Mercury spills: Sabah Bomba keen to help schools with proper handling of thermometers

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Fire and Rescue Department officials are willing to help schools understand the proper handling of thermometers and how to deal with accidental mercury spills.

Assistant director of operations Misran Bisara said they have been responding to quite a number of calls on mercury spills due to broken thermometers in school science laboratories of late.

“There is a potential hazard especially if students or teachers come in contact with the mercury. We cannot discount the risks although it is just a spill from a broken thermometer,” he said when contacted.

ALSO READ: Mystery of the mercury spills

In advising school administrators to always be alert and careful when conducting activities that require the use of thermometers, he said it was vital that teachers take extra precautions when dealing with such instruments.

“It is better to improve the safety measures and standard operating procedures for handling them.

“We are more than willing to assist by either conducting courses or basic training and teaching both teachers and students how to properly handle thermometers,” Misran said.

He said the department would also share their experience and show students how to act when there is a mercury spill.

ALSO READ: Three students sent to hospital after mercury spill in Penampang school

Misran said both the Education and Fire and Rescue Departments can work together to prevent such accidents in schools.

The state recorded six cases of mercury spills from broken thermometers in schools around Sabah since August. Luckily, no serious injuries were reported.

The schools involved were SMK Peter Mojuntin Penampang (Oct 5), SMK Perempuan Sandakan (Sept 30), SMK St Mary Papar (Sept 26), SMK Jambatan Putih Tawau (Sept 14), SMK Bukit Garam 2, Kinabatangan (Aug 12) and SMK Kota Klias, Beaufort (Aug 11).

State Education Department director Datuk Tah Niah Jaman had earlier said they were investigating why these accidents happened in an effort to come up with better preventive measures.

Exposure to high levels of mercury vapour through inhalation can cause cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

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