Safety has to be top priority. One of the main missions of science instruction is to increase understanding about the world so one might live more successfully within the confines provided by that world. Many aspects of the world are hazards for our lives. So one of the main goals of this web site is to help you understand the hazards of the world and to live more successfully despite those hazards.
If this general statement seems a bit vague, let the following two examples help:
A couple years ago a local high school student was driving a truck loaded with friends down a nearby dirt mountain road. He had little understanding of mass and the derived physics concepts of momentum, potential energy, and kinetic energy. While his speed was acceptable for driving the truck empty, he did not understand how the mass of the load of friends changed the situation. His braking down the mountain did not decelerate as much as he desired. He was unable to follow the road's sharp curve at the foot of the hill. Two of his friends tragically lost their lives. Had he a better understanding of physics, all would be alive today.
Nearly every day our local news media reports another person tragically drown. Water is essential to life. Yet this most crucial chemical, like all others can cause death. We live in a world of chemical substances. Our own bodies are composed of chemicals. To live successfully in this world, we must understand its chemicals and how to live with their hazards!
A word about the function in science of general statements and concrete examples. Scientists always prefer to use general statements because general statements have broad application to many situations you might encounter in life. That is, they can be useful for you. They can often be tested by experimentation or at least prediction and further observation to determine if they are valid or false. Scientists often shy away from examples of specific incidences because they are a single cases which generally have no direct connection to future situations you might encounter. That is, specific examples are generally NOT directly useful. They generally have no inherent means of being tested by experimentation. Examples don't make any prediction about further observations. Often it may even be hard or impossible to know if a case actually occurred or was merely figments of imagination. So scientists tend to make general statements that can be tested and verified valid rather than citing examples.
Despite the shortcomings of examples, people much prefer examples to generalizations. We all enjoy stories. Movies, television, newspapers, individual gossip, and perhaps nearly all human communication are filled with examples. They rarely contain generalizations. Perhaps this is because science is at most a couple thousand years old. And while science and the resulting technology have revolutionizing our society and our individual lives, brains which evolve far slower, are still
wired for the life in caves and the temporary shelters of nomadic life.
If science is new to you, it will take time to get used to the extensive use of generalized statements. Examples will continue to help when generalized statements may be so vague that no meaning is apparent. But be cautioned, reading one example that fits a generalization may mislead you to forget that the generalization usually includes many other diverse examples. So it is always better to learn generalizations than examples.
The best way to learn to work with hazards is to practice with those hazards! One of the tools for working with hazards is a document of generalizations known as a chemical hygiene plan.
Industries, schools, and other institutions are all required to have chemical hygiene plans for obtaining chemical substances, their storage, use, eventual disposal, and planned responses for spills and accidents. You probably don't have a chemical hygiene plan for your home because it is not required by current law. But such a home plan would be of value for making your future more safe. Since our goal is to learn to work with hazards, adopting and using a chemical hygiene plan would be the most appropriate first step.
Everyone should know the chemical hygiene plan so they do everything safely and are prepared for when things go wrong! You could write your own home plan or use the one that follows. The original was developed by a committee of the American Chemical society as a model for universities. This author first modified it for a high school and here modifies it for doing experiments at home. READ IT. KNOW IT. FOLLOW IT!
Safety considerations were not as formalized for earlier scientists, but then injuries and deaths were more common. While you may not have imagined that safety would be first web lesson, recognize that safety likely will be first task when you study at a school or get a job. What you learn about chemical hygiene now will help prepare you for later, even if those chemical hygiene plans are more elaborate.Let's read sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Home Chemical Hygiene Plan.