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January 2015 Science News

Keep Your Lab Running Smoothly and Safely with a Mid-Year Safety Checkup


18 Ways to Ensure Student Safety in Your Science Lab

As students head back to school for a new semester of learning, the science lab can be one of the most exciting and inspiring parts of their school day. Yet it can also be one of the most dangerous if proper safety guidelines and procedures are not followed.

Even the most well-protected science classrooms can benefit from regular safety reviews and new ways to ensure student safety at all times.

Check out this handy checklist, packed with helpful safety tools and resources to help you get your lab in shape, so your students can focus on science discovery while you focus on building science connections in your classroom – worry free!

  1. Ensure you have appropriate personal protective equipment required for lab activities. Frequently check them to make sure they are in good condition and replace any items that are worn out or no longer working.
  2. Ensure students are versed in lab safety procedures and that they are being properly enforced. Consider discussing these safety rules and regulations from NSTA at the start of the semester and reviewing regularly.
  3. Clearly mark the location of all protective equipment with proper signage. Get creative and design your own fun signage, or check out our complete set of safety signs to cover all areas of your lab.
  4. Keep safety equipment clean and easily accessible with storage cabinets that do double-duty.
  5. Require all students to read and sign a lab safety contract. Don’t have one? Download one here.
  6. Overcrowded lab stations can cause unnecessary accidents. When your class sizes change, check to be sure you have enough lab stations to accommodate all students and all abilities.
  7. Ensure all students wear proper safety goggles when working with chemicals, glassware, or heat. Find the right eye protection for your lab needs.
  8. Keep your lab equipment and chemical inventory up to date with a simple, organized inventory management system that all teachers can access. Need to update your current inventory system or don’t yet have one? Our online chemical inventory management system makes it easy.
  9. Check to be sure all chemicals are arranged by compatibility and securely stored. Return any chemicals to their proper that may have been moved throughout the year. Check the label for storage categories and warnings, or use a chemical storage start-up kit to ensure you’re meeting OSHA/WHMIS standards.
  10. Maintain clear labeling on equipment, chemicals and hazardous materials. Replace any labels that are worn or unreadable.
  11. Confirm Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals in your lab. Missing one? Download and print it here.
  12. Ensure laboratory exits are free of obstructions.
  13. Classroom clutter can build up throughout the year, causing spill and safety hazards. Get organized with a classroom cleanup effort to clear out and put away items no longer in use.
  14. Do you have master shut-off switches for gas, water, and electricity? Check with your lab manager or your school’s facilities department to be sure you know where all power switches and fuse boxes are located in your lab in the event of an emergency.
  15. Post safety rules and charts in high-traffic areas that will be easily seen by everyone in the room. Download and print our general lab safety rules to post in your classroom or check out our pre-printed safety charts here.
  16. Keep notes and records on safety training and lab incidents throughout the year; Check to be sure all events from last semester are up to date, and continue to record new events as they occur.
  17. Do you have an emergency exit/escape plan posted in your classroom? Take a few minutes to remind students of the plan and run a safety drill with the entire class. Post all emergency phone numbers next to your classroom phone with this printable sign.
  18. If you have any classroom pets or live animals in the room, ensure both your pets and students are protected from one another. Use our Live Materials Care and Handling Guides to ensure proper care for your live materials.

Council of State Science Supervisors, Copyright 2013
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)