GENERAL COMMENTS The purpose of having a safety training procedure for Science Theatre members is twofold. The first is that we want demonstrations to be safe for the presenters as well as the audience members. The second is that we want documentation of training in the event of an accident. There are different concerns for the two groups involved. and these will be covered in the following two sections.
AUDIENCE SAFETY There is one point that needs to be stressed before going into possible safety concerns; that is apparent safety. It is important to be safe, but it is just as important to appear to be safe. Children especially pick up on your actions more than your words. So you must say what is safe - but then also do it! Therefore safety concerns should be voiced at the beginning of any stage show, and before any particularly dangerous segment. But there is another philosophical note. Namely we want to warn the public about possible dangers without scaring them into thinking that all science is a risk to their well being.
STAGE SHOWS Site survey: Make sure that room is appropriate for demos. Make sure that there is enough demonstrator-audience separation. Set-up Any demo involving projectiles or possible projectiles (including violent chemical reactions) must be done behind the blast shield. Delivery Show introduction should include statement about safety Reiteration of safety before dangerous demos Wear appropriate safety gear (to be explained in the next section) Volunteers should wear appropriate safety gear.
HANDS-ON DEMOS Any demo components smaller than 3” diameter should not be handled by children under six years old. Audience members should not consume anything from a demo (e.g. marshmallows or bananas) Audience members should not assault anyone with demo components. Audience members should wear appropriate safety gear.
Most of the safety concerns for the demonstrator can be categorized into six groups.
Heavy Objects – If it’s too heavy to lift, get help. Watch out for the bed-of-nails, Tesla coil, and the 2 ton light box. Back injuries and hernias can really ruin your day.
Sharp Objects – People bleeding on things is of public concern these days. Watch out for demonstrations with knives, nails, needles, sharp edges or corner and (potentially) broken glassware. If you plan on using the bed-of-nails, you may want to see that you are up-to-date on tetanus shots.
Toxicity – This mainly deals with the control and disposal of chemical/biological waste. Use a balloon or portable hood to trap gases that we don’t want to release into the air (like NH3). All aqueous, non-toxic waste is to be contained and returned to campus for disposal into the drain. Heavy metals and other toxic waste must be put into properly labeled containers for disposal by ORCBS. Remember to wear safety glasses/goggles for all demos involving chemicals. All demos involving chemicals should have an eye wash kit and a spill kit.
Extreme Temperature – Cold stuff (LN2, endothermic reactions, dry ice) and hot stuff (exothermic reactions, open flame, torch, burning items). Generally need the blast shield, safety glasses and gloves. Never use propane torch or LN2 in close proximity to anyone and never point it in the direction of anyone’s face. Note that gloves are for handling containers of hot/cold material, and they DO NOT PROTECT YOU FROM DIRECT EXPOSURE! Make sure audience members stay back or wear safety gear if it is appropriate for them to be close to the demo. Beware of sprinkler systems!
Electricity – Large voltage differences (Van de Graaff generator, Tesla coil) or cut or bare wires. If you need to make adjustments on equipment that runs on electricity, turn it off and unplug it first. One note, never point at the Van de Graaff generator when it’s on, you’ll get shocked and possibly shocked badly. When the Van de Graaff generator is running, be alert to touching the spheres together if someone reaches for the charged sphere. The Tesla coil is only to be used after special training, and to be used at your own risk.
Hidden Dangers – Some demos can cause bad reactions in some people. Namely, the strobe light can cause someone with epilepsy to go into a seizure, the Tesla coil may wreck havoc on a pacemaker, people with severe respiratory problems may have adverse reactions to some chemical gas products, and the noise level of some demonstrations can not only scare some people, but cause them to hurt themselves by improperly ‘covering’ their ears. When doing these demos, IT IS IMPERATIVE TO WARN THE AUDIENCE BEFOREHAND.