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  5. P4.4 Laboratory Safety and Behaviour Management

P4.4 Laboratory Safety and Behaviour Management


Safety and the minimisation of risk (not avoidance of risk) is of central importance in science and science education - and this is the reason that laboratories, specialised equipment and appropriate procedures need to be used and skills developed. Closely associated with this is the need for appropriate behaviour from pupils and for them to be careful for their own safety, the safety of others and of the environment. Learners must be able to be trusted to use potentially dangerous and possibly expensive facilities and equipment sensibly. This article explores the sources of information available, especially with trainee teachers in mind, and provides suggestions for what should be included in ITT programmes. Some useful downloads are also provided.

The standards most appropriate to this section include Q1-4, Q7-10, Q14, Q21 although issues of safety and learner behaviour pervade many of the aspects of professional development for teachers.

Keywords: Safety, Risk minimisation and assessment, Laboratories, Behaviour management.


1.0 Introduction
2.0 Sources of Information
3.0 What Should an ITT Course Cover

1.0 Introduction

Concerns about managing pupil behaviour are often at the top of a trainee’s agenda when they start their course. The Qualifying to Teach Standards also give prominence to these issues in a number of their statements. For example:

  • Q1: High expectations, respect and commitment
  • Q2: Demonstrate positive values, attitudes and behaviour
  • Q3a: Be aware of the professional duties of teachers and the statutory framework.
  • Q3b: Be aware of the policies and practices at work and collective responsibility for implementation
  • Q7-10: Personal professional development & teaching and learning.
  • Q14: Subjects and Curriculum (The science specific dimensions of the other standards highlighted hers including personal safety and environmental care - whilst maintaining an engaging and exciting curriculum are particularly important and challenging.)
  • Q21: Health and well-being.

The scope of the Standard and the ways in which the trainees may generate evidence is further developed in the Handbook of Guidance available from

Within this section it is not proposed to discuss issues concerned with general behaviour management as this is dealt with effectively elsewhere for example

Instead it is intended to focus on one area of ‘classroom’ management that has a specific resonance for science that of safety management. This carries with it an added concern for trainees and may well stop them from fully engaging with certain aspects of the scientific experience.

Ofsted, writing in An employment based Route into Teaching -an overview of the first year of inspection of Designated Recommended Bodies for the GTP 2003/4, noted that ‘in science, health and safety in lessons was not given sufficient consideration’ This is a somewhat worrying statement.

2.0 Sources of Information

There are several very useful organisations from whom information can be gathered.

CLEAPSS (Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services ) are a good starting point.  Their leaflet L238, Health and Safety Induction and Training of Science Teachers, published in April 2004 is aimed at all middle and secondary schools (see Download 2.0a).

In addition to this publication CLEAPSS have a range of other resources detailed on the CLEAPSS Science Publications CD-ROM. There is a very good search facility on the CD.

The Laboratory Handbook is one such publication, most schools will have this as a paper copy.
CLEAPPS produce Hazcards (also on CD) and for technicians, Recipe Cards. Trainees should be made aware of these and their relationship to risk assessments.
In terms of other publications CLEAPSS recommend copying PS21 and PS47 to all trainee teachers.

The Association for Science Education (ASE) also produces a range of publications on the topic of laboratory safety. For trainees, probably the most important is Safeguards in the School Laboratory (10th edition 1996, but the 11th edition is currently in preparation, probably published 2006). They need to read this more or less cover to cover.

It would be very useful to have available reference copies of Topics in Safety (3rd edition), Safety Reprints (2000 or later).

The book Safe and Exciting Science: An INSET Pack has a range of materials, some of which would be suitable for use on initial training course.

The ASE has a Laboratory Safeguards Committee which is a source of help and advice. Aspects of this service are available from the members section of the ASE website including: safety advice from past issues of Education in Science and School Science Review and articles taken from Safety in Science Education (DfES, 1996).

The publications mentioned above have safety as their focus, but a number of other more general texts also have sections that are relevant (see Download 2.0b).

Download P4.4_2.0a 'CLEAPPS leaflet'
Download P4.4_2.0b 'Excerpts on laboratory safety'

3.0 What Should an ITT Course Cover

An initial teacher training course should:

  • Raise awareness of safety issues
  • Explain the nature of safety legislation and the trainee’s responsibilities in terms of this legislation
  • Consider Risk Assessments as a process and as an outcome

The primary piece of legislation governing safety in science lessons is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations (1994). Fundamentally, trainees need to understand the process of risk assessment and how they record their deliberations - evidence that they have carried out a risk assessment in their lesson planning.

The question then arises as to how these areas can be addressed within an ITT course. An example is available as Download 3.

Download P4.4_3.0a 'Safety Extracts from GITEP Science course handbook'

This section authored by:
Neil Herrington, University of East London

Published: 23 Dec 2005, Last Updated: 27 Mar 2008