CSB Increases Advocacy Around Flammable Chemicals in Schools

The safety board is renewing its efforts to prevent accidents related to the use of flammable chemicals in classrooms.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has announced that it is renewing efforts to prevent accidents related to the use of flammable chemicals in classroom demonstrations after a lab fire injured five students and a teacher in Woodson High School in Virginia on Oct. 30. CSB reports the accident is one of many to occur 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," CSB board member Kristen M. Kulinowski, Ph.D., said Nov. 3. "In all three previous cases, there was a flash back to the methanol bulk containers and the fire engulfed members of the viewing audience."

Three similar incidents occurred in 2014, and CSB urges those in schools to adopt the lessons learned there, which the board listed in a news release:

  • Do not use bulk containers of flammable chemicals in educational demonstrations when small quantities will work.
  • Implement strict safety controls, including written procedures, effective training, and appropriate PPE.
  • Conduct a comprehensive hazard review prior to the demo.
  • Provide a safety barrier between demonstration and audience.

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