January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Science Safety for Educators

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Are you a Next Generation Science Teacher? Have the science teachers at your school participated in current science safety professional development? Did you know that training in science safety is required by CALOSHA to keep employees safe? Do you know what documentation is required to reduce an individual teacher, administrator, and/or the school’s liability?

The Science Safety for Educators Online Course will provide participants with information to build a solid foundation to create a safe science environment for employees and students. It is recommended that schools, districts, and organizations have as a goal to prepare 100% of all science teachers and other related personnel for the ever-changing environment of safety for themselves, others, and students. (more…)

CDE Releases Updated Science Safety Handbook

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

by Dean Gilbert 

The California Department of Education has released the 2012 edition of the Science Safety Handbook for California Public Schools.  Thanks to the efforts of representatives from various state agencies, educational and research institutions, the Science Safety Handbook, available in PDF format, has been thoroughly edited to provide updated information on:

  • state and federal legislation affecting science instruction,
  • first aid issues in the classroom,
  • general laboratory safety precautions,
  • safety in the biology, chemistry and physics laboratories,
  • legal citations, safety agreements, laboratory safety checklists and tests, field trip permission forms, plus many other ancillary support documents.

An added feature in this 2012 edition is a chapter devoted entirely to Safety in the Elementary Science Classroom. (more…)

Science Safety Tip #5

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Dean Gilbert

TIP #5– Every district must develop, adopt, and implement a Chemical Hygiene Plan (California Code of Regulations, Title 8, General Industry Safety Orders, Section 5193) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) relevant to the safety and health of employees and students. The district Chemical Hygiene Plan should include:

  • Safe operating laboratory procedures
  • Control measures that reduce employees’ exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • Protective equipment, including properly functioning fume hoods and biological safety cabinets
  • Maintenance of proper labeling on hazardous substances
  • Retention of all MSDSs received from vendors (made available to employees)
  • Employee information and training as it relates to the Chemical Hygiene Plan, employee liability and responsibilities pertaining to laboratory safety
  • Define circumstances under which particular laboratory operations require prior approval from the employer
  • Provisions for medical consultations and examinations on suspicion of exposure to hazardous substances
  • Emergency evacuation procedures
  • Designation of a Chemical Hygiene Officer to implement and maintain the plan
  • A protocol that provides for review and analysis of effectiveness of the Chemical Hygiene Plan annually, with updates, if necessary


Science Safety Tip #4

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Dean Gilbert

Negligence is the breach of a duty owed to someone to protect him or her from unreasonable risks of harm.   While science lab instruction presents potential hazards, prudent safety practices or “duty of care” greatly reduce accidents.


√ Supervising students in the classroom
√ Providing adequate instructions
√ Maintaining lab equipment in proper working order
√ Providing safe facilities and equipment for labs
√ Warning students of any possible dangers

For more information regarding Duty of Care:




Science Safety Tip #3

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

by Dean Gilbert

The use of live animals as part of K-12 science instruction can offer multiple opportunities for students to engage and refine their observation skills as well as instill a general respect of and humane treatment for all life.  Here are some helpful safety tips to think about:

  • Any handling of animals by students must be carefully supervised; parent permission slips should be kept on file.
  • Never mishandle or mistreat animals.
  • A safety lesson should be given to teach students how to care for and treat classroom animals
  • Animals caught in the wild should never be brought into the classroom
  • After handling animals, students must wash their hands with soap.
  • Reptiles are possible carriers of Salmonella; check guidelines for classroom suitability.
  • Be aware of animals students might encounter while on a field trip
  • At no time should dissection be done on an animal corpse unless it was specifically purchased from a reliable supplier.
  • Never keep animals preserved in formaldehyde in your classroom or school.
  • Students planning science fair research projects involving vertebrate animals must adhere to the California Education Code requirements for experiments with animals:


Science Safety Tip #2

Friday, October 1st, 2010

by Dean Gilbert

No matter which geographical area in California we live, there is the potential for a natural earthquake disaster.  It is imperative that every science teacher assess his/her school lab facility and chemical and equipment storage areas for unsafe and hazardous conditions.

Reducing and/or eliminating these hazards throughout your classroom, lab, and storage areas can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death for both students and yourself.

TIP #2- Earthquake-Proof Your Chemical Storage Area (more…)

Science Safety Tips

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Dean Gilbert

As science teachers address standards-based instruction with framework recommendations for “at least 20-25 percent hands-on activities,” students are spending more time in classroom laboratories.  Some are crowded.  Some have teachers with no safety training.  Some are in 19th-century buildings, ill equipped for 21st-century science.

In whatever unique instructional setting you operate, almost all school lab accidents and injuries can be prevented with simple safety measures, the experts say.  But many teachers are unaware of the dangers.  “There have been some terrible accidents and injuries,” said John Wilson, executive director of the Schools Excess Liability Fund in California.   (This fund recently paid more than $1 million in a case involving a chemistry accident and more than $3 million in a similar case.)


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