Skip to main content

Safety Blog

Starting the New School Year: Seven Safer Science Strategies

By Kenneth Roy

Posted on 2016-08-04

Before starting the new school year, in terms of safety, a little planning can go a long way. Science teachers, supervisors, and administrators should check out the Safer Seven checklist below for strategies that improve laboratory safety.

  1. Know the rules and practices. No matter where you teach, legal safety standards must be followed. Before working in the laboratory, research, review, adopt, and enforce the legal safety standards, which may include building codes, fire codes, environmental codes, and occupational codes.


    Also, pay attention to better professional practices. Organizations such as NSTA and the National Science Education Leadership Association have position papers and professional practices (see Resources), which are standards developed by professional organizations (e.g., keep lab doors locked when not in use). It is important to follow legal standards and better professional practices to ensure the safety of students and to protect science teachers from legal entanglements, including negligence charges.

  2. Rules of the home base. The employer, with the help of science teachers, needs to have a written safety plan with standard operating laboratory procedures, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA requires a written safety plan, called the Chemical Hygiene Plan, and one or more Chemical Hygiene Officers to make sure the plan is applied (see Resources).

    Supervision and progressive discipline for students and employees help secure and maintain a safer working environment. Moreover, all employees working in science laboratories should take safety training based on standard operating procedures, use of engineering controls, and personal protective equipment.

  3. Safety committee.  Every school should have a safety committee, with representation from the employer, employees, and the science department. The safety committee should be trained to conduct, or have outside safety consultants perform, periodic safety inspections of science laboratories, including engineering controls, standard operating procedures, personal protective equipment, and storage facilities.

  4. Student safety training. Students need to have safety training on biological, chemical, and physical hazards, while also going through laboratory safety procedures and assessments for understanding safety, and reviewing a safety acknowledgement form (see Resources). The acknowledgement form should be signed by the student and parent or guardian. Safety training should be an ongoing activity throughout the school year.

  5. Emergency response. The safety plan must include emergency procedures: first aid, evacuation routes, spill control, etc. Teachers should make sure they have a written record in their lesson plans of safety precautions taken and safety training for each hands-on activity.

  6. Appropriate use of hazardous materials. Microscale, or green chemistry, helps secure a safer working environment. Store hazardous chemicals in labeled containers in secured areas. Before purchasing the chemicals, read Safety Data Sheets to know how to safely use, store, and dispose of them. These steps are all part of a comprehensive chemical management plan.

  7. The history. Keep a paper trail of accidents in the form of inspection reports, accident reports, and signed safety acknowledgement forms. The paper trail helps keep the science teacher out of legal trouble. Provide written rationales for safety equipment in budget requests and keep those as records.

Final thoughts

Clearly, science teachers need to create a safer working and learning environment for students and themselves. Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, or questions in the Comment section.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at Follow him on Twitter: @drroysafersci.


Better professional practices—,,

Chemical Hygiene Plan—

Safety Acknowledgment Form—

NSTA resources and safety issue papers


Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon


Asset 2