Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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Suralco lab personnel removing trash from a high school lab


Suriname - 2009

Suralco Helps Suriname Schools Improve Chemical Lab Safety


The chemical lab facilities at five high schools in Suriname are now safer and better equipped due to environment, health, and safety audits and training provided by Alcoa’s Suriname Aluminum Company (Suralco) and funding from Alcoa Foundation.

Corroded chlorine gas cylinders in a storage facility at the Natin High School prompted the Mr. J.C. de Miranda Lyceum High School to take preventive measures and request an EHS audit of the school’s chemical lab facilities by Suralco’s laboratory personnel.

“The main hazard was a leaking gas cylinder that was next to a burner,” said Reina Ramautar, a teacher at Miranda Lyceum. “In addition, the acid cabinet did not work at all, chemicals were not properly arranged, and furniture needed to be replaced. We had one teacher get chlorine gas in her lungs, and I got sulfur in my eyes.”

Suralco lab personnel conducted EHS audits of the chemical lab at Miranda Lyceum and four other high schools. Many of the labs were set up with limited funds, and their usage could not be optimized due to lack of equipment. This resulted in less classroom sessions than planned.

The Suralco audits found many unsafe conditions, including lack of proper personal protective equipment, no fire extinguishers, inadequate safety devices like showers and fume hoods, and unsafe handling and storage procedures. Awareness was also low regarding the use of material safety data sheets for the proper handling, storage, and disposal of chemicals. In addition, some labs were storing very hazardous materials that are not used today because of less hazardous alternatives.

Each high school received a report on the results of its individual audit, along with advice on how to improve environment, health, and safety performance. The latter included changing the curriculum and using more basic analytical equipment to reduce or eliminate the need for many chemicals.

Based on the results of the audits, Suralco lab personnel saw an opportunity to increase awareness of safe lab practices among teachers. Suralco arranged a site visit to its own lab for 21 teachers, and the five-hour session included a Suralco-developed training program on the following:

  • Safe working areas;
  • Safe working methods (handling procedures);
  • Hazard awareness;
  • Inventory and storage;
  • Labeling;
  • Material safety data sheets; and
  • Emergency response.

Suralco lab personnel also volunteered with the teachers to implement Alcoa’s 5S housekeeping philosophy at one of the high schools to attain and retain an orderly workplace. In addition, the Suralco employees established contact with Alcoa Foundation to identify grant opportunities for equipment and other materials that would make the labs safer and more up-to-date. At the end of 2008, the foundation had provided grants totaling US$80,000 to four of the schools.

“Our room has undergone renovation due to an Alcoa Foundation grant,” said Ramautar. “Suralco’s work has had a great impact on my teaching, and we are using the safety training we received at the school.”