Materials Education Symposia - Home

International 2017 Materials Education Symposium

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A sweeter way of teaching health and safety

Dr Joanna Bates | University of Sheffield

A sweeter way of teaching health and safety

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Hands-on experimental work promotes learning as it provides students with an opportunity to put the theory they have been taught into practice. Undertaking the practical work can include many hazards, each with an associated risk, whilst some are relatively minor others can be significant. Students will encounter these while they are working in the laboratory and, therefore, adequate instruction and training is required before students can carry out any of the work. Student engagement in the past with this process has been difficult due to the dryness of the material and the impatience of wanting to jump in and "get their hands dirty". Here we show how every students sweet tooth can be used to provide a starting point for them to engage with risk assessment, experimental design and to embed health and safety as part of their scientific culture In our "Danger-lab" we ask students to risk assess measuring the toughness of chocolate using a mini-Charpy impact tester. The danger in increased by asking the students to also dip the chocolate into liquid nitrogen then break, in order to observe the ductile to brittle transition. Once completed, students modify a basic experimental protocol and the following this do the experiment themselves. We have found that students have an increased awareness of hazards in a laboratory, a better understanding as to how to evaluate the risks associated with practical work and the process of putting control measures in place.