The Beacon
RSS Feed

Why We Can’t Forget Lab Safety


On September third, an employee at a Reno museum in Nevada was trying to demonstrate the science behind a tornado in a simulation. He applied the chemicals in the wrong order, and a sudden and intense fire started. Eight children, one adult,and three unidentified people were hospitalized with minor to moderate burns. In particular, 10-year-old Kaylee who suffered second degree burns after having her face, hair, and back lit completely on fire. The accident was a simple mistake in performing the procedure of the experiment, applying the alcohol after the boric acid and flame instead of before. Reno Museum Fire Chief Michael Hernandez says in a statement, “Our prevention staff will be meeting with museum staff to review demonstration and safety procedures and make appropriate recommendations as necessary.”

Last fall there was a ventilation error in a Wilson science laboratory in which smoke was intensely emitted from a Bunsen burner. Instead of being ventilated by the fume hood, the smoke set off the smoke alarms in the hallway after traveling under the door. The whole school population evacuated to Fort Reno and was let back into the building when the administrators deemed the incident harmless.

Even though this incident wasn’t caused primarily by a student, problems can occur in a lab. Tenth grade chemistry teacher Jean-Claude Nkongolo explains that “problems in the lab can happen at time, and new issues come up that weren’t expected or imagined and it’s one of the things scholars will learn throughout their experience in the lab at Wilson.”

Laboratory mistakes are often unintentionally made by a simple and careless mistake. Being safe in the lab is extremely important because a small mistake can affect you and the people around you. These first weeks in your science classes going over safety precautions and routines are essential for your success while performing experiments. Nkongolo finds going over safety procedures extremely important, saying, “We always try to minimize the possibility of an accident. As teachers it’s our job to make sure scholars understand procedures and lab safety. We want to stay on the safe side.”

However, even with lab safety tests, there is always the possibility of an accident. Nkongolo says, “We do as much as we can to keep scholars safe but sometimes something may happen that you didn’t even know or think about–that’s why we call it an accident. You can never be 100% safe but we try to prevent as much as we can.” The minor mistake at the Reno Museum is just one example of how something could go wrong in a lab. So remember, before you ignore the importance of lab safety, think about how the smallest mistake can greatly impact yourself and the people around you.