Laboratory Safety Standards
A school science laboratory is an excellent setting for students to explore and investigate the world around them. Almost every part of students’ lives is affected by science. Allowing them to see, touch, and manipulate objects in a laboratory situation gives students the real world experience to get them excited about science and to prepare them for college and beyond. However, James A. Kaufman, director of the Laboratory Safety Institute, proposes that most schools do a poor job of protecting students and teachers in the laboratory environment (Kaufman, 2002). He explains that while administration is quick to react on issues involving the health and safety of students, there is one area that has received little attention from school management. Kaufman (2002) writes, “That issue [area] is laboratory safety and the health and safety awareness in general, in the teaching of science (p. 1).”
In 1984, the Council of State Science Supervisors, in cooperation with the National Science for Occupational Safety and Health and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, published a safety guide titled, School Science Laboratories: A Guide to Some Hazardous Substances. Since then, the guide has been updated and revised to reflect updated science curricula. The latest guide, titled, School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide, was published in 2006 and provides teachers with quick reference to create a safe learning environment for their students when working in a science laboratory (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2006).
The School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide explains that “students develop attitudes toward safety and acquire habits of assessing hazards and risks when they are young (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2006, p. 2).” Our students have diverse backgrounds and experiences, many with no hands on training in handling chemicals or equipment; whereas, others are well prepared for risk assessment