Science Education Safety

Key Issues in School Laboratory Safety

Students and teachers must be aware of the potential for safety problems in the science classrooms and laboratories. Schools should review available safety resources and develop safety training for their teachers and students as well as safety rules for the classroom.

Teachers must choose safe labs that cover important concepts. Thought must be given to the chemicals purchased by schools. Which chemicals are the safest for the proposed labs, how much is needed, where will the chemicals be stored and in what arrangement? Are the storage areas locked and well ventilated?

Schools needing to dispose of unwanted or unknown (no label) chemicals should contact their state science education supervisor, state ecology agency or regional EPA office. Teachers or school officials should be prepared to give the name or description of the chemical, amount, type of container, nearest landfill and local sewage system.

Some state education agencies have worked with their state pollution control agencies and have used polluter fines to conduct state wide school chemical clean-ups in their states. Where this can not be done, local schools should band together to engage in regional chemical clean-ups to conserve costs.
Scientific equipment must be maintained. Written lab instructions must be clear and safety rules emphasized in these instructions.

Most states have regulations on fume hoods, whole-room ventilation, chemical storage, eyewash, safety showers, eyeware, aprons, gloves, fire blankets, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers in science classrooms. Schools should check with their state science supervisor for regulations, laws, and liabilities.