Safety slip-up

Safety slip-up

Sara Yang

Hydrochloric acid sends chemistry student to the emergency room


The block period on March 9 took a turn for the worse as chemistry teacher Elizabeth McCracken’s third period Chemistry Honors students conducted a lab experiment with acids.  Lack of adhering to safety procedure sent one student to the emergency room and the rest of the class to the hallway, evacuating a flooded classroom.

Sophomore Chanel Zhan was not the only student to break safety rules by removing her goggles during the experiment, but when hydrochloric acid splashed into her eyes, she suffered the consequences.
During the class period, McCracken was called away from the room, biology teacher Renee Fallon filled in to supervise the classroom while students worked with calorimeters to calculate the heat of a reaction using hydrochloric acid.

“I would hope it doesn’t take accidents for students to see that safety is a real concern,” Fallon said.  “My first and most important job is to make sure no one gets hurt in [the classroom]… I would think a lot of teachers feel that way.”

According to Zhan, who briefly removed her safety goggles while retrieving materials for the experiment, the acid caught underneath her contacts, in direct contact with the surface of her eye.  While classmates immediately called the office emergency phone line, Zhan was rushed to the classroom eyewash station.  The station, lacking a proper drainage system, flooded the classroom with water and caused students to evacuate to the hallway outside of the room.
Paramedics arrived within 15 minutes and transported Zhan to the emergency room. Luckily, Zhan did not sustain serious injuries and returned to school the next day.
“I was the lucky of the unlucky, because I didn’t [receive a] serious [injury],” Zhan said.  “It’s just like smoking. You don’t know the consequences until [an accident] actually happens to you.” 
Science department teachers start each school year by strongly emphasizing the importance of following classroom safety procedures to safeguard against similar yet preventable incidents.
“[Students] tend to think [accidents are] not going to happen to them, so they ignore safety rules,” Fallon said.  “I don’t care how annoying they are, the loss of your eyes is more annoying.”