Demo alkali metals

Discussion in 'Science Technicians - General Discussion' started by Tonyb666, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. I have been informed that a new teacher allowing year 7 to cut alkali metals which they then drop into the water. Apart from the issues this raises, I have been told not to interfere as they don't want him to leave as they can't get another teacher. Everything about this is wrong
  2. Then they need to intervene if they won't let you

    All three are listed as teacher/technician use only on their Hazcards (albeit with a Yr12 application for Sodium and a Yr9 application for Lithium but those are specific risk assessed uses - NOT the water reaction demo)

    Put it frankly to them that (assuming you subscribe to CLEAPSS) they are your H&S advisor and by ignoring their instructions you're invalidating any insurance and flirting with outright breaking the law
    stelden, ClaireS and Ophelia like this.
  3. This is absolutely insane! I don't even know where to start...

    I strongly suggest you immediately write an e-mail to your lead technician and head of science (avoid senior management or any other bodies at this initial stage as it can complicate matters) explaining the hazards, linking the relevant hazcards and strongly recommending against doing it as a class practical. Mention that they should call CLEAPSS directly if they do not agree with your advice.
    If something goes wrong with alkali metals, it goes VERY wrong and you bet they'll put you in the firing line, so put things in writing whenever possible.
  4. As above, I would flag it first in writing with your line manager (senior/lead tech or HOD) if nothing is done I would consider reporting it as a 'near miss' and/or H&S concern to whoever is in charge of whole school H&S (usually the school business manager).
    At the end of the day you need to protect the pupils from a potential disaster AND yourself from the subsequent firing line.
    Good Luck!
    Ophelia and KeithD like this.
  5. Julie Delaney

    Julie Delaney COMMITTEE

    OMG!!!!! We have some teachers whom I dislike having alkali metals!! never mind the kids. I would just say NO way.
    ClaireS likes this.
  6. Cheers guys, will go through all the above
    Ophelia likes this.
  7. Julie Delaney

    Julie Delaney COMMITTEE

    Hazcard clearly states the folks who can handle these. Refer the chap to CLEAPSS and tell them read the card!
    Ophelia likes this.
  8. Do you have it in writing that you are not allowed to intervene if not email your HoD about this issue, stating the info on the Hazcard which you can attach to the email, so when they reply to say it is ok you know its not your fault if anything happens.
    ClaireS and Ophelia like this.
  9. As above, plus, if your line management is insistent, I would refuse to put the equipment out. By doing so, you are complicit in any subsequent incident. Someone further up the management chain saying it's alright does not absolve you.
    stelden, ClaireS and KeithD like this.
  10. Question is if they are like ours and locked in a cupboard that only I have the key for, would it make me complicit if I handed over the key?
  11. You could write a lovely general H&S email to all science teachers about various high risk demos (including alkali metals) with appropriate Cleapss guidelines and hazcards for each one attached, and say that you can't give out equipment unless you are sure it will be used according to the guidelines.

    Or would that be too passive aggressive?
  12. this happened or is planned? It is clearly against the model risk assessment, so don't allow it.

    If it already happened have a word with the teacher, the teacher will be on their own if something goes wrong.
  13. I would say that is something the head of science should be sending out and not a technician, unless you have approval from them beforehand. I have sent something similar in the past thinking I was doing the right thing and I got "put in my place" to put it bluntly.

    Not if you have in writing that you have advised against it. It is not our legal obligation to enforce health and safety, only to advise all relevant parties. If a teacher insists on doing something hazardous against warning, that is on them as they will be the ones who have to justify their decision in court if something goes wrong.
    You could take the martyr approach and refuse, but that could get you in a lot of trouble if the higher ups do not agree with your call...
    Ophelia likes this.
  14. Yikes. I’m kind of lost for words! Hopefully the advice above helps.
  15. If you see it you are supposed to stop it, is what CLEAPSS have told me verbally, that we should stop practicals if they are dangerous, and for this reason we are needed in school when practical work is happening.

    I would not like to be a witness in a court case, you would get dragged into it probably.
    ClaireS likes this.
  16. Julie Delaney

    Julie Delaney COMMITTEE

    Some of us may remember one of our techies on this site who was sacked after a teacher caused a very dangerous situation in a classroom and because the techie delivered it, he was the one who was sacked, I am not joking; I personally, along with another techie on this site supported him as much as we could. BUT, the teachers all closed ranks on him and it was a farce how he was treated, but he ended up sacked. So, please do not let this maverick fool ruin your job for you.
    Ophelia, stelden, tree hugger and 6 others like this.
  17. Exquisitely put Julie!:)
  18. Julie Delaney

    Julie Delaney COMMITTEE

    Thank you George. :):cool:
  19. Its not my maverick, I was just wondering as I hold the chem store keys. If I was in this situation I would be out right saying nope, submitting hazcard and such to HoD as I posted above, when they said I had to do it, it would go to their line manager and then off to the head with an emailing of me saying I refuse to do this due to H&S but luckily where I am now if I say no I have the full support of those in the management chain above me.
  20. Regarding this particular situation, I don't know if a) The technician had anything in writing and b) if they took the case to court. Just because they got sacked doesn't mean the technician was legally in the wrong, it just means the employer thought they were responsible. Very different issues.

    You have to define carefully what you mean by "stop" and what CLEAPSS intended by that. You could try to stop it by refusing to hand over the equipment, but what if the teacher comes in and grabs it anyway? What if your employer demands you hand over the key? None of the equipment belongs to you so you have no legal right to refuse access to something which isn't yours. You could be disciplined/sacked for this...

    My previous head of science has been to court multiple times to testify regarding accidents and he made very clear that technicians are not responsible in the event something goes wrong and it is the reason why teachers are required to do risk assessments for practicals, not technicians. This is something CLEAPSS is also crystal clear on. Indeed, technicians were not even called to testify regarding the accidents it was the the teacher in question, head of science and other senior staff if I recall correctly.

    Many people on this site keep confusing moral obligation, with legal obligation. Morally, we are ALL responsible in doing our very best to keep things safe. Legally, it gets more complicated but I can say with confidence technicians have way less legal responsibility than the teachers/employer if something goes wrong in a practical.

    My opinion is to make your concerns known in writing to the relevant people as soon as possible before the practical is required in the lesson. If the higher ups then insist it gets the go ahead, you cannot refuse to hand over the equipment as that will get you in trouble, just mention you believe it to be a serious hazard and you accept no responsibility in the event of an accident.

    You can go the martyr route but don't be surprised if it ends up backfiring.