Central Okanagan science teacher creates explosive situation; loses license for three days | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Central Okanagan science teacher creates explosive situation; loses license for three days

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For a science project that went up in flames and caused nearly $60,000 in damage to a Central Okanagan high school, a local teacher had his license suspended for three days.

Allan David Penner has been a teacher since 1992 and on Feb. 16, 2018 he made a chemical volcano for his Grade 9 science class involving the decomposition process of ammonium dichromate, according to a B.C. Commission for Teacher Regulation decision posted today, June 16.

“District science teachers are expected to be familiar with Material Safety Data Sheets prior to using chemicals,” reads the decision.

“They are also required to follow instruction and safe work procedures on workplace hazardous materials information system label."

Before conducting the demonstration, however, Penner failed to review or follow specifications outlined for the safe handling of ammonium dichromate and chromium oxide.

As such, the longtime teacher made a number of blunders that were contrary to safety guidelines. Among them, he did not wear safety glasses or goggles, did not wear a lab coat and the ventilation system was not up to snuff, which put him and the students at risk of exposure to chemicals.

When disposing of the chemicals used in the experiment he made the worst mistake of all.

Penner used water to wet down the residue, wrapped it in paper towels and threw it in the garbage can in the classroom.

“In doing so, Penner did not consider the possibility that the residue contained unreduced amounts of an oxidizing chemical which was not sufficiently cooled down and which created a fire hazard when thrown in the garbage can,” reads the decision.

“The residue reacted with garbage in the can and several hours later it started a fire which cost $59,655.99 in damage.”

On Sept. 25, 2018, the district issued Penner a letter of discipline and suspended him without pay for 10 days. In addition, he was transferred to a different school in the district.

The matter made it to the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation around that time too, and an agreement was reached May 20 and made public today.

Penner agreed his actions constituted professional misconduct and agreed to a three-day suspension of his teaching certificate.

The Commissioner said he failed to maintain currency on the handling of harmful substances and created an unsafe environment by failing to follow appropriate guidelines.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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