Lab Safety Enforcement

What are some things that you do to enforce safety in a chemistry classroom that address different levels of severity?  For example, not wearing goggles, improper attire, or maybe blatant disregard for activity instructions?

Stephen Suglio
Stephen Suglio
190 Activity Points

A really good resource on safety is Ken Roy, who blogs for NSTA on safety.

Having a safety acknowledgment form signed by each student is a must. You can find an example, as well as an extensive set of resources on NSTA's Safety in the Science Classroom Portal.

Mary B

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
8315 Activity Points

In my classroom, a consequence for inadvertent safety issues like forgetting to come properly dressed results in a lower grade because I do not let them participate in the lab if not properly dressed. I do still have them complete the deliverable based on data obtained from other students so that they are still responsible for learning the material from that lab. 

I incorporate a "professionalism" grade into the course. That is a catchall for any safety violations. I dock points for things like taking goggles off or intentional unsafe behavior in the lab. Even my college students take it very seriously even though professionalism is just 10% of their overall grade. 

Emily Faulconer
2070 Activity Points

Hi Stephen, Lab safety enforcement in chemistry is a must. To help address the importance of wearing googles, I start the year by using [url=]Flinn's acid in the eye demo[/url] as a lab to demonstrate the importance of eye protection. Students use 6M hydrochloric acid as this is a reagent that we will routinely use in the lab throughout the year. Students monitor the denaturing of the egg white protein over the course of the class period and after 24 hours. The egg serves as a model for the human eye. I have them use 32-square grid petri dish labels on glass petri dishes so they can calculate the surface area of the egg affected by the acid over time. Then I have them graph how the egg is damaged over a class period. Next, I have them compare the surface area of the egg to the area of an actual human eye. Once we complete this lab, I rarely have students [i]forget[/i] to wear eye protection. The damage to the egg is proof to them that I only have their best interest at heart. However, if a student refuses to wear goggles, then they are not allowed to finish the lab. They are given an alternate assignment instead. Based on the results of egg lab, I also rarely have student wear improper attire. However, if they wear sandals, instead of close-toed shoes, I give them the alternative assignment for the lab. If they wear improper attire, I give them a lab coat as I have enough for my entire class. If a student blatantly disregards the instructions for the activity, they lose their lab privileges. If what they are doing is putting themselves or their peers in danger, they have to sit out of two labs. They are not allowed in the room. They report to our OSS room at school and are given an alternative assignment. I have taught at my current school for ten years. The last time I had to enforce this policy was five year ago because I got a reputation that I mean business. If students are simply messing around in the lab, but not necessarily being dangerous, then I give them a 30 minutes after school detention. This is our school's policy. Students serve the detention with me and we typically clean the lab together so that I can talk with them. I explain the reasons why they got the detention and what they need to do next time. I find that if we are working on a job together like cleaning the lab sinks or some other type of work, it makes it easier to have a conversation. Students are more receptive to my constructive criticism. I have several repeat offenders depending on the class, but as the year progresses, even those students begin to practice better lab safety.

Ruth Lehmann Hutson
Ruth Hutson
61860 Activity Points

Thank you for answering my question so thoroughly! I am a pre-service teacher right now, so all these tips are very helpful for when I will start running my own class. I will share your input with the other pre-service teachers in my class.

Stephen Suglio
Stephen Suglio
190 Activity Points

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