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Science Lab Safety Rules: The Do’s & Don’ts

By October 18, 2022May 30th, 2023Education, Health & Safety, School Supplies
two students doing a science experiment following lab safety rules with the teacher watching close by

Safety is always top priority, especially in a science classroom where there can be dangerous chemicals or materials laying around. The do’s and don’ts of lab safety are critical to understand to ensure that students and teachers remain protected from things that can hurt them while in the science lab. Lab safety rules should be enforced in all grade levels starting as early as possible to promote lab safety in all science classrooms that have lab equipment.

Why is lab safety important in a science classroom?

Lab safety is very important in a science classroom due to the materials and fragile equipment that can be used by both students and teachers. A science lab has equipment such as microscopes, chemicals, pipettes, Bunsen burners, and other expensive items that if they aren’t used properly, can be dangerous. It’s imperative that lab safety rules are put in place as soon as possible to prevent these items from breaking, hurting others, or being ingested.

At the beginning of a new school year, a science teacher regardless of grade level should have a list of lab safety rules to give to students. It would be most beneficial that science teachers thoroughly go over each rule and explain the consequences if it’s broken. Ensure the students that this is for their safety, as well as the safety of their peers and any teachers in the room. If you want to take it an extra step further, have them sign a “contract” saying that they agree to the rules and will follow them to the best of their ability. This can help them take accountability for the lab safety rules, especially if there are dangerous chemicals and materials involved.

Lab safety posters are also a great way to give reminders to students before they start an experiment or are going to be working with dangerous objects in the lab. Pointing to it on the wall and reading it over with the students could be a helpful way to gently warn them that they will be working with tools or equipment that may hurt them if they are not used properly.

What equipment is needed for lab safety?

Depending on the grade level, science experiments can include harmless materials like rubber bands, paper clips, popsicle sticks or soap. As students get older and begin participating in more advanced experiments, hazardous materials can be used that can be dangerous if they aren’t used correctly. It’s important to explain the role that each material will have in the science experiment whether it can cause harm or not. There are also lots of pieces of lab safety equipment throughout a science lab that are used to communicate messages to students while handling some of the more dangerous items.

Some important safety equipment needed in a science lab should be things like:

Why do I need lab safety supplies?

Lab safety supplies are needed in case of an emergency that could happen during a science experiment. Things can go wrong during a procedure, and you want to make sure you are as prepared as possible to avoid anyone getting seriously injured. Even though you might not ever use some pieces of safety equipment, it’s better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.

Safety supplies and equipment are necessary to have when you are teaching science courses or will be leading a science experiment of any kind. It’s also important that the students are aware of all of the lab safety equipment, where it’s located, and how to use it in case an emergency presents itself. The larger pieces of safety equipment in a science lab are things like:

  • The safety shower
  • The eye wash station
  • The fire blanket
  • The fume hood

Showing them how to use and operate these pieces of equipment and practicing emergency procedures frequently can help if an emergency happens. If students know how to use these things, they could jump in and assist in an emergency if the teacher or instructor is farther away.

Do’s and Don’ts of a Science Lab

There are many things to do and not do in a science lab when it comes to rules and restrictions. Here is a list of dos and don’ts for proper safety etiquette in a science lab:

Things to do:

  • Wear your hair up if you have long hair.
  • Always wear safety goggles, gloves, and a lab coat when in the lab.
  • Keep the area you are working in clean and clean up after yourself.
  • Wear closed toe shoes.
  • Always work with someone else, or make sure there is someone else in the room with you.
  • Understand where the safety equipment like the shower and eye wash station is at all times.
  • Understand the lab safety symbols.

Things not to do:

  • Do not wear jeans with rips in them.
  • Do not bring food or drinks into the lab with you.
  • Don’t skip over any steps in the procedure or make up your own instructions.
  • Don’t play around with the equipment and lab materials.
  • Do not forget to label what you are working with.
  • Do not wear shorts to lab.
  • No horseplaying in the lab.

What is the most common lab safety rule?

While there are many important lab safety rules, the most common one is to wear personal protective equipment, otherwise known as PPE. This includes gloves, lab coats, safety goggles and sometimes face masks or shields. These items are worn to protect clothing, skin, eyes, and other parts of the body from being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Different Levels of Lab Safety

High school science lab safety rules are going to be different than elementary and middle school lab safety rules because of the level of difficulty the experiments are. Similarly, college level science lab courses and their rules are going to be different and more subject specific compared to high school labs.

Elementary and middle school science labs rarely consist of chemicals and dangerous materials due to the fact that those students aren’t old enough or mature enough to handle them quite yet. Once students reach high school age and take upper-level science classes, they can be exposed to fragile materials like microscopes, beakers, and Bunsen burners as well as chemicals.

It’s important to communicate the lab safety rules to your students in the most effective way depending on their age bracket. You don’t want to overcomplicate things and explain it in a way that they might not understand. The science lab safety rules will differ based on the grade level being taught, so it’s important to note that elementary students should not be held to the same level of expectations that high school students should when it comes to lab safety.

The Dangers of Not Following Lab Safety

If lab safety rules aren’t followed, there could be some accidents, emergencies, or just simple mistakes that could have been avoided if the rules were followed. If you are experiencing difficulty with students not following the lab safety rules, it’s possible that they might need an additional reminder of what the rules are. Labs and experiments can be really fun and educational, but if students don’t follow the rules, teachers might need to reevaluate lab procedures for the future. Some ways to gently remind students of their lab safety rules are to:

  • Meet with them 1:1 to talk about the situation in which they weren’t following the rules and understanding their point of view.
  • Pause the lab or experiment and review the rules again. Ensure that students understand them by having everyone say them together.
  • Depending on the age group you teach, following the lab safety rules could be a part of the lab grade. Points can be deducted if rules weren’t followed correctly.
  • Contact parents and guardians to discuss concerns if students are not following or respecting the lab safety rules after a certain number of warnings.

Safety Symbols in a Science Lab

If you look around a science lab, you will notice different safety signs and symbols that indicate danger or a potential hazard. These symbols are used to communicate and make people aware that there are dangerous substances and tools around and are there to prevent accidents and emergencies. For some of the most common science lab safety symbols, here is a list of them along with their meanings:

eight yellow and black safety symbols in two rows with various meanings
  • Biohazard: This symbol means that there could be biohazards like blood near or on the equipment.
  • Electrical Hazard: If the equipment is turned on and is touched, it can cause electrocution or even death.
  • Explosive Hazardous Materials: This symbol dictates that the material can cause explosions due to the chemical makeup.
  • Flammable Hazardous Materials: If the object is mixed with oxidized chemicals, it can cause a fire or produce flames.
  • General Warning: This means that there are general hazardous materials in the area and to be careful.
  • High Temperature Hazard: Hot objects can cause burns if touched while the object is in use.
  • Low Temperature Hazard: Cold objects or materials are in the area and can induce injury if touched without proper protection.
  • Flammable Hazardous Materials: If the object is mixed with oxidized chemicals, it can cause a fire or produce flames.
  • High Temperature Hazard: Hot objects can cause burns if touched while the object is in use.
  • Toxic Material Hazard: There are toxic and dangerous material around that if it’s touched, ingested, or swallowed can result in injury or death.

Following Lab Safety Rules in a Science Classroom

Enforcing and communicating lab safety rules within a science lab is very important because making sure students are staying safe while handling dangerous objects or materials helps keep others safe. Learning about lab safety and understanding the meanings of the safety symbols around the classroom are an essential part of lab protocol because if an emergency arises, both students and teachers should know what to do.


Florida Tech. 10 Things NOT to Do in a Research Lab. ( Accessed August 25, 2022.

Laboratory Info. List of Laboratory Safety Symbols and Their Meanings. ( Accessed August 26, 2022.

Street Science. The Importance of Science Safety in the Classroom. ( Accessed August 26, 2022.