Teacher Responsibilities in the Chemistry Lab
Teachers and teacher-aides should lead by example and wear personal protective equipment; follow and enforce safety rules, procedures, and practices; and demonstrate safety behavior and promote a culture of safety. They should be proactive in every aspect of laboratory safety, making safety a priority. The following is a checklist for teachers highlighting essential information for working in the high school laboratory. This is a general safety checklist and should be periodically re-evaluated for updates.
Upkeep of Laboratory and Equipment
- Conduct regular inspections of safety and first aid equipment as often as requested by the administration. Record the inspection date and the inspector's initials on the attached equipment inspection tag.
- Notify the administration in writing if a hazardous or possibly hazardous condition (e.g., malfunctioning safety equipment or chemical hazard) is identified in the laboratory and follow through on the status.
- Never use defective equipment.
- Keep organized records on safety training of staff for as long as required by the school system.
- Keep records of all laboratory incidents for as long as required by the school system.
Safety and Emergency Procedures
- Educate students on the location and use of all safety and emergency equipment prior to laboratory activity.
- Identify safety procedures to follow in the event of an emergency/accident. Provide students with verbal and written safety procedures to follow in the event of an emergency/accident.
- Know the location of and how to use the cut-off switches and valves for the water, gas, and electricity in the laboratory.
- Know the location of and how to use all safety and emergency equipment (i.e., safety shower, eyewash, first-aid kit, fire blanket, fire extinguishers and mercury spill kits).
- Keep a list of emergency phone numbers near the phone.
- Conduct appropriate safety and evacuation drills on a regular basis.
- Explain in detail to students the consequences of violating safety rules and procedures.
Maintenance of Chemicals
- Perform regular inventory inspections of chemicals.
- Update the chemical inventory at least annually, or as requested by the administration. Provide a copy of the chemical inventory to the local emergency responders (i.e., fire department).
- Do not store food and drink with any chemicals.
- If possible, keep all chemicals in their original containers.
- Make sure all chemicals and reagents are labeled.
- Do not store chemicals on the lab bench, on the floor, or in the laboratory chemical hood.
- Ensure chemicals not in use are stored in a locked facility with limited access.
- Know the storage, handling, and disposal requirements for each chemical used.
- Make certain chemicals are disposed of properly. Consult the label and the Material Safety Data Sheet for disposal information and always follow appropriate chemical disposal regulations.
Preparing for Laboratory Activities
- Before each activity in the laboratory, weigh the potential risk factors against the educational value.
- Have an understanding of all the potential hazards of the materials, the process, and the equipment involved in every laboratory activity.
- Inspect all equipment/apparatus in the laboratory before use.
- Before entering the laboratory, instruct students on all laboratory procedures that will be conducted.
- Discuss all safety concerns and potential hazards related to the laboratory work that students will be performing before starting the work. Document in lesson plan book.
Ensuring Appropriate Laboratory Conduct
- Be a model for good safety conduct for students to follow.
- Make sure students are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e., chemical splash goggles, laboratory aprons or coats, and gloves).
- Enforce all safety rules and procedures at all times.
- Never leave students unsupervised in the laboratory.
- Never allow unauthorized visitors to enter the laboratory.
- Never allow students to take chemicals out of the laboratory.
- Never permit smoking, food, beverages, or gum in the laboratory.
This information is from the School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide created by the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission (CPSC), Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
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