General Lab Safety Recommendations

  1. blahAlways perform an experiment or demonstration prior to allowing students to replicate the activity. Look for possible hazards. Alert students to potential dangers.
  2. Safety instructions should be given orally and be posted each time an experiment is begun.
  3. Constant surveillance and supervision of student activities are essential.
  4. Never eat or drink in the laboratory or from laboratory equipment. Keep personal items off the lab tables.
  5. Never use mouth suction in filling pipettes with chemical reagents. Use a suction bulb.
  6. Never force glass tubing into rubber stoppers.
  7. A bucket of 90% sand and 10% vermiculite, or kitty litter (dried bentonite particles) should be kept in all rooms in which chemicals are either handled or stored. The bucket must be properly labeled and have a lid that prevents other debris     from  contaminating the contents.
  8. Smoke, carbon monoxide, and heat detectors are recommended in every laboratory. Units should be placed in the laboratory and related areas (storerooms, preparation rooms, closets, and offices).
  9. Use heat-safety items such as safety tongs, mittens, aprons, and rubber gloves for both cryogenic and very hot materials
  10. A positive student attitude toward safety is imperative. Students should not fear doing experiments, using reagents, or equipment, but should respect them for potential hazards. Students should read the lab materials in advance noting all cautions (written and oral).
  11. Teachers must set good safety examples when conducting demonstrations and experiments. They should model good lab safety techniques such as wearing aprons and goggles.
  12. Rough play or mischief should not be permitted in science classrooms or labs.
  13. Never assume that an experiment is free from safety hazards just because it is in print.
  14. Closed-toed shoes are required for labs involving liquids, heated or heavy items that may injure the feet.
  15. Confine long hair and loose clothing. Laboratory aprons should be worn.
  16. Students should avoid transferring chemicals they have handled to their faces.
  17. Never conduct experiments in the laboratory alone or perform unauthorized experiments.
  18. Use safety shields or screens whenever there is potential danger that an explosion or implosion of an apparatus might occur.
  19. Proper eye protection devices must be worn by all persons engaged in supervising, or observing science activities involving potential hazards to the eye.
  20. Make certain all hot plates and burners are turned off when leaving the laboratory.
  21. Frequent inspection of the laboratory's electrical, gas, and water systems should be conducted by school staff.
  22. Install ground fault circuit interrupters at all electrical outlets in science laboratories
  23. A single shut-off for gas, electricity, and water should be installed in the science laboratory. It is especially important that schools in the earthquake zones to have such a switch.
  24. MSDS sheets must be maintained on all school chemicals. Schools should maintain an inventory of all science equipment.
  25. Laboratories should contain safety equipment appropriate to their use such as emergency shower, eye-wash station (15 minutes of potable water that operates hands free), fume hood, protective aprons, fire blankets, fire extinguisher, and safety goggles for all students and teacher(s).
  26. Protective (rubber or latex) gloves should be provided when students dissect laboratory specimens.
  27. New laboratories should have two unobstructed exits. Consider adding another to old labs if only one exit exists.
  28. There should be frequent laboratory inspections and an annual, verified safety check of each laboratory should be conducted by school staff.
  29. Give consideration to the National Science Teachers Association's recommendation to limit science classes to 24 students or less for safety.
  30. All work surfaces and equipment in the chemical or biological laboratory should be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
  31. Students should properly note odors or fumes with a wafting motion of the hand.
  32. Chemistry laboratories should be equipped with functional fume hoods. Fume hoods should be available for activities involving flammable and/or toxic substances.
  33. The several chemical authorities believe that contact lenses do not pose additional hazards to the wearer and that contact lenses are allowed when appropriate eye and face protection are used. The wearing of contact lenses in the science laboratory has been a concern because of possibility of chemicals becoming trapped between the lenses and the eye in the event of a chemical splash.  Check with your state science supervisor for your state's recommendation.
  34. All laboratory animals should be protected and treated humanely.
  35. Students should understand that many plants, both domestic and wild, have poisonous parts and should be handled with care.

Criteria for scheduling special needs students into laboratory classes should be established by a team of counselors, science teachers, special education teachers, and school administrators. Aides or special equipment should be made available to the science teacher.