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Refection outline:
Being an organic preparation practical, ester hydrolysis involves a wide range
of techniques and potential hazards, however with correct laboratory
management, engineering controls and procedures, these risks can be
assessed as low potential hazards and result in a well run, safe and incident
free practical.
The ester hydrolysis involves the use of a range of chemicals with different
classes (corrosive, toxic, oxidising and flammable) and the use of reflux and
distillation equipment with their associated hazards (glass breakage, water
spillage, flammable gases, fire). This refection will outline the management of
these safety concerns, students and equipment as observed during a half-day
Student cohort and physical space:
The students undergoing the practical were university students who had mixed
laboratory experience and who required supervision throughout the practical.
Risk assessment of the practical would have highlighted the required PPE
which was provided and the supervising teachers ensured this PPE was worn
correctly throughout the day.
With this group of students (larger than usual for this space), the physical
space available was slightly cramped but manageable with the groups assigned
in threes and pre-prepared glassware resulting in less movement required.
Some congestion points were noted (in front of fume cupboard and balance).
The bench space was adequate and did not impact on the set-up of glassware
and mats were provided to protect the benches from staining and corrosion.
Management of hazards:
Potential spills were managed by access to spill kits, cleaning equipment and
dedicated broken glassware containers. Most spills of a serious nature would
be outlined in a University-wide spill management S.O.P. or emergency
manual. The most likely spill for this particular practical would be water from
the condenser jackets or small manageable chemical spills.

It was noted that electrical equipment had been safety tested and tagged with
clear expiry dates. Electrical outlets were raised above the level of the benches
reducing the risk of water coming into contact with them. Circuit breakers
would also play a role here.
Fire hazards resulting from the use of gas and flammable liquids were managed
by the supervising teachers (by ensuring taps were turned off and responsible
use), fire alarms, clear and labelled fire extinguishers and (probably) an
emergency isolation button.
First aid
A first aid kit would have been accessible and regularly checked and stocked.
The eye wash was tested on the day (by Simon) and there was a safety shower
in the corridor. Should a chemical injury occur it would be the responsibility of
the teachers to render first aid (this could include dousing the student under
the safety shower, removing clothing, calling for emergency services and
dealing with the paperwork that would result).
An MSDS register was made available on the day and would need to be kept
up-to-date for each chemical used to ensure a record of current hazard
classifications and recommended first aid.
Chemical storage
The storage of the more hazardous and concentrated chemicals in the fumecupboard ensured greater engineering controls by placing them in a ventilated
space with spill bunding while less hazardous chemicals were made available
on the lab benches.
Laboratory chemical storage (it was noted that the chemicals were kept
elsewhere) is regulated under Australian dangerous goods storage legislation
and would involve correct segregation, labelling and stocktaking.
Final refection:
Having a well run and equipped laboratory increases safety to staff and
students and this observation highlighted to me how much thought and pre-

planning went into each aspect of this practical (from the location and
availability of the chemicals, to the timing of instructions and placement of
I ran several experiments during my first teaching placement and none were to
this level. I intend to fix this oversight!