Posted by: Green Knight | May 2, 2011

Teaching as a Subversive (and Life-Saving) Activity

This guy Taylor totally rocks!  Watch the video after you read this.  I know I’ve saved more than a few lives in over 20 years of teaching.  Do I get thank-you cards in the mail?  Naw.  But when I see the same faces at annual refresher class, with all their parts intact, I know I’m doing my job.  I often remind students that the mandatory and usually ignored hazard communication training everyone is supposed to receive under OSHA, on how to read labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for chemical products used on the job, can be equally applied to stuff at home, under the kitchen or bathroom sinks or in the garage.

Way too many people still mix chemicals at home and suffer the consequences.  NEVER mix bleach with other stuff.  But people think, “well, this stuff works pretty good, and this other stuff does too, so how ‘bout I mix ‘em together?”  Bleach + ammonia = chlorine gas.  WWI trench warfare stuff.  And yet I still encounter people who’ve done that, and had a nasty cough for a while.  Obviously I haven’t spoken with people who inadvertently killed themselves by such experimentation.

One of my favorite moments in teaching Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) was during an annual refresher class.  I was expounding upon how folks should read labels on household products before using them.  “Use with adequate ventilation.”  Or, “Do Not Use on Food Preparation Surfaces.”  I once heard an example from a guy whose wife saw a cockroach on the kitchen counter, sprayed Raid all over the place, and a half-hour later was chopping onions for dinner on that same surface.  YIKES!

Well, anyhoo, during the refresher, I used those examples to show that we have stuff at home that’s potentially as nasty as what you might encounter at work, and I asked, “how many of you bother to read the labels on products you use around the house?”  One guy’s hand rose in a class of about 30 people, and he said “I do now, Bob, ever since I took your initial class last year.”

YESSSSS!!!  I’m doin’ my job!  It’s gratifying to get little examples like that, because those people are sharing info with others.  Several years ago a friend and former student hired a crew that I taught out of my living room; he later told me that they were the most safety-conscious people he’d ever worked with.  Rock and roll!  Another living-room student called me once about a job that was flouting OSHA regs right and left, no hardhats or other PPE (personal protective equipment), no confined space entry permit, inadequate training, etc., and between the two of us we got that job shut down.  Probably saved a few lives on that one.

So I’m with Mr. Mali in his video.  Teachers DO make a friggin’ difference, at least the ones who have the calling and talent, and stick with it despite the low pay.  There’s also the classic Twilight Zone episode, “The Changing of the Guard” to look at.  Dean Stockwell as a child actor in the anti-nuclear film “The Boy with Green Hair” was an inspiration for THIS mad scientist as well.  Share knowledge, people, it isn’t meant to be hoarded.

P.S. the photo is of me from Halloween 2009. I need more lab assistants, sign up. Or just donate to the cat rescue ChipIn page mentioned a few posts ago.


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