CSB to Increase Advocacy around Flammable Chemicals in the Classroom
In response to a lab fire that injured five students and a teacher at Woodson High School in Virginia on Oct. 30, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is renewing its efforts to prevent accidents related to the use of flammable chemicals in classroom demonstrations. While CSB is not investigating the accident, the agency is gathering facts. The recent accident is one of many to occur around the U.S. during lab and classroom demonstrations involving methanol or other flammable liquids, combustion, open flames, or ignition sources. “Similar to what we have learned so far about the recent accident at Woodson, all of the previous incidents CSB investigated involved demonstrations of flames produced by burning a flammable liquid, usually methanol,” said CSB board member Kristen M. Kulinowski, PhD. “In all three previous cases, there was a flash back to the methanol bulk containers, and the fire engulfed members of the viewing audience.” CSB urges employers, teachers, and others to adopt the lessons learned from three of these accidents that occurred in 2014, which prompted the agency to publish a safety bulletin (PDF). A related video safety message focuses on potential dangers in high school chemistry laboratories. The video, titled “After the Rainbow,” features an interview with accident survivor Calais Weber, who was burned over 40 percent of her body during a classroom demonstration in 2006. For more information, see Kulinowski’s statement.