Safety (2)
Safety problems can arise in chemistry clubs for a variety of reasons. Not only are the activities unconventional, but also the teacher in charge may not know some of the pupils very well - or have any experience of their reliability, degree of responsibility, practical skills, etc. A range of different activities may be in progress. Pupils may be enthusiastic about what is going on and get ‘carried away’. It is vital to insist upon good laboratory practice and to ensure that pupils have been given appropriate training in a range of laboratory techniques. For example, check that pupils know how to heat test tubes containing solids or liquids safely, know how to smell chemicals safely, etc. See Chapter 14 in Safety in Science Education or Chapter 4 in Safeguards in the School Laboratory or Section 13.1 of CLEAPSS Laboratory Handbook.

The wearing of eye protection must be rigidly enforced. In their enthusiasm pupils may well point test tubes away from their own faces but straight at somebody else's. Unlike normal lessons, teachers can, with effect, threaten the ultimate sanction - banishment from the chemistry club for those who transgress. Equally, the rest of the group can be brought in to support this, with threats to close down the chemistry club. More positively, it can be ‘sold’ as ‘our club, our rules, our responsibility to enforce them’. It is important to encourage pupils to think about safety in the activities they carry out. Not only is this required by the Science National Curriculum for England and Wales, but it will also be required in the Salters’ Festivals of Chemistry.

You can download a form that can be copied for use by pupils. In doing their own risk assessments, pupils may find the CLEAPSS Student Safety Sheets (CLEAPSS, 1997 and 2000) of some help. Similar to Hazcards, these sheets were written with pupils in mind and can be copied or simplified as required.

Spectacular demonstrations will form an important feature of a chemistry club. Resist the temptations to repeat demonstrations on ever larger scales. A reaction that was violent, but under control with 1 gram, may NOT be twice as violent with 2 grams – it may be four or even eight times as vigorous. Don't be pressured to make ‘on the hoof’ decisions. Plan, check and consult is the only safe way.

Usually, you will want the practical work to be done under controlled conditions at school. Occasionally, however, it may be appropriate for simple experiments to be done at home. Remember many domestic chemicals are much more hazardous than we routinely allow younger pupils to handle. Remember too, there will be no eye protection, and that younger brothers and sisters may be around. However, if ideas for activities are sent home, we suggest you should get parental consent in advance, for example using the following letter. (You can copy this text and paste it into a word processor document if you like).

Sample Disclaimer Letter

Activities at Home

I give permission for my son/daughter to perform chemistry club experiments at home. I understand that he/she will have discussed the experiment with his/her teacher and will be provided with written instructions that emphasise any hazards and give clear guidance on how to reduce any risk from them. The activities suggested are safe if carried out according to instructions, and the chemicals used are those that are normally found in the home. However, I understand that neither the school nor The Salters’ Chemistry Club is liable for the consequences of any experiments conducted in a pupil's home and I am prepared to take full responsibility.

Name of pupil: _________________________     Form/class: _________

Name of parent/guardian: _____________________________________

Signature of parent/guardian: _______________________ Date:_______

For further information on The Salters' Institute's Activities, including Salters' Festivals of Chemistry and Salters' Chemistry Camps, please view the web site at

Copyright Salters' Chemistry Club 2005
Copyright is waived for teachers wishing to print parts of this handbook for educational purposes.