Tag Archives: Safety Education

Graduate Student Safety Education

At the 2019, San Diego National Meeting CHAS hosted a symposium on Graduate Student Safety Education. The presentations from this symposium are provided below.

Safety communication is about respect as well as numbers. R. Stuart

How to train with nothing. S. George, H. Davis- Russell, J. de la Rosa Ducut

Development of a short course for collateral duty safety advisors in academic research laboratories. M.C. Wasson, M. Blayney

Secrets to success: Show up, do. M.C. J.A. Martin

Safety minutes: Consistent way to promote and sustain the commitment to research safety. L. Redfern, M. Blayney

GAs are EHS @ USD. C.M. Karki

Periodic table of Safety Elements Updated

The Division, in partnership with the Princeton University Department of Environmental Health and Safety, published its first version of a Periodic Table of the Elements of Safety in spring of 2019. We’re pleased to provide an updated version in time for the Fall, 2019 ACS national meeting. The updated version expands the “safety martyrs” section to better recognize the history of laboratory safety and also includes tweaks to some of the other elements.

You can download the periodic table in a format suitable for 11×17 printing here

A two-sided brochure that explains the various elements can be downloaded here

If you want to print a poster sized version of the table, these files are sized appropriately for this purpose.

You can also explore the different sections of the table with this interactive “hot spot” graphic.

Organic Class Lab Safety Topics Survey results

With the support of an ACS Innovative Project Grant, the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety is partnering with the Division of Chemical Information and ACS Safety Advisory Panel to develop teaching resources to help students in undergraduate organic teaching labs develop hazard identification and risk assessment skills appropriate to their work in the lab. To help us with this work, we developed a survey about organic chemistry laboratory courses taught at the undergraduate level.

With the help of the DCHAS-L e-mail list, we were able to get thoughts from 63 people about the most important organic teaching laboratory exercises to consider in our work as well as some general information about safety practices they employ in this setting.

You can review the detailed results of this survey here:

We’d also appreciate it if you would share with us information about a question we forgot to ask in the first survey: What are your requirements for PPE in the organic teaching lab?


If you would like to share any thoughts on this work, please send them to Ralph Stuart at membership@dchas.org

Presidential Symposium on Moving ACS’s Safety Goals Forward

Organizer: Dr. Peter Dorhout

Introductory Remarks. Dr. Dorhout
Safety in the Context of the ACS Strategic Plan. R. Stuart
Chemical Safety Information Opportunities. C. Nitsche

Communicating Chemical Safety K. Jeskie
Empowering ACS Members to Be Safety Leaders. K. Serrano
Industrial perspective on chemical safety – The Corporation Associates direction. D. Mason

Partnering to strengthen safety. J. Maclachlan
Developing an Education Path for all Chemists. D. Finster

Building a Chemical Safety Ecosystem. L. McEwen
Strategic connections between Chemical Safety and Green Chemistry. J. Wissinger

Playing with Fire: Chemical Safety Expertise Required

Samuella B. Sigmann*of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and incoming chair of DCHAS authored a Journal of Chemical Education article on the ongoing history of flammable liquid incidents in educational settings. The article was chosen as an editor’s choice for August and is now available on an open access basis for free download.
Congratulations, Sammye!

JCHAS Editor’s Spotlight: Chemical safety education for the 21st century

The Editor’s Spotlight for the May / June 2018 issue of the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety is shining on:

Chemical safety education for the 21st century — Fostering safety information competency in chemists by
Samuella Sigmann

The abstract for this article is:

During the education process, each person strives to acquire the necessary skill set or set of competencies needed to be successful in their selected career. For example, a job listing for a bench chemist might state that the successful applicant should have a BS in chemistry, (knowledge), be familiar with common laboratory operations (skills), and be a contributing member of a team (attitude). It is our job as curriculum designers and educators to give our students the competencies they will need to be successful. The chemistry curriculum must include those competencies needed for working safely in a chemistry research laboratory.

This can be accomplished by weaving the knowledge component of competencies spirally into the chemistry major’s curriculum. We cannot assume that a student who has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry has acquired the necessary competencies to perform a risk assessment or read a safety data sheet (SDS). Skill-based laboratory activity is valuable and can be specifically transferred to the next task, but knowledge and attitudes assist future learning in a nonspecific transfer and must be taught as ideas and principles. This work looks at the competencies required to be a chemist from an historical point and suggests ways that chemical safety information can be infused into the twenty-first century chemistry curriculum using embedded safety professionals, risk assessment, and SDSs to broaden and deepen safety knowledge.

This article and the rest of the issue can be found at ScienceDirect site

Also included in this issue of JCHAS are:

Chemical safety information in the 21st century
Ralph Stuart

Collecting reaction incident information: Engaging the community in sharing safety learnings
Carmen I. Nitsche, Gabrielle Whittick, Mark Manfredi

Baseline survey of academic chemical safety information practices
Leah McEwen, Ralph Stuart, Ellen Sweet, Robin Izzo

The chemical safety gateway: Beyond Google’s limitations
Abe Lederman, Sol Lederman

ACS’s Hazard Assessment in Research Laboratories website: An important safety culture tool
Kendra Leahy Denlinger

A Quick Overview of Classroom Flammable Liquid Hazards

Tragic, preventable incidents continue to occur during K-12 science demonstrations involving flammable materials. 

Despite communication efforts and safety alerts sent out by the American Chemical Society, the US Chemical Safety BoardNational Fire Protection Association, and National Science Teachers Association, tragic and preventable incidents are occurring during science demonstrations involving flammable materials.  Most recently, another incident “Four students injured in science experiment gone wrong at Bronx school” occurred on November 22, 2017 at an high school academy in New York City.

A dangerous approach: Uncontained flammable liquids burning in dishes with excess fuel nearby and inadequate ventilation.. Much safer: Soaking wooden splints in salts and viewing the colors produced by burning the splint.

Since 2006, over 90 children have been burned in these incidents, some as young as 3 yrs old. For links to articles and dates of these incidents are available upon request.

Calais Weber was burned on over 40% of her body in 2006 at Western Reserve Academy in Ohio. (Source US Chemial Safety Board) Dane Neuberger, a ninth grader in Minnesota who was one of four students burned in a science demonstration involving methanol. “My face was actually on fire,” he told local media.
(Photograph: Richard Tsong Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Why Does This Keep Happening?

In many of the cases where injuries have occurred, the demonstrator has tried to sustain the flame by adding additional fuel to a hot evaporating dish or a dish where the methanol flame has not gone out, but is not visible. When a 1- or 4- liter container is used by the demonstrator, a phenomenon known as “flame-jetting” can occur.  A NFPA Sep/Oct 2017 article explains flame jetting with images from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testing at the Fire Research Lab (FRL).

The ATF FRL testing found that flame jetting:

  • Occurred in all 49 tests using ethyl alcohol in various types and sizes of containers, including glass and plastic containers in one-liter and one-gallon sizes, the sizes used in the rainbow demonstration incidents.
  • Flame jets in excess of 15 feet occurred during testing. This is consistent with witness statements and fire damage in the classrooms.
  • The entire jetting event lasted less than one second, with no observable warning signs prior to the phenomenon. When jetting did occur, there was no evidence of thermal or pressure damage to the container.
  • Some flammable liquids such as fresh gasoline are able to release flammable vapors readily enough that the headspace never drops below the upper flammable limit and therefore does not support flame propagation within the container. Weathered gasoline, by comparison, is slower to release vapors and can support flame propagation inside the container, leading to flame jetting.

Similar incidents have occurred with portable plastic gas cans that lack flame arresters, resulting in over 11 deaths and 1200 emergency room visits.

Flame jetting is most likely to happen when:

  • The temperature of the fuel is room temperature or lower, so vapors collect in the container, instead of evaporating out of it and only move when poured out.
  • The pouring angle allows vapors to travel out and flash back inside the container. when the container is upright, the head space above the liquid is too fuel-rich and above the upper flammability limit, meaning that combustion is not supported within the container. As the container is tilted and vapors begin to pour from the open mouth, however, air is entrained into the head space and the fuel-rich mixture eventually falls within the flammable limits; if an ignition source is present and combustion occurs, the flame propagation condition inside the container can lead to flame jetting.
  • There is little fuel left in the can, making it easier for flashback to get through the bottle opening.

Figure from http://www.notyourturntoburn.com/flame-arresters/

What Can Be Done?

Flame arresters have been shown in testing to prevent flame jetting from portable flammable liquid containers that would otherwise produce jets in certain conditions.

The organization Not your turn to burn, which has been organized by mothers of burn victims, has extensive information about the mechanisms behind flame jetting and advocates for flame arresters in The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017, currently in committee, would require flame arresters on portable flammable liquid containers. Fire prevention advocates say that adding a flame arrester to the opening of a container costs when the container is manufactured will cost less than 50 cents on most portable fuel containers.

This phenomenon is not unknown to the ethanol industry and some manufacturers routinely install flash arresters such the grates on alcoholic beverages such as this Bacardi 151, as manufacturers are aware of flaming drinks.

Flame arresters are required by OSHA for workplace use but not by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC); many feel that making a packaging option on bottles of common alcohols similar to those on alcoholic beverages could prevent more household tragedies.

Action Items:

  1. Please share the following resources and reminders with your local schools districts and teachers to try to spread the word regarding the dangers of these types of experiments and safer alternatives.
  2. Encourage your congressional representatives to support H.R.919: Portable Fuel Container Safety Act of 2017. It has 31 co-sponsors and is currently in the House Energy and Commerce committee. Letter templates available at http://www.notyourturntoburn.com/letters-articles/
  3. Share with everyone to NEVER add flammable liquids to an open flame. This can lead to FLAME jetting, Use containers with flash arresters.
  4. Petition container manufacturers to sell flame arrester liners compatible with common caps of flammable liquid containers.
  5. Petition chemical manufacturers to add flame arresters to bottles of flammable liquids, similar to the Safety-pour technology provided on bottles available from Lumina Products (https://youtu.be/AS5WDA7mAvw)


National Science Teachers Association resources

National Fire Protection Association

Template for writing local school officials on this issue

School District

Dear Dr. Superintendent:
As a parent of a current student/ scientist/ concerned community member/ member of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Division of Chemical Health and Safety- I’m writing to you today to ensure that you were aware of recent accidents involving unsafe scientific demonstrations and that your district has policies in place for ensuring the safety of scientific demonstrations in your schools. In addition, I would like to make you aware of information that ACS produced specifically related to the safe handling of chemicals for educational purposes.
The driving force behind my correspondence today was the recent report of several students being injured during a “chemistry experiment gone wrong”. Details on this specific event are still slim, but unfortunately seem to be consistent with several recent events in which students have been injured during demonstrations involving flammable materials. One such experiment, the ‘rainbow demonstration’ has been the cause of numerous accidents resulting in severe student and teacher injuries. In spite of many news reports and multi-million-dollar settlements- these accidents continue to happen.
So we are reaching out directly to our local school districts and teachers to try to spread the word regarding the dangers of these types of experiments and safer alternatives. The ACS, National Fire Protection Agency, and the US Chemical Safety Board have all created documents highlighting these dangers and guidelines for providing safe and educational demonstration. I’ve included several links to these (free) resources below and would be glad to discuss this more with you if desired.
Your Name,
Address and Phone

“Improving Chemical Safety in Schools” Workshop at SERMACS

Sammye Sigmann presented a workshop on laboratory safety resources from the American Chemical Society and other organizations for the teaching environment at the secondary and undergraduate level. Topics addressed include:

  • Conceptual overview  of teacher liability relative to lab safety
  • The ins and outs of the Globally Harmonized System and Safety Data Sheets
  • Risk Assessment models for common teaching demonstrations
  • Evaluation of on line videos demonstrating chemistry

PDF versions of her materials for this workshop are linked to below below.

SERMACS Lab Safety Stories Symposium


Learning Laboratory Safety Through Storytelling

The story of chemical safety in the 20th (and 21st) century. R. Stuart

How does an EHS professional engage their audience?. M.B. Koza

Using learning points to create a sound safety baseline. K.W. Kretchman

A series of unfortunate events: A personal story. S.B. Sigmann

Stories of laboratory incidents teach us lessons about safety. R.H. Hill


BCCE Risk Assessment Presentations

The links below provide access to risk assessment presentations and tools for teaching laboratories and chemistry demonstrations presented at the 2016 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE). The presentations were made by Ralph Stuart of Keene State College and Sammye Sigmann of Appalachian State University. These documents are still in development and they would appreciate questions and comments about ways to improve them.

Presentation on Hazard and Risk Assessment for Chemical Demonstrations

Samuella B. Sigmann, NRCC-CHO Appalachian State University
Irene Cesa Flinn Scientific (ret.) and
Monique Wilham University of Michigan – Flint

Presentation: Chemical Demonstrations: Assessing Hazard and Risk

Text document: Aligning risk assessment questions with ACS CHED Demonstration guidelines

Text document: Sample Risk Assessment for the “Elephant’s Toothpaste” demonstration

Presentation on Meeting New Chemical Safety Expectations in Instructional Laboratories

Lab Risk Assessment Workbook
(Excel, Beta Version)