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2002 Fall ConfChem: Teaching Safety in High Schools, Colleges, and Universities

09/30/02 to 11/10/02
George H. Wahl, Jr. Professor of Chemistry, NC State University Raleigh, NC 27695-8204

What's the Question?

Why a conference on Teaching Safety? Well, who among us has not had some safety related problem during her/his career? Have we always been able to satisfactorily resolve it? Probably not.

Have we wondered what to do about safety in our curriculum? Either there's a "safety fanatic" trying to dominate our program; how do we slow him down? Or, "Gee, we really are not preparing our students for the real world. We should be designing labs similar to what they might experience if they were to go to work in a chemistry lab."

But will students pay any attention to safety lectures? Surely no more attention than they pay to other poorly designed classes. However, perhaps with a well prepared instructor, and some 'real world' examples, they just might pay more attention. After all, the younger generation certainly is very environmental oriented. Once they see that their actions in the lab affect the environment, they can be expected to become active learners.

Should we be fighting for a full course in "Safety"? The jury is still out, but my impression is that we'd be much better served by paying careful attention to safety issues wherever and whenever they appear. Treat them with the same rigor as we do other scientific principles we teach. Show the reasons for safety rules. Engage the students with frequent use of the question "Now, what would a Prudent Person do in this situation?" Accept only well thought out responses. Guide the student to become critical in responding. Just as in Organic Chemistry where we look for a reason why a certain structure is favored, so also we need to be concerned about why we do these reactions in the hood. What protection does the hood provide. Is that protection independent of the position of the sash; of the number of articles stored in the hood; of where in the hood the emissions are likely to occur?

It's our hope that we will all be better equipped to face our students with better answers, but also with more challenging questions about safety after this conference.

Please participate frequently and thoughtfully. Let's hear your experience. But please "Know when to say when!" Some conversations start going nowhere. When that occurs, please just - let it go, and we'll move onto the next interesting idea. Pass the word to your colleagues that it's not too late to register and its FREE. Send them to this page -

Don't forget - we'd like to see you all in New Orleans March 23-27, 2003 for the live conference on this same topic. Send proposed Abstracts, or just thoughts, to me at - before 25 October 2002.


Paper 1: The Laboratory Standard - Syllabus for Academic Safety Programs
George Wahl,
NC State University at Raleigh

Paper 2: "It Was Here Before My Time!" (and other favorite lines given to regulatory agents)
Stefan Wawzyniecki,
University of Connecticut

Paper 3: How Can I Find Out What the Hazards Are?
Jay A. Young,
Chemical Safety Consultant, 12916 Allerton Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20904

Paper 4: Some Thoughts on Teaching Chemical Health and Safety
Stephen Stepenuck, Jr.,
Keene State College, Keene, NH 03435

Paper 5: Using Basic MSDS Assignments to enhance Laboratory Safety
Walt Volland,
Bellevue Community College

Paper 6: High School Chemistry Stockrooms
Alton Banks,
NC State University, Professor of Chemistry 

Paper 7: Guidebook for Science Safety in Illinois (K-12)
Gary Trammell,
University of Illinois at Springfield

Paper 8: Funding Safe Science in Secondary and Post-Secondary Schools
Harry Elston,
Editor, Chemical Health and Safety

Paper 9: Safety Survival Skills
Bob Hill,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Paper 10: Support From Afar: Using the SAFETY List to Protect Yourself and Your Students
Ralph Stuart,
CIH, Environmental Safety Manager, University of Vermont, Environmental Safety Facility, 667 Spear St., Burlington, VT 05405

Paper 11: Eye and Face Protection in the Laboratory
James A. Kaufman,
Laboratory Safety Institute, Natick, MA

Paper 12: Laboratory Hoods and Ventilation Enclosures: Problems and Pitfalls
Doug Walters,
Consultant, Recently retired from NIEHS

Paper 13: Safety Text for Textbooks
SACHE Project
Department of Chemical Engineering, Wayne State University
Dr. Joseph Louvar, Melanie Rudnik and Tamer Girgis,,

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

George H. Wahl, Jr. Professor of Chemistry,

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8204


The argument is often made about when and where in the curriculum to teach safety. However, rarely do such arguments revolve around what exactly to teach. The National Academy of Sciences has done us a great favor by publishing the "Prudent Practices" volumes. These were written by recognized experts in academia, government and industry to address common issues facing all who dealt with chemicals on a laboratory scale. They were so effective that they gave structure to the 1990 OSHA Lab Standard. This "performance based" standard is recognized by many as the most realistic regulation written in the broad field of safety and the environment. The paper will use the outline of the 1995 "Prudent Practices in the Laboratory" to provide scenarios for treating many different safety topics.

Stefan Wawzyniecki, CIH, CHMM, NRCC-CHO

Chemical Health & Safety Manager

University of Connecticut

Department of Environmental Health & Safety

Unit 4097

Storrs, CT 06269-4097



The awareness level has been raised in the academic world regarding environmental, health, & safety issues, especially in light of the initiative brought on by EPA Region 1. When teachers of high school science programs begin to hear about improper management of waste chemicals, they sometimes confuse the "environmental" rules from the "health & safety" rules, or, they consider them interchangeable. Labeling chemicals for use in labs is different than labeling them as hazardous waste. Protecting the environment (EPA) comes under a different set of regulations than protecting the employee (OSHA). Teachers in high schools need to be trained to understand the requirements under the Lab Standard (they need to know what a Chemical Hygiene Officer does), as well as to be told they cannot simply co-mingle all their experimental wastes, and then drive off the volatile fraction to reduce volume. The added benefit is that students are introduced to the concept of regulatory requirements.

This paper will use the real life experiences of one high school, which found itself calling in "9-1-1" for a minor mishap in a chemistry lab, and then realizing that it was the best thing that could have happened to them in bringing to light the lack of regulatory awareness.

Jay A. Young, 12916 Allerton Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20904


Many users of hazardous chemicals have learned (some of us the hard way) that MSDS's are not completely trustworthy in the information they impart. They may indeed address the hazards encountered when the chemical is used on a large scale in the industrial workplace but most of them say little or nothing about the hazards related to small scale laboratory use. Some MSDS's exaggerate the hazards, some are incomplete and do not describe all of the hazards the chemical presents, and some are simply wrong in their description of the hazards. So where can one turn for reliable information about the hazards of a chemical that one proposes to use? This paper will address the answer to this question and suggest ways to identify reliable vs. unreliable sources of hazard information.

Alton J. Banks
Professor of Chemistry, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8204 (919) 515-8904(voice); (919) 515-2545 (fax)


This discussion will attempt to address both practical and legal issues that confront science educators, in general, and chemistry teachers, in particular. Liabilities of teaching science, collection of material safety data sheets, preparation and maintenance of chemical inventories, suggestions for stockroom organization, and some practical hints for proper disposal of unwanted or unneeded chemicals will be addressed

Walt Volland
Bellevue Community College


Gary Trammell,
University of Illinois at Springfield, Springfield, IL 62794-9243. (217) 206-7344.


In 1995 the Center on Science Literacy of the Illinois State Board of Education published "Guidebook for Science Safety in Illinois: A Safety Manual for Illinois Elementary and Secondary Schools" to provide the foundation for a safe classroom environment for teaching and learning science. Safety is a very important concern in science courses because students are learning new skills, working with unfamiliar equipment in close quarters, and using materials that can pose some degree of hazard. From the perspective of teachers and administrators, the understanding of regulations, best classroom practice, and facilities preparation may not have held a high priority. It was also recognized that the undergraduate training of most teachers left them unprepared to assume the responsibility for their own safety and that of their students. A partnership of high school and post-secondary science leaders along with representatives from Illinois sections of the American Chemical Society prepared a manual covering topics relevant for elementary and secondary science teachers. A state-wide teleconference was held to provide additional information and serve as a forum for teachers to ask questions concerning classroom safety. The manual is accessible online at or

Harry J. Elston, Ph.D.* Editor, Chemical Health & Safety,
and William C. Penker, Chemical Hygiene Officer, Neillsville High School, Neillsville, WI


The practice of safe science in secondary and post-secondary education is an essential portion of the overall science education process. However, with curriculum restraints, time limitations and lack of funding designated to safety programs in science, chemical health and safety is often overlooked or inadequately taught. Oftentimes local school boards (secondary schools) or departments (post-secondary) choose to use valuable financial resources where they perceive to get a higher "return on investment," while neglecting that safety is fundamental to all physical science and should be integrated into all curricula.

However, acquisition of the resources necessary to teach science safely is not inexpensive. In order to receive the necessary level of funding, educators must (1) convince management bodies that safety is fundamental to science, (2) demonstrate the necessary level of commitment by management and (3) creatively financial resources are available in order to implement safety into the curricula.

While we should all recognize the necessity for management to be totally committed to safety and the practice of safe science, many may find it difficult to convince management of their need to be 100% committed to safety. We will explore creative and persuasive arguments we can use to convince management of that necessity and suggest creative and often underutilized methods for finding the necessary financial resources to fund safety programs.

Robert H. Hill, Jr.
Office of Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road (F05), Atlanta, Ga 30333


Safety is an integral part of the work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All new employees at CDC are required to take the safety training course "Safety Survival Skills (SSSs)" that teaches them provides basic information about safety in their workplace. There are three SSSs: a general module for all employees; a module for those people working in laboratories; and a module for supervisors. These courses may be taken in two ways: in the classroom or via the CDC web (internal).

The general course for all employees discusses regulatory mandates and responsibilities, health and safety programs and resources at CDC, office safety, hazard communication and MSDSs, workplace violence, emergency response, working in the field, occupational exposure to blood, and reporting on-the-job injuries and illnesses. The laboratory safety course focuses on biological safety, chemical safety, and laboratory hazards. The last course discusses the responsibilities of supervisors for general safety, hazard communication, laboratory safety, medical management, office safety, personal protective equipment, and safety training.

This paper will discuss the two approaches - classroom and the Web - to providing basic safety training to our employees and the development of these courses. In each course actual incidents are presented to bring realism to the employee so that they know that failure to follow safety procedures can result in injury to one's self or others. Also we will describe how we evaluate the effectiveness of these courses in getting the basic information to employees.

Ralph Stuart, CIH, Environmental Safety Manager, University of Vermont, Environmental Safety Facility, 667 Spear St., Burlington, VT 05405, fax: (802)656-5407


No single individual can stay abreast of all the safety issues involved in educating future chemists. Tracking new regulations, changes in safety codes, and the practical information involved in maintaining a safe chemistry laboratory requires many perspectives and sources of advice. The SAFETY e-mail list has been providing such a resource since 1989, with 3000 subscribers and over 100,000 messages in its archives. This presentation will discuss how to best use this resource to learn what you need to know to stay up to date on this critical issue.

Jim Kapin, UC San Diego


In the business world, effective safety programs are often modeled on quality management programs. This is difficult in an academic setting. In the academic world there is no single "chain of command", there are frequent divisions between academic personnel and staff, and between instruction and research. There is deeply held belief in academic freedom and no clear "bottom line" to use for justification. As a consequence, many colleges and universities are now in the same position as many businesses were 10 - 20 years ago with respect to their safety programs. Few schools colleges and universities follow best safety management practices and even fewer incorporate these practices into the lessons they teach their students.

The model for an academic safety program must be modified to address the unique aspects of campus life. All levels of administration must understand and accept the roles they play in the overall system. The safety office must focus on customer groups and provide a clear, integrated program that outlines expectations and provides appropriate support. Finally, these activities must be extended into all campus activities, including research labs and student instruction. Few campuses have achieved all of these goals, but many have made significant steps in this direction.