A school laboratory is important in the teaching of science subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics. Students get an opportunity to perform practical experiments, which help them better understand the principles they have learnt in science theory. However, a school science laboratory has potential hazards because of the chemicals and instruments students use to perform experiments.
The risk fire in a school laboratory is very high. Fire can break out because of chemical reactions during experiments. Another common cause of fire accidents in a laboratory is flammable liquids, such as gasoline, if they come close to a source of fire, such as a Bunsen burner. If a fire breaks out in a laboratory, there are several ways to put it out, depending on the cause of the fire. These include throwing dry sand onto the fire and using a fire extinguisher. A fire caused by flammable liquids can be smothered with carbon dioxide.
The chemicals that are used in a laboratory can cause harm to students if there is accidental contact. This includes the danger of the chemicals splashing into the students' eyes during the experiments. To reduce the risk, students should wear safety goggles, long sleeves and lab coats when conducting experiments. Some of the chemicals, such as iodine and hydrogen fluoride, are poisonous. These chemicals should be used in very small amounts, and students should be under strict supervision by a teacher when handling them. The chemicals should be taken away for storage immediately after use. All chemicals should be stored under lock and key.
Much of the equipment used in laboratory experiments has traditionally been made of glass, and glass is prone to breakage. Glass chips can injure students, and hazardous contents can be spilt. To prevent this, schools should consider using plastic containers whenever possible. In cases where glassware must be used, such as when it is needed to heat substances, the heated glass items should not be kept near water, because if water comes into contact with heated glass, the glass can break. Glassware should also be kept away from younger students before and after experiments. If glassware breaks, the chips should immediately be picked up and the floor swept thoroughly.
Electricity is used in many appliances in a school laboratory, such as for lighting and heating. It poses a potential hazard of short circuiting if negative and positive wires come into contact. This can happen if students accidentally pour water or other liquid into the electric sockets. This can lead to damage to the electrical system or even cause a fire. Hotplates require special precautions, as a hotplate that is turned on looks the same as one that is turned off. Another hazard posed by electricity is electrocution. If the electric wiring system is faulty, students may come into contact with live wires. To reduce the chances of these accidents occurring, teachers should ensure that students are enlightened on proper handling of electricity and electric gadgets. There should also be frequent inspections of the electric wiring system so that any faults can be detected before an accident happens.
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