Hands-on Activity: Engineering Safety

Contributed by: NSF CAREER Award, School of Teacher Education and Leadership, Utah State University

Two men in pants, t-shirts, hardhats and gloves use their hands to work on a large device; they are fixing a generator at a power plant.
It’s important to be safe at work.
copyright
Copyright © 2013 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electricians_at_Wolf_Creek_Power_Plant_complete_fix_on_a_differential_%2810019330364%29.jpg

Summary

Students are introduced to safety protocols by evaluating unsafe situations, sharing their ideas with their peers, developing a list of recommended safety protocols as a class, and finally, by comparing the class list to a standard list of safety rules. This activity seeks to demonstrate the importance of safety engineering and illustrate how it helps to prevent injuries and save lives. A PowerPoint® presentation, pre/post quiz and student handout are provided.

Engineering Connection

Safety engineers develop procedures, systems, products and regulations to keep people safe at their workplaces. They influence lives on a daily basis by preventing construction workers from falling, keeping hospital workers from contracting infectious diseases, preventing office workers from developing compressed nerves while working on computers, and more. Engineers’ safety rules apply to school labs and workshops as well. For instance, technology and engineering (TE) students must learn procedures associated with lab safety before they may use the machinery and equipment in TE labs. This activity teaches students vital safety rules in order to be successful and safe in engineering labs. This activity also teaches students to analyze and evaluate existing systems and procedures—skills that are central to engineering.

Pre-Req Knowledge

This activity is designed as an introductory exercise. No prior knowledge is necessary.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Safely learn in a classroom that doubles as an engineering or “shop” workspace.
  • Safely interact with classroom tools.
  • Create a “safety culture” in which they work towards preserving their own safety and the safety of their classmates.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • The use of technology affects humans in various ways, including their safety, comfort, choices, and attitudes about technology's development and use. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

To share with the entire class:

  • markers
  • whiteboard or poster-sized piece of butcher paper
  • tape or push pins, to hang the posters
  • computer and projector to show the class the Safety Engineers Presentation, a PowerPoint® file

Introduction/Motivation

Have you ever been injured? Or have you ever witnessed an injury? Have you or your parents ever been injured at the workplace? Think back and consider the circumstances. Could anything have been done to prevent the injury? If you could go back in time, could somebody have done something differently to prevent the injury? By considering these changes, you are already thinking like a safety engineer!

Safety engineers develop procedures, systems, products and regulations for keeping people safe. If you think about it, every job runs the risk of different types of injuries. An office worker who sits at a desk and works on a computer all day may compress his nerves if his body posture is incorrect, and a nurse might catch an infectious disease from a patient and injure her back while trying to help a patient move off of a bed. The list of possible workplace injuries is very long, and it includes the types of injuries that you just mentioned that you and your families have experienced.

A photograph shows a woman wearing a hard hat and wrapped sun glasses at a construction site with a crane in the background.
Hard hats and eye protection are often worn while working in the field and on construction sites.
copyright
Copyright © 2000 Seattle Municipal Archives, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/2701866516 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Safety engineers identify possible hazards and take steps to protect people from injuries. For instance, health and safety engineers have developed rules related to hand washing and clothing in order to keep nurses, other hospital workers and patients from being exposed to diseases. Safety engineers partner with other engineers to develop products that keep people safe as well. For instance, safety engineers and mechanical engineers have designed ergonomic keyboards to help prevent people from developing compressed nerves from typing, while safety engineers and mechanical engineers have designed lifts to help nurses safely move sick patients out of bed.

Many safety engineers also study accidents in order to prevent them from happening in the future. They also analyze procedures and equipment in order to keep people safe. As a young engineer, your first job is to analyze a lab and then develop some safety procedures to keep yourself and your classmates safe in the lab.

Vocabulary/Definitions

analyze: To study and consider carefully.

evaluate: To determine the significance of an idea.

lab: An informal term for a laboratory. A place where research and experimentation takes place.

prediction: An educated guess about a possible outcome.

procedure: A standard list of steps to follow in order to stay safe.

safety engineer: An engineer who designs systems and/or procedures that keep people safe.

Procedure

Before the Activity

With the Students

  1. Present to the class the Introduction/Motivation section.
  2. (Slide 1) Introduce students to the job of safety engineers: In kitchens, on construction sites, using building tools and machinery, and in all sorts of other situations—safety is a concern for health and safety engineers. This presentation will inform you about what safety engineers do, and prepare you to act as one in order to make your classroom a safer place to work.
  3. (Slide 2) Present examples of safety engineers: Safety engineers design rules and procedures for workers to follow in order to keep them safe. For instance, consider these welders. Their job working on this pipe can be very dangerous because they use flame in close proximity to gas. Safety engineers designed these rules to help them do their job safely: wear eye and clothing protection, and throw a spark into the pipe before welding to make sure no live gas is in the pipe.
  4. (Slide 3) Here is another example. Although this person is not working with open flames, as an industrial laundry worker in a hospital, he is also exposed to hazards when handling dirty laundry. The materials he comes into contact with every day might be contaminated by any number of biological agents. Safety engineers designed a few procedures to help keep this worker safe: wear glove and clothing protection that you leave in the workplace to avoid spreading any bacteria or viruses outside of the laundry
  5. Ask students: How many of you have ever had a family member or friend get injured at a workplace? As students share examples, list on the classroom board their examples of threats to safety.
  6. Distribute the handout. Read aloud the paragraph about safety engineers.
  7. (Slide 4) Direct students to analyze the seven pictures in the handout by circling anything that might be unsafe, dangerous or potentially lead to injuries.
  8. (Slide 5) Next, ask students to act as safety engineers by writing two rules or procedures for the lab where prompted on the handout (bottom of page 5). Then, ask them to write these same two rules on a poster board so that the entire class can see. Have students hang their poster boards somewhere in the room.
  9. Next, have students to turn to the “Technology Lab Safety Rules” section of the handout (page 6). Read aloud the list of rules as students follow along. As you read, have students put a check by each safety rule that they (or their classmates) came up with from looking at the handout pictures and circle the rules that they and their classmates did not come up with from examining the lab pictures.
  10. Afterward, praise students for coming up with (some of) the same rules as the safety engineers. Consider the differences between student safety recommendations and the safety rules on the list. Ensure that students understand the purpose for any rules that were new to them.
  11. (Slide 6) Finally, turn to the “Promoting Safety through Workplace Poster” section of the handout (page 7). Organize the class into groups of four students each. Assign each safety engineering team one of the hazards from the construction worker fatalities table and ask them to brainstorm ways workers could safely work around the hazard. Ask them to create a workplace poster to display in order to remind workers of good safety protocols. The slide shows one example of a workplace safety poster about cleaning chemicals. You may want to show students additional examples of workplace posters on the OSHA website listed in the Additional Multimedia Support section.
  12. (Slide 7) Hand out the rubric and go through it with students so they know the poster grading expectations. Later, use the rubric to evaluate teams’ workplace posters.
  13. Administer the assessment again to determine whether students improved in their understanding of lab safety rules.

Attachments

Investigating Questions

Today, you are going to be safety engineers. Safety engineers think of ways to keep people safe. What could you do to help keep people be safe at your school?

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Pre-Assessment: Before starting the activity, administer the 10-question multiple-choice Lab Safety Rules Assessment to determine what students already know about lab safety. Adjust the content presented accordingly. This is a pre/post quiz that will be given again at activity end.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Handout: The Health and Safety Engineering Handout guides students through the activity, including the examination of seven photographs to analyze unsafe procedures and practices. Review students’ circled items and answers to gauge their engagement and depth of comprehension.

Poster Rubric: Assign each team a different construction worker fatality from the table on the Health and Safety Engineering Handout and direct them to each create a workplace poster that provides appropriate safety rules and procedures. Use the Workplace Poster Rubric to evaluate students’ posters in order to gauge their understanding of the activity concepts and content.

Post-Activity Assessment

Post-Assessment: Administer the Lab Safety Rules Assessment again and compare pre/post scores to determine whether students improved in their understanding of lab safety rules.

Activity Extensions

Instead of using the pictures provided in the Health and Safety Engineering Handout, take photographs of your school’s lab equipment and ask students to develop safety rules and procedures specific to their lab spaces. You may want to modify the Health and Safety Engineering Handout to include the rules that are associated with your specific safety tests.

Have students analyze photographs of unsafe practices at various real-world workplaces and make recommendations for improving those workplaces. They could compare their recommendations to procedures established by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Assign students to research common workplace injuries or hazards, and the procedures that OSHA has established in order to protect people from those injuries.

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, provide students with more guidance. It may help to model for students how to analyze several pictures before having them work in pairs to analyze the pictures themselves.
  • For higher grades, encourage students to think of more than two safety rules. Spend more time critically evaluating the differences between student conceptions of safety and the “Safety Rules” list. Identify different ways in which safety engineers might keep people safe beyond the context of school laboratories.

Additional Multimedia Support

You may want to show students additional examples of workplace posters on the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.AthruZ?pType=Types&pID=5.

References

Haynie III, W. J. (2009). Safety and Liability in the New Technology Laboratory. Technology Teacher, 69(3), p 31-36. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ861083

Lazaros, Edward. J., and Shackelford, Ray. (2009). Safety Awareness: Empowering Students to Be Technologically Literate. Technology Teacher, 68(8), p 5-11. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ838913

Contributors

Amy Wilson-Lopez; Christina Sias

Copyright

© 2016 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2016 Utah State University

Supporting Program

NSF CAREER Award, School of Teacher Education and Leadership, Utah State University

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation CAREER award grant no. DRL 1552567 (Amy Wilson-Lopez) titled, Examining Factors that Foster Low-Income Latino Middle School Students' Engineering Design Thinking in Literacy-Infused Technology and Engineering Classrooms. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Last modified: May 4, 2017

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