Honolulu Emergency Services Department recently received a terrifying call. A teaching assistant accidentally served Pine-Sol cleaning fluid instead of apple juice to children.
EMS examined three girls between the ages of 4 and 5. Luckily, none of the children became ill, and none of the girls experienced trauma or sickness.
What Went Wrong?
“The classroom assistant who unintentionally poured the Pine-Sol had prepared snacks of crackers and juice as the classroom teacher attended to children at the restroom.” The assistant then “picked up the container of yellow-brown liquid off a clean-up cart in the kitchen and poured it into cups.”
The Pine-Sol was in its original container, with the label secured. There were no other food items on the cart because “food was labeled and stored in kitchen cabinets.”
The school said, “Only sips were taken before the lead teacher realized the liquid was not apple juice.” She then called EMS and the police. Parents were also immediately notified of the incident.
In a letter sent home to parents, the school called the incident unfortunate. But, if proper safety protocols were in place, this incident never would have happened.
Andrea Ganote, a parent, said “[I’m] stunned. Absolutely stunned. My first reaction is wondering why they would store the two in the same part of the building.”
How Schools Should Prepare for Poison Incidents
It only takes a second for a busy teacher or teaching assistant to make a mistake. The teaching assistant didn’t realize she was reaching for a deadly liquid. But, cleaning solution should never be in the same area as food and beverages.
“The preschool said it would evaluate its process for obtaining snacks and refreshments to prevent any chance of this happening again. Staff will also undergo additional training.”
Cleaning Products and Food Safety Protocols:
To prevent such human error from occurring, schools should have safety protocols in place, with procedures posted for all to see. Such protocols include:
· Label all food, drinks, and cleaning supplies.
· Never place hazardous cleaning products in a high volume area, such as the kitchen or the classroom.
· Never place cleaning products in unlocked cabinets, especially cabinets that store food and juice.
· Cleaning products should never be within a child’s reach.
· Never leave a bottle or container of cleaning supplies open and unattended.
· Only allow cleaning to take place before or after school.
· In the event of an accident: make sure all children leave the area where cleaning products will be used and call emergency support immediately.
· Immediately remove all cleaning products once the accident is cleaned up. Dispose of all paper towels and rags that touched cleaning products.
· Many states have policies encouraging “green cleaning,” and only purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning products in schools.
· Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers, including:
o National Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222
o The Nearest Hospital
o Local Ambulance Services
o Local Police
According to the Hawaii Health Department, a dozen people per year accidentally ingest Pine-Sol - half of them are children.
There’s no substitute for safety. The Institute For Childhood Preparedness focuses on preparedness and community resilience. Prepare for an active shooter situation by attending one of our upcoming events. If you don’t see an event in your area, contact us, and we’ll work with you to bring our workshop to your community!