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Safety Blog

9 Housekeeping Tips for Science Educators

By Kenneth Roy

Posted on 2016-11-09

A clean lab is a safer lab. These nine housekeeping tips can help science teachers reduce the risk of lab accidents.

1. Location, location, location. Keep all lab equipment and materials in assigned places, such as cabinets and drawers, with labels, so you know where things are.

2. Keep it closed. Closed cabinets and drawers help prevent tripping. Severe injuries can happen if students or the teacher fall over an open drawer.

3. Equipment hygiene. Make sure all lab equipment is as clean as possible. For example, students are to clean glassware after completing an experiment. If biological, chemical, or physical residue accumulates, it can be hazardous in a variety of ways. For example, corrosive chemical residue could form on a glass beaker, which could burn a student.

4. Spills. Clean spills immediately. When liquid spills on a lab floor or counter, it can be dangerous. Floor spills can cause a person to slip and fall, and floor or counter spills can lead to electrical hazards. Safety training must emphasize that any type of spill in the lab should be cleaned up as quickly as possible.

5. Waste disposal. To prevent health and safety hazards, show students how to properly dispose of biological and chemical waste. Use designated chemical containers for products used during an experiment and completed chemical reactants. In the reaction Zn + HCl = H2 + ZnCl2, for example, the product of ZnCl2 should be placed in the appropriate chemical-resistant container. Make sure the containers are correctly labeled and do not mix products or chemical reactants with any other type of chemical reactant. Biohazardous waste should either be autoclaved in an unmarked bag and disposed of as ordinary trash or placed in a biohazard bin.

6. Cross contamination occurs when bacteria and chemicals transfer to books, book bags, clothing, and eyes. Place all items unrelated to the lab in appropriate storage areas to avoid cross contamination.

7. Personal protective equipment (PPE). Use appropriate PPE before, during, and after the lab activity, and also when cleaning spills or other materials.

8. Keep it clear. Never place items in aisles or exit pathways or in front of the eyewash station or shower.

9. Chemical storage. Make sure chemicals have the OSHA-required (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) Globally Harmonized System (GHS) labeling, so that the chemical name and other safety information is readily available for proper handling, storage, and disposal.

In the end

To ensure that your lab is as clean—and safe—as possible, also follow the OSHA housekeeping standards (see Resources) and NSTA’s recommended lab practices (see Resources). Inspect the lab after any activity to ensure that students have addressed housekeeping issues.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at, or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.


National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). 2013. Safety in the science classroom, laboratory, or field sites.
OSHA Flammable Liquid Standard (29 CFR 1910.106)—
OSHA Handling materials Standard (29 CFR 1910.176)—
OSHA Sanitation Standard (29 CFR 1910.141)—
OSHA Walking Working Housekeeping (29 CFR 1910.22)—

NSTA resources and safety issue papers
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