This study outlays different individual’s conception of science. Closely rated to science is technology. Technology refers to practical solutions human have fashioned out in response to their needs or in attempts to solve problems requiring the modification of the environment.
This study covers the safety practices which must be carried out in laboratories. The primary aim of the study was to evaluate the extent to which the safety practice are being implemented in the secondary schools biology laboratories in Enugu South Local Government Area. To do this, question were based on how appropriate the types of design and fittings in the biology labs ensures safety, the extent to which the students/teachers comprehend the safety measures and practices. The review of literature was organized under the following sub heading, viz: The concept of laboratory hazard, lab organization and management as a factor, safety stated, learning environment of Nigeria science laboratories, managing the biology laboratory, material resources for safety in science laboratory, material resources for safety in science laboratory and teachers role in maintaining safety in the laboratory. The study remarkably revealed that the biology laboratories lack safety equipments, consequently leading to low implementation of safety measures and practices. The services of the laboratory attendants to ensure safety measures only to a small extent. Therefore experienced laboratory attendants are to be employed so that they will provide the basic safety information to every laboratory receives, particularly when there are enough windows and doors. This was confirmed by Ajayi (2004) when stated that where accidents occur there is a general observation for poor quality illumination. The findings of the study indicate a major flaw in our educational system as it relates to the use of safety materials in the laboratories and implementation of safety practices in the lab. stated that the problem of education may be subsumed under teaching and learning, therefore I will conclude by saying that teachers who are viewed as catalysts that excite learning should play their roles in helping to ensure that their students have the knowledge of safety practices and also implement them.
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY:
Individuals have different conception of what science is, some see science as a body of knowledge while some see it not only as a composite of codified body of knowledge but also a knowledge getting process.
Clark and Neave (1992) defined science as a systematic observation and classification of natural phenomena in order to learn about them and bring them under general principles and laws. Okeke (2007) defined science as a systematic process of obtaining testable/verifiable knowledge about nature and natural occurrences, utilizing careful observation and experimentation. This definition emphasized the process and product nature of science as an organized body of knowledge which describes and attempts to explain some part of the natural world in a systematic manner. Okigbo (1976) regards science as a human activity more or less synonymous with research and constitute an integral part of modern way of life in which research is the daily task by specialized individual alone or in groups usually in laboratories.
The Hawkins (1998) provided a definition of science that is most credible as it emphasized the dual nature of science: “science is a cumulative and endless series of empirical observations which results in the formulation of concepts, laws and theories with both laws and theories being subjected to further knowledge and the process of acquiring and refining knowledge”.
The above definitions of science indicates that science is a study, it is systematic, it is a process of investigation, it is anchored on verifiable knowledge, experimentation as tools. Science is activity oriented, it involves a lot of activities like research, discovering, invention, experimentation, exploration, hypothesizing etc.
Closely rated to science is technology. Technology refers to practical solutions human have fashioned out in response to their needs or in attempts to solve problems requiring the modification of the environment (Okeke, 2007).
- Macleod (1980) in a UNESCO document defined technology as the knowhow and the Creative process that may utilize tools, resources, and systems to solves problems to enhance control over the natural and manmade environment in an endeavour to improve the human condition.
- Technology includes, therefore the productions and utilization of tools, devices, machines-whether traditional or modern that improve deficiency of labour.
Science and technology have come to be regarded as inseparable twins. Science provides the principles on which most technological advancements rests and similarly technological problems propel scientists into scientific discoveries. Science and technology both developed as human endeavour seeking to understand nature, predict nature and solve human problems (Okeke, 2007).
Biology is a science that is concerned with life processes in almost all Nigeria secondary schools, biology is taught as a subject. Biology as a subject for study encompasses all the biological science and it represents an approach that recognizes that all at living organisms share certain chemical, molecular and structural features, interact in the natural world according to well defined principles, and follow the same rules with regard to inheritance and evaluation (Clark and Neave, 1992). Biology leads to proper understanding of the world around us, including its infinite natural resources. This is necessary for the realization of a healthy, productive and happy life which should be the ultimate aim of education. Generally biology is divided into two main branches of study which are; Botany (plant science) and Zoology (concerned with the study of animals).
The study of biology should be accomplished with practical activities as its forms the background to the study of a good number of applied science such as Medicine, Agriculture, Pharmacy, Nursing, Home science and Food technology. The emphasis is that the scientific process of hypothesizing, observing, testing, retesting, researching, summarizing and concluding is the most fruitful method of teaching biology. Most of these mentioned activities are being carried out in the laboratory. In the works done by Ali (1981, 1983), it was clearly demonstrated that process skills in science and scientific inquiring skills are better fostered through laboratory teaching methods than any other method of teaching science. The interests and learning that results from experimentation type of teaching is superior to and for more exciting than any of the formal method of teaching science (Ali, 1988) practical demonstrations help to enhance concepts acquisition in pupils and in the long run help to reduce the degree of abstraction usually ascribes to the science (Achunine, 1998) the laboratory thus becomes an important educational medium of disseminating scientific knowledge.
A laboratory is often seen as a place where experiments in science are carried out with chemicals, specimens, materials and equipment (Ali, 1998) the laboratory offers the most appropriate environment for carrying out activities which enable learners to acquire the science process skills. A laboratory could be a room or a building set aside for scientific investigations.
The biology laboratory is a room or a building in a school, college, etc where the practical side of biology is taught. It is usually a place set apart for conducting practical activities in biology. The central role of laboratory instructions as identified by Voss (1982) is to provide illustrations of some basic principles and to teach the students the application of the principles so acquired. The importance of practical in biology and in science and technology generally cannot be over emphasized (Ajayi, 2004). A high quality biology laboratory programme enables students (especially biology students in secondary schools) to develop good judgments, self reliance, critical thinking, technical, analytical as well as manipulative skills through personal contact with apparatus and materials.
Clark and Neave (1992), reported that laboratories are potentially “Dangerous” places and only constant vigilance and efficient working techniques by all those using them can ensure that accidents do not occur. A laboratory needs to be well organized so that a climate for investigating scientific concepts will exists. Such a climate ensures that the laboratory is safe for those using it according to Bryd, any curriculum established on the needs of the child must inevitably give attention to the field of safety or be guilty of neglecting learning experiences of the greatest possible significant. Sine laboratories environment is for man, accidents and injuries are bounds to occur. Therefore the teacher in any science laboratory is responsibly committed to teaching his students how to handle chemicals and materials, so as to bring about reactions and /or results in a safe manner.
The emphasis in safety practice should be upon practical ways of preserving life. According to Bryd (1994) few accidents in the laboratory can be attributed to carelessness, chance account for 85 percent of much injuries and fatalities, most of the accidents, hazards, injuries that occurs in our secondary schools biology laboratory results from:
- Inadequate knowledge of safety rules.
- Insufficient skill where in persons attempt what is beyond their ability level.
- Improper attitudes of carelessness.
The students when using the laboratory has the obligation to protest himself and others, the teachers on their own part have to inculcate safety knowledge and practices into their students so that they can develop a philosophy of safety that emphasizes positive rather than negative habits. Safety practices can be explained to mean the process of averting danger. According to the advance learner dictionary, safety is freedom from danger or risk. The importance of safety measures in every activities of an individual cannot be over emphasized (Homby, 1992) Osborne (1988), maintained that most laboratory hazard can be reduced to a minimum occurrence by good value judgment, careful manipulation of laboratory apparatus, adequate supervision and most of all the knowledge of the safety practices and their application. It is obvious that anyone who is not safety conscious stands the greatest risk of turning a minor hazard into an accident which could be fatal. Also there is the need for safety facilities like fume cupboards, eye goggles, fire extinguishers sinks, waste containers, first aids boxes and so forth, to be provided in the biology laboratory as their absence may create healthy hazard. Though it is not enough to proved these safety equipments, active supervision of the students during laboratory activities is necessary.
Safety practices according to Bryd (1994) means.
- Development habits which will prevent accidents.
- Developing habits which will lead to happier healthier living.
Appropriate safety practices can reduce tremendously the rate of accidents and hence guarantee the safety of lives. A standard laboratory should have certain specified safety rules and regulations as well as safety materials and equipment to the students before allowing them to work in the laboratory and their implementation should be ensured.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
As the world is scientifically developing, the learning of biology becomes a more challenging and rewarding task. The provision of a functional laboratory is one of the major keys to successful learning of biology.
Since the inclusion of laboratory experience in the teaching and learning biology, the question of safety of both staff and students during practical work has been a very crucial one.
Laboratories have been sited in some Nigerian secondary schools without safety considerations as an over-riding factor in the design and construction (Abdulahi, 1979), poor safety practices in the laboratories have led to accidents such as glass breaking, skin contact with specimens and chemicals injury fire outbreaks and even death.
Therefore it becomes necessary to ask, to what extent are laboratory users aware of the safety standards and practices and to what extents are they being implemented for the effective teaching and learning of biology in secondary schools.
1.2 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to identify the extent to which laboratory safety practices are being implemented in secondary school biology laboratories.
Specifically, the study intends to find out:
- The general design and fittings of biology laboratories relevant to safety.
- The extent of availability of safety equipment and materials in biology laboratories.
- The extent to which the services of laboratory assistants are employed to ensure safety.
- The extent to which the students comprehend the safety practices and knowledge and the extent to which they implement them.
1.3 Significance of the Study
- The science teachers.
The findings will make a great input in many ways, will also help the government to realize the urgent need to provide basic infrastructural materials and equipments in our schools, both in primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, the tertiary institutions will also review the nature of programmes to include enough laboratory instructions so as to prepare adequately the student teacher. This will enable them acquire safety practices and be able to transfer what they have learnt to their student.
The findings will enable the employers of laboratory assistant to be better minimize the current practice of drafting clerical assistants, typists and cleaners to work in the laboratory.
Furthermore the science teacher stand to gain from knowing the degree of safety practices existing in their laboratories among their students and laboratory assistants. This will enable them inculcate more effectively safety practices in their student. The findings of the study will also enable the biology teachers understand that the frequently accidents and poor performance in senior secondary school science subjects.
1.4 Scope of the Study
The researcher has limited the investigation to secondary school biology laboratories and safety precautions taken.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions have been formulated to guide the study.
- To what extent do the type of design and fitting in the biology laboratory appropriate to ensure safety.
- To what extent are safety equipments available in the biology laboratory?
- To what extent are the services of laboratory assistants employed to ensure safety during laboratory instruction?
- To what extent do secondary school biology students apply safety practices during practical sessions?