LAB & SHOP SAFETY IN SCHOOLS

My name is Steve Watts. I'm an industrial inspector with the Ministry of Labour from Central Region. Today we're at Central Technical High School in downtown Toronto and I'm going to show you some of the things that an inspector would look for doing an inspection in shops and labs in the school.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Education Act work together to ensure the safety of both students and staff at the school.

Usually, Ministry of Labour Inspections are not scheduled and unannounced.

"Hi, my name's Steve Watts. I'm with the Ministry of Labour. I'm here to speak to whoever's in charge of health and safety."

To Principal: "It's nice to meet you. I'm here today to conduct a proactive inspection of your school, focusing on the shops and the chemistry rooms or chemistry labs."

When I arrive at a school, I ask to speak to the Principal and Worker Health and Safety Representative. Together, I review with them, Joint Health & Safety Committee Minutes, meetings, inspection records and that appropriate postings are on the Health and Safety Board where staff have access to it.

"Required to be posted as per the Act would be a copy of the Occupational Health & Safety Act, a current Occupational Health & Safety Policy…"

When I'm conducting an inspection, I usually take an employer representative and a worker representative with me on the inspection.

When inspecting areas where chemicals are stored we look for things being stored properly, safely. Acids and bases, for example, not being stored together in the same uh cabinet, proper first aid equipment, eye wash stations nearby, fire equipment, extinguishers, fire blankets, uh, at close at hand as well.

Steve: "I see you have a fume hood in operation here. A primary concern would be that, when you are using the fume hood, that you have the sash at a safe level. How often do you inspect your fume hood?"
Teacher: "We get ours checked every year."
Steve: "Great."
Steve: "When you're transporting chemicals to a class, how do you do that?"
Teacher: "When a teacher puts in a requisition, what I'll do is I'll put the chemicals that have been requested in bins and then I'll put those bins on these carts and then they'll roll it to their classrooms."

Chemical mixing rooms need to have proper ventilation. If chemicals are being prepared and transported to class rooms, they need to be properly transported in a method that will not make it possible for them to tip. Spill kits need to be made available as well and also sharps containers for broken glass in the lab need to be provided as well.

Material Safety Data Sheets are required for any WHIMIS-controlled product and can exist both in paper form and/or electronic form.

Teacher: "So, good morning everyone. Today, I'm going to demonstrate for you a really spectacular reaction. I'm going to oxidize sugar. So, as the potassium chlorate is melting, it's decomposing into potassium chloride and oxygen. This is water gas and carbon dioxide and a bit of carbon. So, not harmful gases at all."

If a teacher's conducting an experiment, the expectation is that the teacher will be properly prepared with personal protective equipment for both them self and for the students involved in the experiment and to properly ensure that their methods, or procedure that they're using in the experiment have considered all aspects of both health and safety for themselves and for the students in the class.

Personal protective equipment can include things such as goggles, a face shield, gloves or aprons.

Things that I look for when doing an inspection of machinery in a school would be training, lock out, guards preventing access to a moving part and the units, devices being maintained in good condition.

Auto Shop teachers are required to carry Certificate of Qualifications when working on any licensed vehicles in their shop class.

Hot work, in a school setting, can include things such as using welding, cutting torches and/or grinding.

When doing hot work, precautions must be taken to ensure the item, for example, being cut has been properly purged and no hazardous atmosphere exists that could become ignited.

Reasonable precautions with the storage of flammable goods and liquids are to have these stored in a flammable cabinet that is well-ventilated and adequate grounding and bonding should be ensured.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires monthly inspections of a workplace.

At the conclusion of my field visit, my inspection findings are summarized in a Field Visit Report and if there are any items to be corrected under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, Orders may be issued to the employer for contraventions to be corrected.

In a school environment, teachers have the opportunity to provide a model workplace and example to the students of today and the future workers of the province of Ontario.

Please visit the following websites for more information.

• Ministry of Labour - www.labour.gov.on.ca
• Live Safe Work Smart - www.livesafeworksmart.net
• Public Services Health & Safety Association - www.healthandsafetyontario.ca/PSHSA/Home.aspx

Special Thanks:
Central Technical School
Toronto District School Board

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