As classes began this week at North Hollywood High School, the chairman of the science department denied allegations by school district safety inspectors that the school’s chemistry laboratory lacks important safety features.
The chairman, David Kukla, showed visitors that the laboratory is equipped with safety goggles and an emergency eyewash station, features that district safety inspectors had said were lacking.
Serious deficiencies were discovered in science laboratories at many high schools earlier this year when the Los Angeles Unified School District hired inspectors to check for dangerous chemicals and unsafe conditions in its 150 secondary schools, according to Susie Wong, principal safety officer for the district.
The Los Angeles school board recently appropriated $1.75 million for improvements to school labs, and the inspections were designed to determine which schools had the most problems, Wong said.
Goggles Were Sought
One of the features inspectors looked for was a plentiful supply of goggles for shielding against broken glass or splattered chemicals, Wong said. North Hollywood, Chatsworth, and Grover Cleveland were among more than a dozen high schools that reportedly lacked any usable goggles, according to the inspection reports.
The inspectors reported that North Hollywood High’s chemistry laboratory also lacked an eyewash station--a special sink to flush contaminants from students’ eyes.
Officials at Chatsworth and Grover Cleveland High Schools refused to comment on the findings. But Kukla interrupted the first honors chemistry class of the year at North Hollywood High to rebut some of the reports of deficiencies and to point out safety features in Room 202.
He opened two cabinets, disclosing several dozen sets of safety goggles. Green signs bearing the message “Wear Your Goggles” were prominently posted around the room.
A shower head on a retractable hose near a laboratory sink constituted an eyewash station, Kukla said. The fixture is used to flush chemicals from a student’s eyes if an accident occurs, he said, adding that the inconspicuous device could easily have been missed by inspectors.
“I consider it a personal responsibility to keep the kids safe,” Kukla said.
Wong said it is possible that inspectors overlooked some safety items because some of the inspections were conducted when no school personnel were around to point things out. She said no other schools had disputed the findings of unsafe conditions.