Teacher injured in science-experiment blaze airlifted to hospital
A science teacher and the son of a colleague both sustained burns when an experiment in the school science lab involving a flammable substance went wrong.
The incident happened at the Hazeley Academy in Milton Keynes yesterday (30 November) – the day after the Government reconfirmed its support for the simplification of health and safety guidelines for schools.
The 35-year-old teacher’s injuries were so serious that she had to be airlifted to hospital, where she was reported today as being “comfortable”. The young boy – the child of another teacher, who took him into work because public-sector strike action meant his own school was closed – escaped with “minor, superficial injuries”, according to the Academy, and was discharged from hospital the same day.
Hazeley Academy was closed yesterday to years 7 to 11 because of the strike action but remained open to years 12 and 13, and around three-quarters of its staff were in the building. The science teacher was in a prep room rehearsing what the Academy described as “a routine, tried-and-tested demonstration involving a flammable substance” when some of her clothing ignited.
It added that no Academy students were present or involved, and staff – including the Academy’s registered nurse – were quickly on the scene. Crews from four Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue stations attended the blaze, along with Thames Valley Police, the ambulance service and the air ambulance.
The day before the incident, the Government issued its response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s report on what schools need to do to overcome the perceived and real barriers to providing practicals and fieldwork opportunities for science pupils.
It agreed with the report’s conclusion that health and safety concerns and the amount of paperwork involved in planning practicals and excursions could be a deterrent to undertaking them, and highlighted simplified guidance, published by the Department for Education this summer, aimed at addressing the problem.
The GMB union, which represents school-support staff, reacted angrily to the incident, saying the approach to both health and safety and the public-sector strikes by Prime Minister David Cameron – who, last week, said people should be allowed to take their children to work if they were not striking – was “glib, complacent and out of touch with the real world”.
GMB organiser Richard O’Leary, who represents the support staff on strike at the Academy yesterday, said: “Health and safety in any workplace is a very serious issue, and accidents with serious consequences can happen at any time, unless proper risk assessments are done and the necessary safety procedures are adhered to. This applies in a school as much as any workplace, as this unfortunate incident shows.”
The HSE is investigating the incident.
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