Safety (1)
Safety is of paramount importance in running a chemistry club - after all, a serious accident would more than undo all the good work in promoting a positive image of chemistry.

In law, health and safety is the responsibility of your employer (i.e. your LEA or governing body). You must cooperate with your employer on health and safety matters and follow any local guidance or rules (that overrides any advice given here). Before a hazardous chemical is used or made, or a hazardous procedure carried out, your employer is required to carry out a risk assessment. Most education employers have adopted a number of commonly available publications as the basis for their model (or general) risk assessments. These include

  • Hazcards, CLEAPSS, 1995 or 1998/2000 updates
  • Laboratory Handbook, CLEAPSS, 1997 or later updates
  • Safeguards in the School Laboratory, 10th edition, ASE, 1996
  • Topics in Safety, 3rd edition, ASE, 2001
  • Safety in Science Education, DfEE, HMSO, 1996
  • Hazardous Chemicals: A Manual for Science Education, SSERC, 1997 (or CD-ROM).
See Section 3 for addresses etc. Note that CLEAPSS publications are available only to member schools.

Most of the activities in this Handbook are compatible with such model risk assessments. We believe that the recognised hazards have been identified and suitable safety measures suggested. Even so, teachers will need to check that what they propose to do is indeed in accordance with their employer’s requirements.

Note, for example, that model risk assessments often have age restrictions, suggesting that solutions of particular concentrations, for example, are only suitable for use by pupils in Year 9 (age 13-14) or above.

Note too, that whilst vapour concentrations may be acceptable if an activity is done as a demonstration, or by one group of pupils, this may not be the case if twenty pupils all decide they want to repeat the experiment - fume cupboards or good ventilation may then be needed. In any case, it is in the nature of a chemistry club that some activities will be outside the conventional ones covered in model risk assessments - unusual chemicals, different activities with ordinary chemicals, and a desire to carry out some of the more spectacular, but potentially dangerous, demonstrations.

Some extrapolation from model risk assessments on sound chemical principles is permissible. However, for some activities a special risk assessment will be needed and employers should have laid down how this is to be carried out. Often, for members, it will involve contacting:

  • In England and Wales: CLEAPSS School Science Service (Tel.: 01895 251496; Fax: 01895 814372).
  • In Scotland SSERC (Tel: 0131 558 8180; Fax: 0131 558 8191).
  • In Republic of Ireland An Roinn Oideachais in Dublin (Tel: 01 873 4700; Fax: 01 677 7342).

The book Preparing COSHH Risk Assessments for Project Work in Schools (SSERC, 1991) may also be useful. Significant deviations from model risk assessments or outcomes of special risk assessments must always be in writing and kept for future reference or inspection.

Go to Safety 2 Section >

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.