Student Laboratory Code of Conduct

The Student Laboratory Code of Conduct Acknowledgment Form is a template for consideration by chemistry teachers in concert with administrators and the school board as they design safety protocols for student behavior in their chemistry laboratories and other locations where chemicals are in use.

This document was prepared in collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT).

The document contains a sample laboratory code of conduct for secondary students and sample safety acknowledgement forms. The document is available to download as a .docx Word document or a PDF and the safety guidelines are also listed on this web page.

Student Laboratory Code of Conduct for Secondary Science Program

Chemical laboratory classes include hands-on, inquiry-based investigations. Some secondary-level laboratory activities involve the use of chemicals or equipment that poses a health or safety danger to students and teachers if not handled properly. To ensure a safer and healthier environment in our classrooms and laboratories, the following Student Laboratory Code of Conduct has been developed.

Students will receive two copies of this Code of Conduct during the first meeting of the class. The students and their parents or guardians must sign the Code and return a signed copy to their teacher before the students can participate in any laboratory work or handle chemicals. The students should keep the second copy in their class notebooks as a reminder of appropriate behavior.

Overview of Lab Safety Guidelines

  • General Student Lab Safety Guidelines

    1. Students should behave in a mature and responsible manner at all times in the laboratory and other instructional sites. All inappropriate behavior is especially prohibited.
    2. Students must read all laboratory and safety operating procedures before conducting an activity and must follow all verbal and written instructions carefully. If you are unsure of the procedure, ask your teacher for help before proceeding.
    3. Students must not touch any equipment or chemicals unless specifically instructed to do so.
    4. Students must not eat, drink, apply cosmetics, chew gum, touch contact lenses, wear acrylic nails, or conduct other unsafe activities in the laboratory. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after participating in any laboratory activities (including setup, hands-on, and takedown).
    5. Students must perform only those experiments authorized by the teacher.
    6. Students will receive training related to the locations and operating procedures for all applicable personal protective equipment (PPE).
    7. Students must not enter or work in the laboratory unless an instructor is present.
    8. Students must never enter chemical storage or preparation areas.
    9. Students should be trained and know the location of and how to operate all safety equipment and engineering controls in the science classroom and laboratory. This includes the eyewash station, the deluge shower, the fire extinguisher, the fume hood, and the safety blanket. Students should also know the location of emergency master electrical and gas shutoffs and exits.
    10. Students’ backpacks, books, or other items are to remain in an area designated by the instructor and should not be brought into the laboratory area, to prevent potential cross-contamination involving chemical hazards and potential slip, trip, and fall hazards.
    11. Student work areas should be kept orderly and uncluttered and should be cleaned at the end of each laboratory investigation or activity.
    12. Students must turn off all gas burners and electrical equipment and follow local instructions in the event of a fire drill, lockdown, or other emergency during an investigation or activity.
  • Handling Chemicals and Equipment

    1. Students must not return unused chemicals to the reagent container. Always properly dispose of all chemical waste as directed by the teacher.
    2. Students must never enter or remain in the science laboratory areas unless accompanied by a teacher or a designated school employee.
    3. Students must wear eye protection that complies with the American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) Z87.1 +D3 standard (indirectly vented chemical splash goggles), a nonlatex apron, and nitrile gloves whenever chemicals, heat, or glassware are used by either the teacher or the students in the laboratory.
    4. Students should wear appropriate personal apparel at all times in the laboratory and avoid wearing loose or flammable clothing. Closed-toe shoes are required. Flip-flops, sandals, or open or exposed footwear are prohibited. Long hair should be tied back.
    5. Students must report any incident (including all spills, breakages, or other releases of hazardous materials) to the teacher immediately, no matter how insignificant it may appear. This should include all injuries such as cuts, burns, breathing problems, or other signs of physical harm. Students are encouraged to also report incidents that do not result in physical harm, so that lessons can be learned from these “near misses”.
    6. Students must never remove chemicals, equipment, or supplies from the laboratory area.
    7. Students must carefully examine all equipment before and after each use and report any broken or defective equipment to the teacher immediately.
    8. Students need to be aware of critical information about use of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory. Your instructor will review the important points on Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) relative to hazardous chemicals that students will be working with and will post the SDSs in the laboratory.
  • Heating Substances

    1. Students must never reach over an exposed flame or hot plate or leave an active flame or hot plate unattended. Students must follow proper safety procedures when using any heating or flame-producing device, especially gas burners. Remove all flammable materials from the area before lighting a match, candle, or Bunsen burner.
    2. Students must never point a test tube or reaction vessel of any type toward another person.

Response to Violations of the Student Laboratory Code of Conduct

Teachers, administrators, and the school board should determine the number of levels of “offense” and the appropriate consequences. The examples shown are illustrative:

1st Offense: Verbal reprimand from the teacher, with a written record of the violation maintained. The teacher will review the rule with the student. If this is a serious violation, which may have caused harm to human health or the environment, the parents or guardians will also be notified.

2nd Offense: The student will be suspended from laboratory work immediately and sent to the appropriate grade-level administrative office, with a disciplinary referral from the teacher. A written notification about the consequences for the student will also be sent to the parents or guardians. The student will not be permitted to return to laboratory work for one week, with alternative work assignment(s) to be provided in a supervised setting as determined by the building administration.

3rd Offense: The student will be suspended from laboratory work immediately and sent to the appropriate grade-level administrative office, with a disciplinary referral from the teacher. Written notification will also be sent to the parents or guardians, and a mandatory conference will be scheduled with the parents or guardians, teacher, and building administrator. Depending on the result of that conference, the student may be suspended from laboratory operations for the remainder of the school year. If this occurs, the student will be assigned alternative work assignment(s) to be provided in a supervised setting as determined by the building administration. In addition, the student may be required to schedule an alternative laboratory science course to satisfy any state graduation requirements.

Parent/Guardian Acknowledgement of Safety Forms

The process described will allow the student to stay in the class or laboratory and protects the teacher and the school district. Courts recognize that this action is sometimes necessary. Local administrators and school boards should craft acceptable policies.

Parents may choose not to sign the form, and they cannot legally be forced to sign. In that case, the teacher must contact the parent via phone or email to note that they have refused to sign. A record will be created noting by date, time, and parents’ names that they are aware of the Code of Conduct for the students but refused to sign the parent/guardian acknowledgment. The student is still required to follow the safety protocols in the teaching and learning environment.

Additional Lab Safety Rules, Resources & Examples of Student Safety Contracts

Additional examples of laboratory safety rules and expectations may be found at the following sites:

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