What Not To Do Lab

What Not To Do Lab

During the first week of school, I welcome my students to the What Not To Do Lab. The PDF is available for free at the Laboratory Safety Institute website. I use the cartoon activity to review their Safety Contract handout from the night before. I use the safety contract from FLINN Scientific



Laboratory Safety, Safety Data Sheets, Glassware and Equipment

Procedure time: 
50 minutes
Prep time: 
10 minutes
Time required: 

This can be completed easily within a 50 min class period.


A pdf of the What Not To Do Lab is available for free at the Laboratory Safety Institute website


With more than 30 safety violations shown, the cartoon serves as a great ice breaker as I have each student introduce themselves and then list a safety infraction being shown on the cartoon. This becomes a challenge for the rest of the students because they must listen to that students response and I do not allow violations mentioned by their other classmates to be repeated which I tell them ahead of time. I usually place the image on my iPad and then using the paid app Airsketch with my Apple TV then I can circle each of the infractions as the students mention them. Other apps could also be used such as Notabilty or Explain Everything if you are more comfortable with them. You just need a way to draw on the image as its projected. The other option would be to project the image onto the white board and circle the infractions on the white board. However I like the iPad because it allows me mobility.

Some interesting results from this is that it allows me to introduce the use of a fume hood, different type of glassware such as a pipette, and give a bit of a history lesson on the MSDS sheets which have recently been changed to SDS sheets




Prepare how to disseminate the image of the What Not to Do Lab and determine how students will respond. In a virtual setting, students might use a virtual whiteboard or create a FlipGrid video to submit. This lab is very adaptable and can be used with whatever F2F, virtual or hybrid set up you are teaching in.


.The Laboratory Safety Institute. See their website for many valuable resources.

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Comments 5

Bob Worley's picture
Bob Worley | Thu, 08/27/2015 - 01:26

In the UK, we have been dealing with the new SDS for over 5 years now and I wrote an article on it (http://www.chemedx.org/blog/msds-sheet-useful-document-chemistry-teacher ) based on our experience. Take very great care when applying MSDS sheets to school chemistry. They are not risk assessments. Our UK Health and Safety Executive note that just having the SDS and lots of information in the lab does not mean compliance with the our UK law. Nothing is better than your own expertise and having VERY short control measures written for each procedure you or you students do in your schemes of work. Mostly it is just "wear eye protection". But it could be “Text book uses 1M sodium hydroxide but this lab works well with 0.4M sodium hydroxide so use this”. (You do not have a SDS for 1M or 0.4M NaOH though only one for solid sodium hydroxide, which the chemical you bought!). The hazards associated with 0.4M NaOH are different to solid sodium hydroxide. Obviously you must follow through your control measures in the lab. Under our UK law the employer has to monitor your compliance to law as well so that if an incident happens the employer may have as much responsibility for an incident as the teacher or student, (refusing money for training, money for eye protection etc).

The set of lab rules is important that you develop from that lesson is vitally important but if any student did that sort of thing I hope they are up before the Principal along with their parents/guardians etc. I notice that one student on the cartoon would not be allowed to do chemistry at a recent Chem Ed conference, he is wearing shorts!

Have a good year. The students are lucky to have you.


Doug Ragan's picture
Doug Ragan | Wed, 09/02/2015 - 12:52

Thanks Bob, you have a good year as well.


Jon Berry | Wed, 09/09/2020 - 17:36

Did they take down the PDF? The link just goes to the LSI homepage and I can't find the PDF in Resources or anywhere else. I even signed up in case it was behind a login screen.

Deanna Cullen's picture
Deanna Cullen | Wed, 09/09/2020 - 19:34

Sorry about that Jon. Thanks for alerting us. LSI moved it. By doing a Google search for the image, I was able to find their new link

Doug Ragan's picture
Doug Ragan | Sat, 09/12/2020 - 07:08

Thanks, just saw this as an email and thank you as always for fixing it.