900 lab accidents lead to warning on safety

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 1997, 12:00am

There were about 900 accidents in school laboratories in the past academic year, according to an Education Department survey.

The finding has prompted the department to warn teachers and pupils to give greater priority to lab safety.

Most accidents involved students who suffered burns and cuts. But the victims also included a teacher and three laboratory technicians who were bitten by rats.

Chan Kai-bun, principal inspector (physical sciences), said: 'Schools should always be on the alert, take extreme care and active measures to minimise the chances of accidents.

'Most accidents have arisen from carelessness. Many could have been avoided by good practice in handling chemicals, harmful gases, burners, glassware, animals and sharp instruments.' About 30 per cent of the accidents involved cuts from dissecting instruments or broken glass apparatus.

Twenty-three per cent were burns, nine per cent chemical spills and six per cent chemical burns.

Twenty-one victims needed medical treatment, compared with six in 1994-95 and seven in 1993-94.

No one suffered permanent disability.

Public concern over laboratory safety was raised following the 1995 death of university student Richard Leung Wai-cheuk who inhaled toxic gas in a laboratory at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The department said it would work with laboratory safety committees set up in schools this year, and update safety guidelines for laboratories.