Science & Technology in Action

4th Edition

Safety in the School Laboratory

Health & Safety Authority

This lesson focuses on the key concepts and terminology associated with health and safety in the laboratory. Practical safety measures to reduce biological and chemical risks are detailed.
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Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

To develop an understanding of science it is necessary to explore science by learning through investigation and discovery. Learning by doing motivates and develops curiosity about the world around us. Practical work in science may involve exposure to something that may have the potential to cause harm or injury i.e. a hazard. In particular, it may involve exposure to any of the following hazards:

  • Chemical e.g. solvents, paints, solvent vapours, waste
  • Biological e.g. medical waste or samples of a micro-organism, virus or toxin (from a biological source)
  • Physical e.g. slips, trips or falls or sources of energy (noise, extremes in temperature or pressure)

It is important to know the hazards, to understand the risks (the likelihood of causing harm and the severity of that harm if it occurs) and apply controls/manage the risks, for example by wearing eyeprotection in a laboratory in which corrosive chemicals are used.

General safety control measures in the laboratory
Safety in the school laboratory is everyone’s concern and the aim is to ensure that no one gets hurt or becomes ill. The following control measures briefly outline ways of preventing accidents:

  • Do not enter the laboratory or use equipment without permission.
  • Do not eat or drink in the laboratory.
  • Be aware of safety signs and adhere to them.
  • In the event of an accident, inform the teacher immediately.
  • Be aware of the location of fire extinguishers/fire blankets; first aid box and eye wash station.
  • Wear eye protection when instructed.
  • Long hair should be tied back and dangling jewellery, baggy clothing etc. secured.
  • Hands should be washed after laboratory practical work.
  • Do not run; pay attention to where you are going.

True or False?

  1. Do not wear safety goggles when working with chemicals. false
  2. If you do not understand an experiment you should try several methods until something works. false
  3. Horseplay or practical jokes in the laboratory can lead to serious accidents. true
  4. If you are injured in the laboratory (cut, burn etc.) you should tell the teacher immediately. true
  5. When you finish working always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. true
  6. Eating and drinking in the laboratory is allowed. false
  7. Dispose of waste material as instructed by the teacher. true
  8. Long hair must be tied back while working in the laboratory. true
  9. Always read the hazard label before working with chemicals. true
  10. Some chemicals used in the school laboratory are hazardous. true
  11. An SDS is supplied with each hazardous chemical. true
  12. Disinfect bench before and after working with micro-organisms. true