KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Fire and Rescue Department is willing to teach school teachers and students the proper way to handle thermometers following a recent spike in the cases of spillage.
Its assistant director of operations Misran Bisara said it had been responding to a number of calls about mercury spills due to broken thermometers in school science laboratories.
“There is a potential hazard risk, especially if students or teachers were to come in contact with mercury. We cannot discount the possible risks, although it is just a spill from a broken thermometer,” he said in an interview.
Advising school administrators to always be alert and careful when conducting activities requiring the use of thermometers, he said it was vital for teachers to take extra precautions.
“It is better to improve the safety measures and standard operating procedures when handling such equipment.
“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,” he said.
The department, added Misran, could also share its experience and show students what to do in cases of spillage.
Since August, the state has recorded six cases of mercury spills from broken thermometers in schools.
The schools are SMK Peter Mojuntin, Penampang; SMK Perempuan Sandakan; SMK St Mary Papar; SMK Jambatan Putih, Tawau; SMK Bukit Garam 2, Kinabatangan; and SMK Kota Klias, Beaufort.
Luckily, no serious injuries were reported.
In the latest incident on Wednesday, three students from SMK Peter Mojuntin were rushed to the hospital after coming into contact with mercury that spilled from a broken thermometer.
During the incident, firemen poured sulphur powder on the spilt mercury to neutralise it before bagging the residue.
Inhaling high levels of mercury vapour can cause coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Misran said both the Education and Fire and Rescue Departments could work together to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Earlier, state Education Department director Datuk Tah Niah Jaman said it was investigating why these incidents were happening and hoped to come up with better preventive measures to be implemented in schools.