Another High School Student Severely Injured in Lab Explosion

Not too long ago, the Chemical Safety Board put out a public message highlighting the need for more safety precautions in school science labs. The message was entitled, “After the Rainbow” and it featured a high school students, Calais Weber. We wrote about her story only a few weeks ago involving a flash fire incident that was eerily similar to one that occurred just this month.

Unfortunately, no safety measures were taken to prevent the accident, and students were not wearing safety goggles, or any other apparatus that may have prevented the burn injuries sustained. The extremely touching public message video, it seems, was not heard by all schools and teachers.

This month, another story that is eerily similar occurred at an award-winning school in Manhattan, New York. Again, a science teacher was only trying to demonstrate a lesson that would be a “fun” demonstration of a rainbow. The lesson involved observing various colors of flames that occur from burning four kids of nitrates in separate crucibles. Again, the experiment went horribly wrong.

A volatile buildup of methyl alcohol sent a fire ball across the table that engulfed sophomore Alonzo Yanes, aged 16.

None of the students were provided with goggles, and Alonzo was only a couple feet away from the experiment. Another student attempted to use the fire extinguisher, but was unaware that he needed to remove the pin that locked it from use. Finally, the two teachers were able to put out the fire with the extinguisher and a blanket.

According to the head of laboratory design company Flow Safe, this teacher failed to insist on kids wearing protective gear, and should have known better. She was handling highly flammable and explosive chemicals that were easily ignitable. What happened was highly predictable, and should have been anticipated, according to experts.

In the school’s safety guidebook for the high school laboratory grades seven through twelve, it clearly states, “Always, when hazardous chemicals are used or handled, when glassware is used or handled, when flames are involved, all persons present, whether or not they are doing the handling or using, must wear eye protection.”

The handbook also includes the guideline stating the lab should be well ventilated, and fully charged fire extinguishers should be placed in classrooms. Students should know how to use them. Clearly, on this occasion, they did not. The New York Beacon school was charged with 8 separate safety violations.

Science safety experts say these deficiencies are widespread in American schools, and that accidents continue happening because of systemic shortcomings. Personal injury lawsuits have occurred on numerous occasions in which schools have had to pay millions of dollars for similar accidents.

Supposedly, lab safety education is not part of the requirements for teacher certification, so many teachers are unaware of the imminent dangers from use of the chemicals. Lab accident rates in high school labs are 10 to 100 times higher in schools than in industry. Since schools are not required to report these accidents, awareness of these dangers is hidden.

The attorneys of the Burn Injury Firm have substantial experience representing children who have been seriously injured at school due to the negligence of school administrators others who are responsible for providing a safe learning environment for  the students.   To discuss a potential case, call us for a Free Consultation.