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An Acknowledgment Form Is Safer Than a Contract

The school year is well under way. But before students enter science labs, they must turn in a safety acknowledgment form.

After completing introductory safety training, as noted in NSTA’s Duty of Care (NSTA 2014), review and have students and their parent or guardian sign a safety acknowledgement form (see Resource), stating safety practices and protocols. In addition, test students on the safety training before they begin any lab work.

It’s important to know the difference between a safety acknowledgement form and a safety contract. Generally, a teenager can enter into a legal contract at age 18, so younger students should only be asked to sign a safety acknowledgment form. By signing a safety acknowledgment form, students confirm that they have been informed that the lab can be an unsafe place, and that they have agreed to follow safety procedures and protocols.

The science teacher needs to keep the original copy of the forms on file for the duration of the class. The statute of limitations for negligence in most states is three years from the date of harm. If there is an accident in the classroom or lab, the teacher should compile safety information records, including the acknowledgement form and accident report, and provide copies of the records to his or her school district. In the event of an accident, these documents should be kept until the statute of limitations run out. In some rare cases, when parents refuse to sign the safety acknowledgment form, teachers need to date, sign, and note the fact that the parent refused to sign the form.

Once the lab investigations are under way, science teachers also have the responsibility to:

1. Inspect for safety before, during, and at the close of activities, and monitor student behavior and equipment to help foster a safer learning environment.

2. Enforce appropriate safety behavior and apply a well-defined progressive disciplinary policy, which involves a progression of steps, starting with a verbal warning and escalating to removal from class.

3. Follow-up on maintenance to ensure engineering controls and personal protective equipment are operational and meet the manufacturers’ standards. If the ventilation cap on a chemical splash goggle has been removed, for instance, take the goggle out of operation.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net, or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

Reference

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). 2014. NSTA—Duty or Standard of Care. www.nsta.org/docs/DutyOfCare.pdf

Resource

Safety acknowledgment form—www.nsta.org/pdfs/SafetyInTheScienceClassroom.pdf

NSTA resources and safety issue papers

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