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Welcome to the NSTA Safety Blog

As NSTA’s chief science safety compliance adviser, I look forward to sharing the latest safety compliance information, while helping teachers solve safety-related problems and issues in the classroom, lab, and maker space. I’m also looking forward to interacting with colleagues to help improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the trenches.

Specifically, NSTA has initiated this new safety blog to:

  • share up-to-date information on legal safety standards and better professional practices for a safer working and learning environment and a safer STEM instructional experience;
  • disseminate current information on safety incidents occurring in K–12 classrooms, labs, and maker spaces; and
  • provide support and initiate dialogue in efforts to answer safety-related questions from bloggers, either teaching or supervising in K–12 classrooms, labs, and maker spaces.

Students learn STEM best by doing, not just reading.  Make it a memorable hands-on experience by incorporating safety!  Encourage your friends and colleagues to subscribe to the NSTA Blog and share their experiences and knowledge about safer science education experiences.   

Have a safer day!

Dr. Ken Roy

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at Follow him on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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Safety in the Science Classroom



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  1. Mary Legoria
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Dr. Roy,
    I teach science labs to elementary students. Do you have suggests for safety lessons.?

  2. Ken Roy
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Mary – great question! Here are a few resources that may be helpful. I am sure others who read this might also be able to provide additional items to share:

    1. Safety in the Elementary Classroom by American Chemical Society or ACS, 3rd edition. A little dated but still very useful. Found at:

    2. Elementary level video on Lab Safety: Cartoon format – appropriate for elementary students. Found at:

    3. Science and Safety: It’s Elementary by Council of State Science Supervisors. Again a little dated but very useful. Found at:

    4. Safety Contract – Elementary: Would rename this “Safety Acknowledgement Form” but otherwise again – good to have signed once safety lesson is given initially. Found at:

    5. NSTA Press a book I co-authored with a Dr. Linda Stroud. It is titled “Science Laboratory Safety Manual.” Chapter 10 is dedicated to elementary level lab safety. Starting on page 369, there are lab safety practice drills for K-5. These are a series of great activities which can make up safety lessons for students. There are in a card format. The book can be found on-line in the NSTA Press store at:

    PS: We also provide a safety acknowledgement form in that chapter!

    Thanks again –

    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Safety Blogger
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser

  3. Denise Kuehner
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I am an elementary science lab specialist, and I start each class at the beginning of the year with a lab safety activity that I try to make fun. We’ve done scavenger hunts where the students find clues on the safety equipment they need to know about, and skits where I act out an experiment and they have to catch me doing something unsafe. I’ve also taken the safety rules from the FOSS poster, and switched out one word with a silly one, and had the students make corrections.

  4. Ken Roy
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Denise – Great ideas! Thanks for sharing with the group. Most appreciated.

    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Safety Blogger
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser

  5. Mary Legoria
    Posted August 13, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken & Denise,

    Thank you for your ideas and information. This is a huge help.


  6. Dr. Ken
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Mary – No problem! Please feel free to post on the blog whenever you have a safety question. I and others will respond and hopefully be able to provide assistance.

    Have a SAFER school year and thanks again —

    Dr. Ken

    PS – also you are welcome to follow me on Twitter@drroysafersci.

  7. Lavinia
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    In trying to start the school year out right, I am looking to give best practice advise to my science department regarding SDS documents. Currently, all teachers have a binder of chemicals used, but not necessarily grouped by activity. Knowing that there are certain chemicals that are used frequently, would you recommend having a separate set for each activity or is the overall binder suitable?

  8. Dr. Ken
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Lavinia – Thanks for that important safety question. First know that OSHA’s HazCom, or the Right to Understand, standard requires employers to ensure that safety data sheets (SDSs) are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. To comply with the accessibility requirement, it is recommended that all SDSs be housed together with a central access point in work areas where SDS guidance is needed. For example, employers can keep SDSs in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area, and as long as back-ups are available for rapid access to the SDS in the event of a power outage or other emergency.

    If your science labs are like most, there could be 100s of hazardous chemicals and accompanying SDSs. In an emergency, time and access are critical. In Glastonbury, where I am the Chemical Hygiene Officer, we require the SDSs, specific to the hazardous chemical being used, to be available in a folder at that site. That way, if there is a chemical incident, not only the teacher but also the school nurse will quickly know how to proceed, instead of having to go through a whole notebook or computer program with 100s of SDSs. This seems to work well. That is the best recommendation. This is what I believe you referred to as a separate set for each activity. The expectation should be (as part of the chemical hygiene plan) that as labs are set up, the appropriate SDSs are pulled and copied for that lab and are available in the lab during the activity.

    Hope this helps!

    Again, thanks for sharing. Let me know how it works out. Also feel free to post others comments on the blog.

    Be safer – subscribe to the NSTA Safety Blog!

    Dr. Ken

    P.S. – you are welcome to follow me on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

  9. Dr. Ken Roy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Questions about safety contracts. The following questions were submitted to me via email by a science supervisor. Permission was provided for placement on the safety blog. My responses are noted below each question.

    1) The current expectation is that students in science classrooms sign safety contracts and the schools keep these for seven years. Let’s say we have a high school with 3,000 students and each takes three science courses (minimum) and signs the same contract three times (that is, three papers per student) and then we keep these for seven years. There is often a hazardous situation with tripping over the boxes or storing them up high in violation of fire codes. So, what are the current recommendations, and do they consider these concerns? Is seven years a “must”?

    Dr. Ken’s Reponse:

    First, you need to find out what your state’s statute of limitations are on these types of documents. For example, if it is just three years, you would need to only hold the document for that length of time. That’s because if there was going to be a lawsuit over an incident, the document would need to be filed during that period of time. The documents are important for a teacher’s defense, should there be a safety incident followed by legal action. After the statute of limitations is up, the documents can be shredded. Some schools only keep them for one year if there are no safety incidents, regardless of the statute of limitations.

    One other note: Instead of a safety contract, I would suggest using a safety acknowledgment form. This is better to use, given that a student’s signature, if a minor, may not be binding for the document as a contract. You can find a sample safety acknowledgement form by the NSTA at the following address:

    2) Is it permissible for the contract to be signed and be kept as the most recent copy on file for a student, instead of holding to three, four, or even more copies of the same document per student? Alternatively, is it permissible to store these as scanned e-copies?

    Dr. Ken’s Response:

    Absolutely, scan the documents. However, a student may take different science courses each year. My advice is to have a document for each course, each year. That way it provides evidence or proof that the safety protocols were covered each year, as a matter of practice. This would be helpful in a legal defense, should there be a safety incident involving litigation.

  10. Dr. Ken
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Question about Hazardous Chemical Disposal –

    I received an email with the following inquiry:

    “I have a question from a teacher in my state. Any ideas on how to get rid of Lithium Nitrate and Mercury (I) Nitrate?”

    Dr. Ken’s Response: Here is a list of potential strategies to consider for disposal of hazardous chemicals.

    •SDS Disposal – First check Safety Data Sheets – Section 13 for disposal information. This may or may not be of help.

    •Flinn Chemical & Biological Catalog Reference Manual – Chemical – this is a great resource for properly disposing of hazardous chemicals. Note that Flinn has discontinued selling elemental mercury, mercury compounds and mercury thermometers. It does address disposal of Lithium Nitrate however.

    •Local Hazardous Waste Day – local or county – your state or county may have these options also – check it out.

    •Commercial – there are commercial companies that can appropriately dispose of these items for a fee.

    •Industry or Academia Sources – Local business and industry and/or academic institution may sometimes take them free of charge out of your inventory.

    •Local fire marshal – Check with local fire marshal or town HazMat team – they may also help you dispose of the hazards.

    Bottom-line – Schools owns it cradle to grave! Make sure however if it is gotten rid of that there is documentation for appropriate disposal!

    Thanks –

    Dr. Ken

  11. Dr. Ken
    Posted September 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink


    The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease have been detected in part of the water supply at the University of Washington Medical Center, where officials said a second person linked to an outbreak has died.

    An ice machine and two sinks in cardiac units of the hospital’s Cascade Tower were found to be contaminated with the germs that can cause the potentially deadly form of pneumonia, officials said Wednesday.

    Science teachers need to make sure water fountains and sinks in their labs, science classrooms and other locations in the school are sanitized each day by the custodial staff. Also make sure water is run down a sink drain at least once a week for several minutes!

    For more information –

    Be Safer –

    Dr. Ken

  12. Dr. Ken
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink


    The National Science Education Leadership Association just launched its latest position statement titled: “SAFETY & DUTY OF CARE!” This is a must read for science teachers and supervisors to help keep them out of harm’s way legally.

    Check it out at:

    Post any questions or comments on the NSTA Safety Blog or email Dr. Ken at:

    Be Safer –

    Dr. Ken

  13. Dr. Matthew Bobrowsk
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken –

    I thought maybe you could shed some light on this. I’m looking at the MSDS for ethanol, denatured, 70%.

    What puzzles me is that the first aid measures in Section 4 seem to warn against skin contact, for which it says to remove immediately, and rinse skin. What is the danger with skin contact? We drink ethanol, but skin contact is problematic? Do you know why?

    Best regards,

    Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky

    Adjunct Professor
    University of Maryland University College
    Tel. 443-812-5466

  14. Dr. Ken Roy
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Dr. Matt –

    Great question about Ethanol and the skin contact under SDS Section 4.

    Current evidence suggests that ethanol may be a potential carcinogen believe it or not! It also topically acts as a skin penetration enhancer which can effect the transdermal absorption of Xenobiotics. That is one reason why I advocate the use of just soap and water – not alcohol based hand sanitizers!

    I would suggest you check out the following:
    Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity:

    Thanks again –

    Dr. Ken

  15. Dr. Mary Loesing
    Posted October 28, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Is there any regulation that states that only science teachers should have a key to the chemical storage room? If not, is this something that the district can write into their Chemical Hygiene Plan?

  16. Dr. Ken
    Posted October 28, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Great question! I actually wrote about this in one of the NSTA journals a number of years ago. OSHA notes that areas such as boiler rooms, electrical closets, hazardous chemical storage areas are considered “secured areas” given the high risk of injury from hazards in those areas. Many of the chemical categories such as toxins, corrosives, etc. are specifically noted in the OSHA App. C of HazCom as follows: “storage:- locked up.” (

    Point is, only trained employees – e.g. science teachers – are to have access to areas where there are stored hazardous chemicals. Locks should be unique to those storage areas with limited access as noted for only science teachers, administrators and custodians (training in chemical safety). There never should be master keys available to all staff for these areas. And yes – this security/safety issue should be in the Chemical Hygiene Plan.

    Thanks –

    Dr. Ken

  17. Dr. Ken
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    A curriculum consultant posed an inquiry about working with a teacher who wants her students to design and test “mini-compost” bins in her classroom as an engineering project recently. A great resource for this activity is as follows: “Health & Safety Guidance for Composting in the School Setting by the Cornell Waste Management Institute” found at –
    It addresses many critical health and safety aspects of this activity. Below is an outline of the document’s contents. I would urge any science teacher thinking of composting activities to read this document first.
    1. Protect those likely to be most sensitive.
    2. Consider the type of compost bin. Most school compost
    3. Turning the compost.
    4. Where to put the composting activity?
    5. Manage the compost well.
    6. Practice good hygiene.
    7. Recognize potential symptoms.

    Dr. Ken

    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Consultant & Safety Blogger

  18. Dr. Ken
    Posted November 12, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink


    Just an FYI for Safety Blog Subscribers from Dr. Ken —————————

    Making his third appearance on Lab Out Loud, we welcome Dr. Ken Roy back to discuss safety in science classrooms and other potentially harmful areas (such as makerspaces). This fall, Ken launched the NSTA Safety Blog to share commentaries on the latest safety issues, legal standards and better professional practices. Ken reminds us about important science safety practices such as yearly safety training, our duty of care when working with students in foreseeable harmful situations, and the need to make sure your eye wash station works before you do labs that might require its use. Listen to the show to hear how you can learn important safety tips and how to submit your own questions to the NSTA Safety Blog.

    To hear the interview – go to:

  19. Alyson Paige
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken – I have stepped into the science teacher (grades 7 and 8) position at a new school. I have been going through chemicals (putting my knowledge to use from the previous safety training programs!) and planning on ordering safety supplies including splash goggles with ports caps.

    Could you please let me know if these would be appropriate for the middle school science lab?

    Thank you very much!
    Alyson Paige

  20. Dr. Ken
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Alyson Paige’s comment:

    This is a common question that I get when I do safety training programs and safety inspections at schools. This type of safety goggle would be OK however – anecdotally and from my own experience when teaching chemistry, I find students tend to pull out the caps which makes these goggles directly vented – not safe for working with hazardous chemicals. To be on the safe side, I would suggest you find indirectly vented chemical splash goggles without vents with caps which can be removed. You want fixed indirect vents. That way they always remain indirectly vented for a safer experience by students in working with liquids that are hazardous. Hope this has been helpful.

    Thanks –

    Dr. Ken

  21. Andrew Bean
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    My school is looking into buying our first 3D printer and was seeing if anyone had any advice as to which make and model we should purchase. I have heard good things about Makerbot but wanted to ask the list serve for any advice. Also am interested in any safety considerations.


  22. Dr. Ken
    Posted November 27, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Andrew Bean’s comment:

    Andrew – The short answer to safety considerations relative to 3D printers is appropriate ventilation! Research though limited suggests health and safety issues with 3D printers if there is inappropriate ventilation.

    The long answer is I will have a commentary this month on this very issue so watch for it in the coming few weeks. It will get into the research results and specifics on how to protect yourself and students.

    Thanks again –

    Dr. Ken

    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Consultant & Safety Blogger

  23. Beth Bonvie
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dr. Ken,

    What is the best way to update the GHS labels? Do we have to purchase new labels from a company or can we just get plain labels and write the required info?

    Thanks for any help you can provide.


  24. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s response to Beth Bonvie:

    Beth – thanks for that popular question. I am assuming you are talking about older labels on chemicals that you had purchased prior to the implementation of the GHS system under the 2012 OSHA HazCom Standard revision. Please note the following response below on how OSHA treats this situation. The quick answer is – NO! Labels do normally need to be updated so you can leave them as they are save an exception which the narrative addresses. Please let me know if this answers your question!!

    Have a safer day – Dr. Ken

    Q: I have chemicals purchased before the GHS changes with old labels that are not compliant with the revised standard. Do I have to re-label these chemicals?

    A: No, employers/employees using hazardous chemicals are not required to re-label old, original chemical containers provided by the manufacturers unless there is a significant change in hazard information as follows:

    1910.1200 Hazard Communication. (f) “Labels and other forms of warning.”
    (11) Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers who become newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical shall revise the labels for the chemical within six months of becoming aware of the new information, and shall ensure that labels on containers of hazardous chemicals shipped after that time contain the new information. If the chemical is not currently produced or imported, the chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor, or employer shall add the information to the label before the chemical is shipped or introduced into the workplace again

    For additional information see OSHA Brief on Labels and Pictograms:

  25. Jan Hermansen
    Posted December 5, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Our district does not have a chemical hygiene officer nor a chemical disposal plan. I would like to know how to go about writing a chemical disposal plan myself for our district. Is there a way? Or should the district hire someone to write it. They aren’t going to hire a trained chemical hygiene officer.

  26. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s response to Jan Hermansen’s comment:

    Jan – First of all, if your district is under Federal or a state OSHA, by default – it is my understanding that the superintendent of schools as CEO is the Chemical Hygiene Officer – so you probably do have one but he/she doesn’t know it!!!! The following OSHA Fact Sheet on the Lab Standard notes the requirement for a chemical hygiene officer or CHO. I would share this with your superintendent. Even if your district is not under an OSHA, better professional practice dictates you have a CHO!

    OSHA Fact Sheet Internet address:

    For waste management, check out the OSHA Toxic and Hazardous Substances
    • Standard Number: 1910.1450 App A – section 3. Waste Management. It can be found at:

    There are many sample plans which can be found just by Googling “chemical waste management plan, public schools.” For an actual plan example, check out ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
    RISK MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT – Section X – waste management found at:

    Hope this all helps!

    Dr. Ken

  27. Mary Reilly
    Posted December 11, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I am thoroughly appreciating all the comments, suggestions, and tips that are being posted about here. I know that safety will always be my number one priority in my classroom, so it is nice to know that I can come here for ways to keep my future high school students safe!

  28. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Mary Reilly’s Comment:

    Mary – your comment about the NSTA Safety Blog is most welcomed for certain. The safety blog provides a unique opportunity for teachers to share a safety concerns, become aware of safety issues, allow me to provide information based on legal safety standards and better professional practices relative to individual teacher situations, and much more. Thanks again for your commitment to having a safer science program – most appreciated! Also kudos to NSTA for addressing the need for providing safer hands-on science..

    Dr. Ken

  29. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    HOT OFF THE PRESS: New Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations by The
    American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Education. This is a great resource for science teachers – check it out:

    Dr. Ken

  30. Barbara King
    Posted December 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken – I am currently working on updating our lab safety guides for elementary, middle and high school teachers to have for reference in an effort to maintain consistency among the schools within our district. We have items for safety protocols that have been provided for all schools, but they seem to get lost, misplaced,etc., as staff changes. Having one developed locally will help us have a consistent approach to address safety for all levels of science investigations. It can be posted in many different areas for easy access.

    Do you have recommendations for different resources to include in these?

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    Barbara King

  31. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 18, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s response to Barbara King –

    Barbara – One of the best sources for safety resources is the NSTA Safety Portal which was developed by the NSTA Safety Advisory Board. In addition to important safety papers, there are also recources from commercial sources, state programs, etc. Also they are arranged by elementary, middle and high school. The portal is usually updated several times a year. I do know the list of state resources is currently being updated and should be out in the next few months.

    The Portal can be found at:

    Hope this helps –

    Dr. Roy

  32. Kit Nielsen
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken – We have a student who would like to disassemble a computer monitor. Safety Concerns? I know we discourage them from doing old tvs.

    Thanks and happy holidays!


  33. Dr. Ken
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s response to Kit Nielsen –

    Kirsten – Thanks for the great question. There is a real risk of electric shock from capacitors in TVs and monitors (especially older one!). When charged, there can be enough juice to electrocute you – this is even when the power source is unplugged. Capacitors store the electrical charge. There also are a number of sharps and other hazards. It would be safer to have the student watch a YouTube version to see what is inside or even better have a school computer tech person who is trained in doing monitor repairs work and safety trained to directly work with the student.

    Hopefully this helps! And yes – Happy Holidays!

    Dr. Ken

  34. Heather
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I am working on appropriately outfitting an elementary classroom for some basic chemistry activities involving hydrogen peroxide, bleach, iodine etc. I know we need to provide an eyewash station – what are your thoughts about products like these?

    I understand this product to be OSHA compliant, but what are your specific thoughts about the efficacy of these versus more expensive faucet mounted eyewash stations? We would lose the use of our one sink if we converted it into an eyewash station for the week. Thanks.

  35. Kenneth Roy
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Heather-

    Heather – This an often overlooked items at the elementary classroom/lab level. Thanks for asking it. First of all the chemicals you have listed are considered hazardous being corrosive, toxic, etc. In addition to the need for engineering controls such as an eyewash which you noted, specific personal protective equipment and training are also required.

    As to engineering controls – you should be looking at both an eyewash and shower. Check out the Safety Data Sheet for bleach for example. It notes – “In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes.” We are talking a shower here! The eyewash should be plumbed so it also can provide a minimum of 15 minutes exposure to tepid water. I would not recommend the bottled eyewash in that it is limited to exposure time by the amount of water it holds to begin with. As you noted, the faucet mounted eyewash could be purchased but you would lose access to your sink. It is worth the extra expenditure to do it correctly by installing a separate eyewash/shower engineering control. Remember – it is cheaper then a law suit from an employee or student getting seriously injured form a splash and you not having the appropriate safety engineering control!

    Having said all of this, I would recommend trying to find safer alternatives to these hazardous chemicals. I don’t know what investigations you would be doing but – there usually are safer alternatives. Always do a hazards analysis, risks assessment and appropriate safety response before undertaking an activity. If the hazards and resulting risks are too great and can’t be addressed, find an alternative!

    Hope this helps. Feel free to send me examples of eyewash/shower controls for review should you decide to go that route.

    Dr. Roy

  36. Felicia Sternberg
    Posted January 3, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    A few teachers have items hanging from their ceilings in the labs such as reminder cards, student work, plants, etc. I was wondering if the OSHA standard that states items cannot be stored 18 inches from the ceiling vertically/horizontally from sprinklers applies to all items hanging from the ceiling? Or is it okay as long as they are at least 18 inches away?

    Any help would be appreciated! Thank you!

    Mrs. Felicia Sternberg
    Grade 8 Team 8 Science Teacher

  37. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 3, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Felicia:

    Felicia – Thanks for the question – I would note first that this is an OSHA and NFPA fire code issue.

    Bottomline: Always keep an item used or stored in a room a minimum of 18 inches below the sprinkler head. This is a horizontal wall to wall level.

    However – having said that – Please check out this OSHA letter send to a person asking a similar question – it should be very helpful to you. The letter can be found at the following OSHA Internet address:

    Thanks again –

    Dr. Ken

  38. Rob Lefkowitz
    Posted January 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Looking for recommendation for a gas burner for middle school kids???

  39. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 7, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Rob Lefkowitz:

    Rob – interesting question! Gas Burners are a classic heating source which tend to be used more often in high school or college science laboratories than middle school science labs. The reason being is less control relative to specific temperatures and other inherent dangers associated with use of a flammable gas. Middle schools more often use hot plates as a heat source. Heating organic liquids such as alcohol with a gas burner is very dangerous and a fire will more than likely develop. The burner should be limited to primarily heating only nonflammable solvents such as water or aqueous solutions such as salt water.

    Having said that, if you are going to use a gas burner, there are a few safer alternatives. For example, micro butane burners usually have a number of built in safety features that could be used at the middle school if you can’t use safer heat source alternatives like hot plates. Please – just do not use alcohol lamps as a heat source. They are extremely dangerous as the number of serious lab accidents have proven.

    I wrote an article in the Dec 2005 Science Scope titled “Turn up the Heat—-Safely!” A free copy can be found at: The column also lists safety operating procedures when using any type of gas burner. You might want to check it out.

    Unfortunately you did not indicate what you were heating but I hope this information helps – let me know!

    Dr. Ken

  40. Christopher Walsh
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken –

    My question is involving disposal procedures. Do we need to contract a hazardous waste disposal company to dispose of preserved specimen fluids? We use Ward’s and Carolina who preserve their specimens in formalin and Carosafe.

    Thanks in advance!


  41. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Christopher Walsh’s Comment:

    Hey Chris – good question! It depends of a few factors like – company you purchased the specimens from, what type of preservative, what the Safety Data Sheets note for disposal, septic system, etc.

    For example – check out the following procedure from Carolina Biological –
    Preserved Specimen Disposal Guideline at:

    Preserving Fluids

    If your preserved specimens are in pails of Carosafe® or Carolina’s Perfect Solution® , the fluids can often be discharged into a sanitary sewer system. This is because neither fluid is classified as a federal hazardous waste and the quantities are generally small. However, you should check with the local wastewater authority (e.g., the local governmental authority that handles wastewater treatment or the local wastewater treatment plant) to make sure that this is an acceptable practice. If it is, you can pour the fluids into a sink and flush them down the drain with running water.

    Another one is Wards. They note the following at their site – Preserved Specimens FAQs:

    How do I dispose of my specimens when lab work is completed?
    You should check with your state and local authorities to insure proper disposal. In most instances, specimens can be disposed of as ordinary household waste, and may either be placed in a landfill or incinerated.

    I believe their advice of checking with local and state regs, in addition to the local water treatment plant operator is good advice before any dumping down the drain ideas!

    I believe Delta has a program to ship it back and they will dispose of it. (

    If still in doubt – I would call a hazardous waste contractor and have them removed. What ever you decide to do, remember to act in an environmental conscious way and also – remember your district owns it from cradle to grave – legally!

    Final thought – remember – with all good chemical management – think how the hazardous chemical would be disposed of and any ramification like cost – BEFORE you decide to purchase it!

    Hope this helps –

    Dr. Ken

  42. Dr. Jackie Bowman
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    One other piece of advice. If you can dispose of specimens as ordinary household waste, it is wise to use black not clear plastic bags. Ordinary citizens can become quite concerned when they see large numbers of specimens in clear plastic bags.

  43. Kenneth Roy
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. Jackie Bowman’s Comment:

    Dr. Jackie – School trash bins can be an attractive nuisance for sure! I would also add that some schools now send out notifications to parents/guardians about upcoming dissection activities. Some states like Connecticut have passed “Dissection Choice Laws.” The Connecticut dissection-choice law allows students to opt out of participating in or watching classroom animal dissections and instead be provided with “humane non-animal learning methods,” such as realistic models and interactive computer programs.

    Point is – you never know who might be rummaging through school trash bins or dumpsters. Which can be unsafe to begin with. Just make sure notification has gone out to parents and guardians as required! Don’t need any negative front page headlines in the town newspaper.

    Thanks again for the comment –

    Dr. Ken

  44. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 14, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Doing Lab Demos in a Safer Way!

    I received this anonymous question for the blog by a high school science teacher:
    Dr. Ken – Are there some guidelines I can use for chemical demonstrations to make them safer? With the number of accident doing lab demos I read about, I am concerned about not only safety for me and my students but also my liability. Thanks in advance

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous:
    As luck would have it, the American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Education released (Oct 2016) a newly written document which directly addresses your question. It is titled: Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations and can be found at (
    This document is well written and starts with the statement – Because no such set of guidelines can address all possible issues, only persons who have appropriate education and experience in chemistry and chemical safety should perform chemical demonstrations. Accordingly, these guidelines are intended for use only by experienced chemical practitioners.
    It then goes into detail focusing on safety procedures to follow before the demo and during the demo. There are also sections on Special Notes for Outreach or Public Demonstrations and Resources.
    Again this is a great resource and I would urge all of our colleagues to read it before doing their next demo!

    Hope this helps –

    Dr. Ken

  45. Dr. Sandra West
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    A colleague asked me for input on a district’s possible decision to place a Chemistry teacher in a portable. I responded with the following information and believe it may be helpful to others in a similar situation:

    If a district plans to house a chemistry teacher and class in a portable building, it would seem that the district would need to guarantee two things to those students assigned to that room, to the parents of those students, to the future employers of those students, and to those taxpayers in that district.

    The first guarantee is that all students including those students would receive an equivalent chemistry education and experience. This would include meeting the TEA requirement that the students engage in investigations 40% of the instructional time. All of the chemistry TEKS are effectively taught and learned using science Better Professional Practices.

    The second guarantee is that those students and their teacher will be in a safer teaching/learning environment like other chemistry labs based on legal safety standards and better professional practices. For example, this would mean that all of the safety engineering controls are in place. All portable building facilities would meet commonly accepted legal safety standards and better professional practices as found in the TEA Facilities standards for new or renovated chemistry rooms in 19 TAC Ch. 61, Subchapter CC (58 sf/student, 1,400 sf, a one pass air ventilation system, a chemical fume hood, dual eyewash/safety shower that meets ANSI standards, a separate chemical storeroom, 6 linear ft/student of horizontal work surface, an instructor controlled exhaust fan that will provide an air change every 15 min., emergency shut-off controls).

    Will the room pass the Fire Dept. inspection for a facility that houses flammables? Will the NFPA codes be adhered to?

    Will the building be secure against chemical, particularly flammables, theft? Portables typically do not have locking windows, but do have raised flooring that is notoriously insecure against break-ins as suggested by my grandson.

    Will the classes be held to 24 or fewer students in any one class as per research-based national standards from the National Science Education Association and the American Chemistry Society?

    The TEA Educators Code of Ethics has requirements for all educators to protect students.

    §247.2. Code of Ethics and Standard Practices for Texas Educators.
    (3) Ethical Conduct Toward Students
    (B) Standard 3.2. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently
    treat a student or minor in a manner that adversely affects or endangers the [student’s]
    learning, physical health, mental health, or safety of the student or minor.
    (E) Standard 3.5. The educator shall not intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
    engage in physical mistreatment , neglect, or abuse of a student or minor.

    Dr. Sandra West,
    Biology Dept,
    Texas State University

  46. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s response to Dr. Sandra West’s comment:

    This is great information to provide when there is “displacement of the traditional chemistry lab!” This often happens when there is school construction or renovations involving science labs. The two priorities as Dr. West noted are securing academic equity and maintaining a safer teaching/learning instructional site. In addition to what information she presented, I would recommend checking out the NSTA Science Teacher Safer Science column I wrote addressing this issue in Jan 2011. See the information below on how to access this article:

    Safer Science: Building Safety in Foreign Language (Free from NSTA Press for NSTA members found at:

    Article summary: A school is about to undergo major renovations and new construction to handle a growing student population. So some science classes and labs are assigned to other parts of the building temporarily. Most teachers are excited about the opportunity to help design the new facility—but many are unaware of the challenges that lie ahead. Therefore, science teachers and their supervisors need to get on board early in the planning stages for new construction and renovations. This includes planning for safety-smart temporary lab facilities. An alternate instructional site where all legal standards and professional best practices can be addressed is critical.

    Please note the legal safety standards for your state may be different than the ones noted by Dr. West. Her references are for the state of Texas. Consult with your state and local fire marshal, building inspectors and state department of education for starters.


    Dr. Ken

  47. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink


    Recently on the General Science Listserve there was a discussion about culturing mold in the lab. This is a real faux pas for sure safety-wise! Below is my response –

    Unless you are running an advanced/AP high school science lab course or a college level Mycology course – there should be NO culturing of microorganisms including bacteria and fungi in any school classroom or lab, based on better professional practices and legal safety standards.

    For example, the NSTA Safety Advisory Board has a safety paper on the NSTA Safety Portal titled: TIPS FOR THE SAFER HANDLING OF MICROORGANISMS IN THE SCIENCE LABORATORY. It can be found at:

    The paper clearly notes the risks of culturing microorganisms and the limitations.

    The problem is you just don’t know what you are culturing in a general survey type growth and therefore there is a real health and safety risk! Even in advanced science lab classes as noted, usually only known commercial type cultures are used. The risk is some fungi can be pathogenic – e.g. MRSA, etc. Obviously the potential for bio-hazard level risk and issues.

    In addition, mold allergies can be very serious health issues for some individuals – students and staff upon exposure. For example, serious respiratory issues can present themselves upon exposure to mold allergens.

    Even when the cultures are “sealed” with tape, etc., accidents can happen which expose lab occupants to allergens. Professionals who work in the field with years of experience still have accidents. Obviously a middle or high school level student is not “immune” to accidents either!

    Bottom-line is – please – do not culture bacteria or mold in your school classroom or labs. Just not a safe thing to do! Given the numerous resources on the Internet, there are a variety of photos which can be used and also commercially prepared slides can be useful.

    Thanks –

    Dr. Ken

    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser
    National Science Teachers Association

  48. Kenneth Roy
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    IMPORTANT CHEMICAL ALERT: Science Lab Safety Warning on 2,4 dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) – This chemical is extremely shock sensitive when dried out. Normally contains 30-35% water as a stabilizer. In the UK, soldiers were called to nearly 600 schools nationally following a Government warning about 2,4 dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) who carried out 589 controlled explosions. The chemical has been used to test for and identify carbonyl compounds.

    For latest information – check out what the UK is doing about it in school science labs: at

    At the K-12 level – this needs to be a “ban” level chemical! If you find it in your inventory consider removing by calling your local fire marshal and/or hazmat team. Better safe than sorry as the saying goes!!!

    Stay safer –

    Dr. Ken

  49. Claudia Bhagat
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken, going through my school’s chemical cabinet I’ve found a glass bottle with glass stopper, engraved “sulfuric acid dil H2SO4” (the types of bottles probably used in the 1960’s or before). It contains approx. 200 ml clear fluid with some white precipitate. I do not know how dilute it is (maybe 1M, maybe anywhere from near 0 to 18M). I cannot remove the stopper (tried soaking in water and carbonated water as well as gentle heating). How do I discard this bottle? Glass trash and hoping it is well diluted? Crashing it and risking injury from glass and acid? None of these options seem wise. Any other ideas? Or only commercial hazard waste disposal?

  50. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Claudia Bhagat’s Comment:

    Claudia – Thanks for the question – I know many science teachers “inherit gifts” like the one you have noted. Normally, neutralization would be the plan A. However – in your case – there are too many unknowns and in addition, the sealed bottled issue. For starters – I believe you don’t know how old it is – no date; you don’t know the concentration; you don’t know if in fact it is sulfuric acid (you did not bottle it); and more.

    At this juncture, I would say plan B is the safer way to go – containerized for removal by a contracted waste management company. Find a waste management company and explain your problem. Ask them what type of container they would like you to use and how they want it labeled. Also get a generic dilute sulfuric acid SDS and placed it with the bottle. Always get a firm quote from the company prior to contracting them. Some school districts have their facilities department or science chemical hygiene officer do annual chemical waste disposal programs in place. You need to explore that avenue first.

    Store the bottle in a safe and secure place like a shelf in your chemical storeroom. Dedicate that shelf location for disposal items and label the shelf –“Items for disposal.” Also have a spill pan placed under the bottle in case it should happen to leak.

    In the interim – please – do not heat the bottle – could explode! Do not smash the bottle – you could get cut and splashed by projectiles! Do not place in water or any other liquid – could start an exothermic reaction – nasty! Remember when diluting acids, never add water to acid – always the reverse – Always Add Acid to the water (AAAw method!). Adding water to acid may cause it to boil very violently, splashing concentrated acid out of the container!

    Hope this is helpful!

    Dr. Ken
    NSTA Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser/Blogger

  51. Jan Hermansen
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken;

    It has been brought to my attention by another teacher and parent about the dangerous use of the ozone machines our school has purchased and are using. I have been so involved in preparing lesson plans and making sure the lab is running soundly with my second year of teaching, this issue completely missed my attention.

    What are your thoughts, resources, etc. about using ozone machines in confined spaces with poor ventilation?

    Thanks for your reply.

    PS I have contacted our county environmental health director to come do pollution testing. I also would like to add the ozone machines to the list of pseudo-science articles for students to research. The pseudo-science topic is new for me this year but I feel very important to discuss.

    Jan Hermansen

  52. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 23, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Jan Hermansen Comment:

    Jan – Good question and one I have personal experience with. We have a copy room and a paraprofessional who runs 3 copying machines in it. A few years ago she complained to me as safety compliance officer of getting headaches, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc. when working in the office after about one hour. I visited her and could quickly smell the presence of what I suspected was ozone. Fast forward – I had it tested by a state certified lab and as a result I required all of the copiers to be directly vented to the out side. Symptoms vanished once venting was operational.

    Unfortunately, man-made ozone from copiers and other office machines is corrosive and toxic. Continuous initial exposure provides acute symptoms like I mentioned above. Long term exposure can cause chronic symptoms leading to lung damage and infections.

    Ozone concentrations can build up to unhealthy levels with insufficient ventilation. Concentrations as little as 0.25 ppm can effect eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, olfactory sensation issues and more. It is my understanding that prolonged exposure to a few ppm is known to seriously damage lungs.

    Bottom-line is – I would suggest you have an IAQ test done specifically including ozone levels but make sure the copiers are running for a while as in normal operation during the testing phase. I would also have the facilities department check into directly venting each machine that produces ozone. Supposedly, newer models of copier have reduced levels of ozone. It does depend of the model but again, small areas with no or little ventilation still allows ozone levels to rise.

    Hope this helps –

    Dr. Ken

  53. Beth Bonvie
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken –

    Subject: Powdered Gloves to Be Discontinued Following New FDA Regulation
    Received this from our school secretary – see below.

    I assume we are to comply throughout the district and destroy and powdered gloves?

    FYI: Fisher Scientific
    Prepare: Make a Smooth Transition to Powder-Free
    Dear Valued Customer,
    The FDA issued a final ruling December 19th and banned the use of powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and the use of powder to don gloves in a health care setting. The ruling becomes effective January 18, 2017. To ensure that you receive the highest quality of personal protective products, Thermo Fisher Scientific has discontinued the sale of such products, effective immediately, in support of the FDA’s request to withdraw such products from the marketplace.

    Based on the FDA’s recommendation, we are requesting that you destroy any of these products in your possession. Please note that use of these products for any other purpose is considered off-label use from the FDA’s perspective, and therefore, we request that you not repurpose these products for any other application.

    Thanks for your help as always –

    Beth Bonvie

  54. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Beth Bonvie re: FDA’s Ban on Powered Gloves:

    Beth – Yes – this is true about the new FDA ban on powered gloves starting 18 Jan 2017. “Prudent avoidance” are always the safety words to follow! As an fyi – I have copied the introductory part of the Fed Reg below along with the website. I would urge all teachers who use these glove to read this important information.
    Hopefully this will be helpful!

    Dr. Ken

    Banned Devices; Powdered Surgeon’s Gloves, Powdered Patient Examination Gloves, and Absorbable Powder for Lubricating a Surgeon’s Glove


    Purpose and Coverage of the Final Rule

    Medical gloves play a significant role in the protection of both patients and health care personnel in the United States. Health care personnel rely on medical gloves as barriers against transmission of infectious diseases and contaminants when conducting surgery, as well as when conducting more limited interactions with patients. Various types of powder have been used to lubricate gloves so that wearers could don the gloves more easily. However, the use of powder on medical gloves presents numerous risks to patients and health care workers, including inflammation, granulomas, and respiratory allergic reactions.
    A thorough review of all currently available information supports FDA’s conclusion that powdered surgeon’s gloves, powdered patient examination gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove should be banned. FDA has concluded that the risks posed by powdered gloves, including health care worker and patient sensitization to natural rubber latex (NRL) allergens, surgical complications related to peritoneal adhesions, and other adverse health events not necessarily related to surgery, such as inflammatory responses to glove powder, are important, material, and significant in relation to the benefit to public health from their continued marketing. FDA has carefully evaluated the risks and benefits of powdered gloves and the risks and benefits of the state of the art, which includes viable non-powdered alternatives that do not carry any of the risks associated with glove powder, and has determined that the risk of illness or injury posed by powdered gloves is unreasonable and substantial. Further, FDA believes that this ban would likely have minimal economic and shortage impact on the health care industry. Thus, a transition to alternatives in the marketplace should not result in any detriment to public health.
    This rule applies to powdered patient examination gloves, powdered surgeon’s gloves, and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon’s glove. This includes all powdered medical gloves except powdered radiographic protection gloves. Because we are not aware of any powdered radiographic protection gloves that are currently on the market, FDA lacks the evidence to determine whether the banning standard would be met for this particular device. The ban does not apply to powder used in the manufacturing process (e.g., former-release powder) of non-powdered gloves, where that powder is not intended to be part of the final finished glove. Finished non-powdered gloves are expected to include no more than trace amounts of residual powder from these processes, and the Agency encourages manufacturers to ensure finished non-powdered gloves have as little powder as possible. In our 2008 Medical Glove Guidance Manual (Ref. 1), we recommended that non-powdered gloves have no more than 2 milligrams (mg) of residual powder and debris per glove, as determined by the Association for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D6124 test method (Ref. 2). The Agency continues to believe this amount is an appropriate maximum level of residual powder.

  55. Kenneth Roy
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    LIsten to Pre K-12 School Science Safety Expert Dr. Ken Roy’s interview (26 January 2017) on Education Talk Radio focusing on important safety issues at

  56. Gerri St. Clair
    Posted January 27, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken –

    Our school system is in the planning stages of designing a new high school facility. They are considering having teachers be mobile to travel on carts between classrooms. We would like some safety information on this practice that we can pass along to them to consider as we feel that this could be a huge liability for teachers due to the possibility of spilling chemicals, dropping glassware, etc. while moving instructional items between classes.

    Gerri St. Clair

  57. Dr. Ken
    Posted January 27, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Gerri St. Clair Comment – Temporary Classroom Assignments

    Gerri – Thanks for the question – There are a number of issues in this type of action

    1. As you noted – increased and serious risk of transporting hazardous chemicals, glassware, and other science equipment/materials in hallways. For example hazardous chemicals must be properly protected and packaged for transport in case they are dropped accidentally. If you do a hazards analysis and risks assessment on this, it could be shown this is an unsafe and risky choice! Included in this process is the planning and training for transporting hazardous chemicals in hallways, having a clear path free of trip/fall or slip/fall hazards, potential exposure to others using the walkway, etc. Bottom-line is science classes should be assigned in labs where materials are present and not moved around in the building. Again – depending on what is being transported, the potential hazards and resulting levels of risk could just too high.

    2. Another big concern also would be if non-lab temporary classrooms have all of the engineering controls required like ventilation, fire extinguishers, master power shut-offs, eye wash stations, etc. Science labs are under a whole set of other NFPA, OSHA, etc. standards and regulations which must be adhered to when compared to other non-lab instructional spaces. If these regulations/standards are not being met – no labs should be done – the teacher and school would be liable if there is an accident.

    Hope this helps.

    Dr. Ken

  58. Nancy Freid
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken – My school is proposing placing a door between the lecture portion of the science room and the lab portion. They intend to have math classes and study halls running simultaneously in both rooms. There is overcrowding and a need for more rooms; however, I have a number of concerns about this idea. Are there any legal/liability concerns I should make the administration aware of?
    Thank you,

  59. Dr. Ken
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Nancy – Legal Risks in Sharing Science Lab with Non-Science Classes

    Nancy – Thanks for this great inquiry. To be sure, not all administrators are aware of their and your liability as a science teacher based on legal safety standards and better professional practices in this type of scenario. Bottom-line here using science laboratories for non-science instruction or study halls are very risky for both you and the school district.

    You did not mention what state your school is in so I don’t know if you are under a state or federal OSHA. You also may be covered under a state agency which addresses school employee safety in lieu of a state OSHA. You need to find out which one covers you as an employee. I will assume you are covered under OSHA or OSHA-like standards. Science labs are covered under OSHA’s Lab Standard or Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. ( along with other standards like OSHA HazCom and Bloodborne Pathogens. Any school employee working in a science lab given the biological, chemical and physical hazards are required to receive appropriate training under these standards. It doesn’t matter if you are a science teacher, math teacher, study hall monitor, etc. – given the risks – just being in the lab and having potential exposure to these hazards requires the training. There also is risk for students given the attractive nuisances – lab equipment, chemicals, etc. Students and teachers as employees are also covered under what is known as “duty of care.”

    Your principal as the chief building administrator representing the employer is charged with “duty of care” for any employee working in the science lab. I would suggest you and your principal review the following position statements by the NSELA and NSTA dealing with “duty or standard of care.” Both were vetted by legal teams of experts:
    1. NSELA:
    Safety & Duty of Care (
    2. NSTA:
    Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory Safety (

    Bottom-line is both you and the principal have joint liability should anyone get injured in the lab – be it used for science or even non science as is being suggested. Given you provide ongoing safety training for your science students, your risk legally is reduced considerably for you and your own science students. This is not the case for the principal if he assigns non-science classes in science labs or even lecture rooms designed for demos, etc. with all appropriate engineering controls, etc.

    The principal needs to rethink the idea of using instructional spaces designed and designated as science lecture/laboratory sites for non-science assignments. Again given the risks under duty of care along with other better professional practices and legal safety standards, this is just not a wise choice!

    Do you have a Chemical Hygiene Plan and assigned Chemical Hygiene Officer as required by the OSHA Lab Standard? If not – you should remind the school they are responsible for doing so – that is the law! Also remind them you are telling them to protect both you and them liability-wise! If you do have a CHO, did you secure input from that person for added support? I also know school district insurance companies can send out inspectors to check these thing out. Not say you should go there at this point but down the road if the plan doesn’t change, this could be another option for your union to explore.

    Hope this helps.

    Dr. Ken

    Chief Science Safety Compliance Adviser
    National Science Teachers Association

  60. Julia Renberg
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Greetings, Dr. Roy,

    I received the following question from one of our HS Department Chairs:
    Does there need to be a sink in the chemical cabinet? We are trying to replace our acid cabinet and the dimensions of the new styles do not fit into the space we have currently and the sink would need to be removed. I just wanted to know if the sink was a requirement.

    Could you, please, help with this?

    Julia Renberg

  61. Dr. Ken
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Julia Renberg: Need for sink in chem storeroom.

    Julia – Thanks for the question. Bottom-line is in the chemical storeroom, you do not need a sink. The sink(s) should be located in the preparation room and science lab.

    There are prep rooms that also are used to store chemicals in appropriate cabinets like flammable liquid and acid cabinets. In this case, again if the room is designed for preparations also , a sink or sinks are a must! Hope this helps.

    Dr. Ken

  62. MIchelle Douglass
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Dr. Ken,

    I have a question about growing chicks and safety. I saw a youtube video on an ex ovo culture of chicks. I am a research mentor for ISEF science fairs and vertebrates have a ton of rules to follow.

    Now, I don’t want to grow them for any science fair project, but I wanted to know if there are any guidelines that I need to be aware of for my A&P class. I have searched the VA doe site and can’t find anything specific to growing chicks outside of the shells.

    Thanks so much for your time,
    Michelle Douglass, M. S.

  63. Kenneth Roy
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Michelle Douglass – “Ex ovo culture of chicks and safety”

    Michelle – thanks for the question. The National Association of Biology Teachers has an American Biology Teacher Journal resource titled “ Ex Ovo Model for Directly Visualizing Chick Embryo Development.” It can be found at: (The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 74 No. 9, November/December 2012; (pp. 628-634))

    I do echo your concern about institution, local and state regulations. Although this article is great on procedure, it does note the use of teratogens and safety-wise, I would opt out of using them. Having said that – NABT articles usually have great credibility and merit. For additional safety regulatory considerations, I would also suggest you contact your local health department. The health officer should either know the applicable regulations or have the contacts to find them at the state level. Also remember to check your local school policies and protocols for this type of activity.
    Hope this helps –
    Dr. Ken

  64. Kenneth Roy
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Chairs on Wheels in the Lab?? ——————————Anonymous Comment:

    I am a long time follower, first-time submitting on the blog!

    We are getting new tables and chairs in our middle school science labs. We were told the plan is for WHEELS on all of the chairs being put into each of our science labs. They didn’t provide us with any details on the types of tables, but after the wheeled chairs there is growing concern about safety.

    We were asked to submit our concerns in writing to the administration. Does NSTA have any docs on this we can reference? Especially interested in the chairs, but if there are recommended specs for tables you have as well, we’d be grateful for the help in making our case.

    Thanks for all you do to keep us and our students safe in our science labs!

  65. Kenneth Roy
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous Comment titled: Chairs on Wheels in the Lab

    Unfortunately there are no formal NSTA docs to my knowledge that reference this issue. Having said that, I would note the following:

    1. Some middle school curricula – especially STEM based ones require spaces to be flexible to accommodate a wide variety of student-use scenarios and project-driven set ups. It would then be advantageous for lab furniture like tables to have wheels that swivel in all directions so that students can move them easily. However, it is critical that the wheels have locks which help to keep them from moving once you’ve got them in place. This would not be appropriate for lab tables that have utilities anchored in them; e.g. – electrical receptacle, gas and water.

    2. I would have concerns however about student chairs having wheels fostering mobility. This could be a safety concern for a number of reasons, especially when working with heat sources, hazardous chemicals, biologicals and/or physicals. Also given the developmental age and activity of students resulting from high energy levels, their risks of motion/flip and trip/fall hazards are real and elevated. In this way, I would agree that chair should not have wheels on them.

    Hope this helps.

    Dr. Ken

    • Sandra West
      Posted March 30, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      I no longer recommend stools (or chairs) in the lab for students. The idea of stools in labs came from the image of a scientist working in the lab all day long at the lab bench. That’s not the case for K-12 students where they have classes that are not even 90 minutes at the max. So, standing up during lab or field investigations is not a problem and we’re learning that standing up is actually good for us.

      Stools can be a trip hazard in the lab. Perhaps more importantly, when labs are built too small and overcrowding occurs, the stools take up valuable space and my research clearly demonstrated that the lack of individual work space links with increased accident rates.

      If you want to see school from a student’s eyes, just be a student for a day! Student teachers who are required to be a “student for a day” report the same thing students report. School is BORING!!!! They report it’s primarily sitting, doing worksheets and memorizing vocabulary.

      Get rid of lab stools or chairs when possible and certainly no stools on wheels in the lab. Have student learn science in an active mode with concrete/hands-on activities and with inquiry when appropriate. Lab stools are expensive and those funds can be better spent on science materials or equipment.

      That’s my 2 cents!

  66. Dr. Ken
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    When to use gloves and goggles? Anonymous Comment

    Dr. Ken – I am in need of your expert opinion:

    Are gloves and goggles necessary in all science activities? Or are you to use common sense and professional judgement in making these calls? Of course they are necessary in dealing with chemicals or hazardous materials. But when taking students out to test the temperature in a stream – are goggles and gloves needed?

  67. Dr. Ken
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Anonymous Comment – Use of Gloves & Goggles?

    Short answer – no! What has to be done in each case by the teacher is a hazards analysis, risks assessment and then take appropriate safety action (AAA approach to decision making!). For example – if considering using alcohol in an activity – hazards (extremely flammable, toxic), risks (potential to get burn or have an explosion, potential for being poisoned) and resulting safety action: (use splash goggles, gloves, work under fume hood, don’t eat or drink during activity, etc.) If you can’t address the safety action – either eliminate or find an alternative and safer chemical to work with. Hazards are of 3 types basically – biological (mold, bacteria, etc.), chemical (acids/corrosives, flammables, toxins, etc.) and physicals (projectiles, levels, springs, etc.). In the case of temp in a stream using the AAA approach- if in open area – eye protection and gloves would not be necessary under normal conditions. On the other hand, if in a wooded and/or bug infested area (hazards), potential for injuring eye and potential impalement from branches (risks), – yes – at least eye protection required – safety glasses or goggles (safety action).

    Thanks – another great question!!!

  68. Julia Renberg
    Posted March 22, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Good day, Dr. Roy,

    I have a school who asked me about ventilation requirements for a chemical storage room. Could you, please, assist? Are there regulations that pertain chemical storage areas and, if yes, where could I locate them?


    Julia Renberg
    Supervisor of Science and Family Life Education

  69. Dr. Ken
    Posted March 22, 2017 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Julia Renberg’s Comment:

    Julia – Thanks for that question. This is another question I get from time-to-time and a very important one – especially if dealing with flammables and toxins.

    States that have adopted the legal NFPA fire codes and/or ICC building codes require ventilation in science labs which do not circulate to other parts of the building. This is in concern for spreading the hazards to other classrooms, corridors, etc. in the building. These ventilation requirements are true for labs, prep rooms and chemical storerooms. You need to check with the local fire marshal and/or building code administrator in your town to see which is the latest adoption because they do change from one edition to the next and one adoption to the next. Generally however – the storeroom usually is around 4 room exchanges per hour – on going or more.

    Two resources I would suggest are found at the following sites:

    Laboratory Ventilation ACH Rates Standards and Guidelines:

    A review of recent changes in current lab ACH rate standards, guidelines:

    Thanks again –

    Dr. Ken

  70. Kenneth Roy
    Posted March 29, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    THE SLIME ISSUE! Is Homemade “Slime” Safe? A young girl had a reaction to the borax when making the slime. Evidently she had a sensitivity to it. That is the bad news. But how could this happen when so many other students have never reported such a reaction. The good news is – come to find out based on the following report – it would seem that safety procedures like diluting the borax were evidently not followed. Check out the article written below for specifics!! Save the slime! Remember the eye and hand protection!!!

    Dr. Ken

  71. Kenneth Roy
    Posted March 30, 2017 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Carbon Monoxide Killed Berkeley Couple: 3D Printer Suspect!

    Back in December 2016 I wrote a commentary on the NSTA Blog titled: “The Harmful Particles in 3-D Printers.” It warned teachers about the potential issues of VOCs and particulates when using 3-D printers. Recently, there was a news article titled: “CO Poisoning Killed Berkeley Couple: 3D printer suspect!” (

    Again for safety sake, I would urge teachers to read this article and also the commentary found on the safety blog at:

    Before you buy or if already bought, make sure you have appropriate ventilation! You and your students’ health & safety could be at risk!

    Dr. Ken

  72. Kenneth Roy
    Posted April 1, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Dr. Sandra West’s Comment

    Dr. West – Could not agree more about eliminating the use of stools when working at lab benches. Chemistry lab usual are in this category. I have personally seen the stools as trip fall hazards during my years teaching chemistry. Eventually we banned their use.

    I would however note that other science labs like biology and definitely physics tend to have lab tables which are considerably lower than the benches (about 34 inches high). To have students stand and bend over these lower work platforms can be a problem. These tables are designed to have students sitting on chairs to carry out their lab activities. I believe we are in agreement that when this type of lab furniture is in place, it may be safer with most activities to have students sitting in chairs as opposed to standing and bending over the lower table to do work.

    Again, bottom-line – students should be “standing up” for science, providing the have the appropriate lab benches designed for working in that position. This should be considered in earnest when designing new labs or renovating older ones.

    Thanks again for that great comment.

    Dr. Ken

  73. Sandra West
    Posted April 1, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Ken. Great conversation as always. My answer was based on seeing only the higher (chemistry type) lab benches built over the last 10+ years.

    I’d be interested in hearing back from our colleagues about their observations of new science lab construction in the last 10+ years. What height lab benches are you observing in new construction?


  74. Sue Gasper
    Posted April 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dr. Ken,

    What do you recommend for disposal of iodine solution? Thanks.

    Sue Gasper

  75. Dr. Ken
    Posted April 12, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Sue Gasper’s Comment:

    Sue – Very useful question for all science teachers who have to deal with and make decisions about hazardous chemical disposal methods. The very first thing you should always do is check the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet Section # 13 “Disposal Considerations.” In doing so, you will probably read something like this: “Please review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply before proceeding.” I would suggest at that point you check with your local water treatment plant operator for this information. If you have a septic system – check with the town health department director.

    Another great resource that I would suggest is to follow the Flinn Scientific method (#12a) for disposal of oxidizing agents (in the case of the iodine solution) in their Catalog/Reference Manual. If you don’t have their Catalog/Reference Manual, the disposal directions can be found at:

    Another alternative is to have it as part of your annual hazardous waste disposal procedure with a contracted waste disposal company.

    Hope this helps!

    Dr. Ken

  76. Anne Petersen
    Posted April 17, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken,
    I am in the process of developing a curriculum framework and I have heard arguments for and against the use of fire blankets in a high school chemistry lab. What is your stance? what is OSHAs stance?

  77. Dr. Ken
    Posted April 17, 2017 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Comment by Anne Petersen Relative to Use of Fire Blankets in Chemistry Labs:
    Anne – Almost every science lab I have ever visited or inspected has a fire blanket. Most certainly it has its uses but I would not recommend it as the primary source for putting out a clothing fire. By wrapping yourself in it, the fire is extinguished but the heat is trapped. It also creates the chimney effect which forces the heat, toxic fumes/gases and flames up to your face. I support what is recommended by the American Chemical Society in their publication titled: Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools Fire blankets. It states the following: “These are no longer recommended for the high school laboratory. Practice “Stop, Drop, and Roll” instead.”

    If they shower is near – quickly get under it. The cooler temperature of the water would also lessen the tissue damage from the flames.

    OSHA on the other hand notes in the Lab Standard 1910.1450 App A the following: National Research Council Recommendations Concerning Chemical Hygiene in Laboratories state fire blanket needs to be part of emergency equipment.

    Again I would agree with this statement. In this way the blanket should be used to smother other fire flames, provide a shower modesty curtain, a temporary stretcher, a pillow for the victim if on the floor and a blanket to help keep them warm.

    Hope this helps – Let me know –

    Have a safer day –

    Dr. Ken

  78. Eddie McGrath
    Posted April 18, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Just to add if I may: if a room has a safety blanket, it should be checked (i.e. taken out of the packing and unfolded) occasionally to check condition. I have seen some that disintegrated upon being removed after years on a shelf. Not helpful in an emergency!

  79. Dr. Ken
    Posted April 18, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Ken’s Response to Eddie McGrath’s Comment:

    Eddie – great additional point on fire blanket. There is a word of caution however – older – several decades in age – fire blankets with made out of asbestos. When unfolded – the asbestos particles become friable – no good! I would make sure I knew how old the blanket was and if it contains asbestos before unfolding. “Disintegrating” is also a clue! If not known but suspect an issue – have it replaced. Dispose of the older suspected blanket as hazardous waste via the school district’s protocol.

    Thanks again – great point!

    Dr. Roy

  80. Dr. Ken
    Posted April 19, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink


    Listen to School Safety In Maker Spaces, FAB Labs & STEM Labs: Education Talk Radio 18 April 2017 interview with Dr. Ken:

  81. Dr. Ken
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    New Publication for Makerspace Educators!

    The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) has just published an important safety article in their Journal Safety Spotlight column titled: Tools and Equipment in Nontraditional Spaces: Safety and Liability Issues. The article was written jointly by safety compliance specialists Dr. Tyler Love (ITEEA) and Dr Ken Roy (NSTA).

    It addresses critical safety and liability issues for Makerspace teachers and administrators. It is one you don’t want to miss and need to be aware of to better protect yourself, your students and your school.

    It can be accessed free of charge at the following ITEEA site:

    Have a safer day –

    Dr. Ken

    Kenneth R. Roy, Ph.D.
    Director of Environmental Health & Chemical Safety,
    Chemical Hygiene Officer;
    Designated Asbestos Compliance Coordinator,
    PCB Program Coordinator,
    Glastonbury Public Schools (CT);
    Chief Science Safety Compliance AdviserBlogger
    National Science Teachers Association (NSTA);
    Safety Compliance Officer
    National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA);

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