Monday, November 26, 2018

Parent brings lawsuit for 2018 Pennsylvania methanol fire incident

The mother of one of two Mount Carmel Area High School students burned by liquid methanol during a chemistry demonstration has filed a federal lawsuit claiming proper safety precautions were not taken. Karen Green of Locust Gap also contends the Mount Carmel Area School district was negligent and not prepared to treat her daughter, who is identified only as M.G. 
Green Friday in U.S. Middle District Court sued on behalf of herself and her daughter the school district, Superintendent Bernard Stellar, high school principal Lisa Varano, chemistry teacher Tammy Michaels and school nurse Leanne Ryan. 
Green contends Michaels conducted the demonstration Aug. 30 despite being aware organizations, including the National Science Teachers Association, had urged teachers to halt the use of methanol-based flame tests in open laboratory desks. The National Fire Protection Association recommends placement of a safety barrier to protect students when those type of experiments are conducted, the suit states.
The details of the incident seem pretty bad:
Michaels, who was wearing goggles, attempted to light methanol that had been poured into a container. When it did not ignite, she poured in more methanol. 
An explosion occurred on the second ignition causing the container to tip onto its side, sending the flaming methanol onto the girl's leg and her front row desk, setting both on fire. The girl, attempting to get away from her burning desk, fell to the floor crying in pain as other students rushed to her aid. 
The suit claims the classroom's fire blanket could not be removed from its shipping container and classroom shower had not been functional for two years.  
After the fire on the girl's leg was extinguished she was taken by wheelchair to the nurse's office. Green claims her daughter did not receive any treatment and was in agony the 30 minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive.
Seems like a pretty classic classroom methanol fire incident, with a combination of:
  • fire
  • alcohol being added to the flames
  • from a bulk alcohol container with
  • students being too close
I think it's pretty remarkable that almost all of the media articles these days mention that this is a known problem - I'm rather surprised that high school teachers don't seem to be getting the word. 

A photo of the burn is available here (it's a little gruesome.) Maybe now we can stop doing this demo? 

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