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Be careful

Fred Young, chief executive officer of the Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre, offered health and safety advice at a recent annual conference of the Association for Science Education in Scotland.

Identify risks, put in preventive and protective measures, and co-operate with employers to meet legal obligations, he advised. As examples of successful prosecutions, he cited the following cases:

* a school was prosecuted after two pupils were injured in a fireworks accident at a parents' evening. The pupils had been making fireworks using a process not recommended. The Health and Safety Executive argued that although policies and guidance were in place, none of the science staff had formal training on risk assessment and there were no systems for checking the policies were being implemented. The teacher who organised the practical work was not prosecuted but his employer was, because he failed to provide training and to monitor implementation;

* a teacher was prosecuted after an accident occurred when he had been using pupils to assist in demonstrating the burning of sodium in chlorine and sodium in bromine. No one was wearing eye protection, nor were safety screens or a fume cupboard in use. The employer had issued the school with suitable guidance which the teacher failed to follow. The prosecution case was that the teacher had failed to co-operate with his employer.

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