exists among them. Counting on the media, or congressional hearings or other sources that have access to a national stage are good ideas. But along with broadcasting a message at a national level through Frontline or 60 Minutes news programs, I suggest using a communication network that already exists and that has ties specifically to teachers everywhere in the country. There are one or two organizations that communicate with "all" classroom teachers routinely and often. I think someone should approach the NEA and the AFT with a request to distribute to their members information of arguable value - "how to continue doing this popular chemistry demo without setting your students on fire any more".
Sometimes I get carried away.
I suggest a letter to NEA and AFT that says something along the lines of:
"For a number of years safety professionals and others in the American Chemical Society have noticed an alarming frequency of incidents in middle schools and high schools where students are being injured by the popular classroom science demonstration involving burning methyl alcohol and "rainbow" colors. Every year there are a handful of news reports of students being taken to hospital emergency rooms with serious, sometimes life-threatening burns sustained from this specific procedure. We believe this is due to widespread unfamiliarity among classroom teachers with the hazards of the materials used in this demonstration. We are suggesting that you communicate with your members, especially middle school and high school science teachers, and provide them with information about the historical consequences of this procedure and detailed guidelines for performing it safely. We are offering to provide technical guidance in crafting such guidelines with the hope that it reach as many class room teachers as possible who might choose to perform this demonstration.
This demonstration can be and has been performed many times without mishap, but the edge between fascination and disaster is very thin for this procedure. Many science teachers, especially in K -12 education seem to be unaware of the dangers that come with it.
If you wish to participate in such an effort please contact É"
When it comes to offering technical guidance, I can see including the decision to not do the demonstration as one of the guideline options.
If my Google searching results are correct, there are about 3 million school teachers in the US and there are about 3 million members of NEA and AFT. The totals I found are actually larger. I suspect dual membership in these organizations. In any case, I hypothesize that "all" K-12 school teachers can be efficiently reached through their unions.
Perhaps the offer could be contained in a letter written by the President of ACS.
Thanks for listening.
Part-Time Faculty Member
Allan Hancock College
and Retired CHO
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu]
on behalf of Laurence Doemeny [ldoemeny**At_Symbol_Here**COX.NET]
Sent: Sunday, November 01, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry classroom fire injures 6
Rob et al.,
The thing about Frontline and 60 Minutes is they cover a larger issue than just one demonstration. These past few years educational institutions from primary schools through to graduate schools have experienced significant debilitating incidents and deaths. The ACS through its committees and divisions have addressed the subject and distributed the information but to a limited audience. Local media, with the help of local sections, is one approach to get some of the information to the general public but the investigative reporting is a compressive approach to the problems. Assistance from the NSF, NIH and the Department of Education should be considered in the campaign for safer science education.
Here is how to contact Frontline and 60 Minutes:
One Guest Street
Boston, MA 02135
FRONTLINE welcomes suggestions from our viewers, and we review all letters and ideas. We are producing 27 programs this season and each year receive roughly 500 program suggestions and proposals.
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
PHONE: (212) 975-3247 (CBS Audience Services)
I'm already rolling on that. I started work last night to get a group of people together who would be the go-to folks for the segment to comment on camera, outline the issue/history of it, etc. Basically prepackaging all the background footwork done that someone would need to do *exactly* that. I possibly have a media contact or two through some other channels. Anyone who wants to help compile the case histories etc. should contact me off list.
It is quite clear that we can't solve the issue our normal way - it is going to take some media attention so that administrators and parents push it. A limited email I sent out last night for initial feelers was titled "Let's get to the end of this rainbow once and for all". It makes a great story; I can imagine the tag lines now "invisible danger in the classroom", "your child at risk" etc.
The only question is the scope/scale. We obviously need to address all methanol/flame demos, but do we move beyond what has already been called for and go for an outright ban on using methanol etc.
On Oct 31, 2015, at 1:04 PM, Laurence Doemeny <ldoemeny**At_Symbol_Here**COX.NET> wrote:
While training is helpful the real need is getting the information about the hazard to the teachers and administrators. Apparently some instructors don't know there is a problem.
My suggestion is for the ACS and teacher organizations to jointly contact local and national news media to have a segment on the dangers of some of these demonstrations and how to perform them safely. That should get parent and school administrators attention. This would make a nice PBS Frontline or 60 Minutes segment.
The Chemical Safety Board makes outstanding videos and excellent reports but their reach appears limited.
This continues to beg for training for demonstrators...
I just showed the CSB video to our preteachers this week!
On 10/30/2015 4:00 PM, Harry J. Elston wrote:
Bang Head Here ---> (Rainbow Experiment)
On Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 2:13 PM, Jyllian Kemsley <jyllian.kemsley**At_Symbol_Here**gmail.com> wrote:
"She was demonstrating the experiment ... with the different elements causing the fire to change color, and as the fire was dying down she added more alcohol"
On Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 9:25 AM, ILPI Support <info**At_Symbol_Here**ilpi.com> wrote:
Figured this one couldn't wait for Monday's headlines:
Two are in serious condition (presumably with burns). No chemistry details yet. I think we all have a good guess at what was involved based on unfortunate past experiences, but let's sit tight until there is confirmation.
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