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Chemistry Notes: Ideas about experiment risk assessments

Doc Brown's chemistry revision notes: basic school chemistry science GCSE chemistry, IGCSE  chemistry, O level & ~US grades 8, 9 and 10 school science courses or equivalent for ~14-16 year old science students for national examinations in chemistry


see also page on Gas Preparation and Collection Methods

and further Chemistry - Rates of reaction investigation ideas

All my GCSE level (~US grade 9-10) Chemistry Revision notes

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This not some definitive list and is more appropriate to chemistry, but it should give you some idea how to think on risk assessment for some coursework project or assignment. Some of the health and safety aspects listed will help you with your RISK ASSESSMENT when designing and performing e.g. 'Rates of Reaction' experiments and many other experimental procedures. Some aspects listed are applicable to 'rates/kinetics' assignments, others are not applicable at all. Its up to you to decide!

'Area' of potential risk for either student or teacher

  • Hazcard information about chemicals used is essential reading

  • * particular pairs of linked risks


setting up a gas syringe with a stand and clamp, not too tight, but stable, check connections to flask
holding material in tongs or test tube holder safely e.g. at the correct angle
danger of test tube cracking on heating
over-heating danger (bunsen position, flame size etc.)
need for sand tray e.g. in oil distillation demonstration
danger of test tubes falling out of rack
water supply or reagent bottles near lab pack e.g. electrolysis experiments
putting stoppers back on bottles, and on the right bottle to avoid contamination
* ensure safe working space around you, not to close to anyone else
* standing to do experiments, always?
only take the quantities of chemicals instructed or required
connecting bung in test tubes or flasks
setting up and filling a burette, use funnel and pour carefully and lower burette to convenient level
any of the chemicals flammable or oxidising? take with bunsen or the wrong chemicals being mixed!
setting up equipment safely eg stand and clamp correct and stable, many situations, several mentioned above
need for fume cupboard?
* harmful gas/vapour e.g. alkanes, acid expts, chlorine may be irritating, poisonous, flammable ...
* asthma suffers - increased risk of irritation
inappropriate use of, or play with, spills/splints etc.
inappropriate use of paper to light a bunsen
* irritating/harmful chemicals on hands, face etc. action
* need for plastic gloves? hazard or skin allergy risk?
safety glasses (always class practical, demonstration?)
need for safety screen in demonstration
how close can the pupils be to the safety screen?
 clearing away chemicals and equipment safely, take care to avoid spillage or breaking expensive apparatus
 action required for anticipated accidents, read hazcards on both the chemicals and experimental procedures
 spillage kit for any chemical used, where special treatment is required
 disposal kit for hazardous chemicals that cannot be poured down the sink.
HAZARD WARNING SYMBOLS (signs or labels)

A brief description of what the hazard might be.

hazard signsbiohazard

Biohazard: Biohazardous materials include anything that may cause disease in  living organisms or cause significant impact to the environment or community.

These are important symbols to know when dealing with


WARNING For all experiments, appropriate risk assessments should be done and hazcards studied etc. This section just illustrates the use of hazard warning signs with common examples, and may NOT provide sufficient detail for specific experiments, concentrations, coursework write up etc., but Google can!
Symbol Examples of what might be labelled/classified with this hazard warning sign (definitions above)
hazard Irritant: Most acidic and alkaline solutions unless very dilute; acidic gases like chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide; bleaches
hazard Harmful - poisonous but not toxic: Some acids e.g. nitric acid; acidic gases like chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide; bleaches; heavy metal ions e.g. of lead, barium and copper (e.g. as copper sulfate) some salts e.g. silver nitrate,
hazard Corrosive: All concentrated acidic and alkaline solutions e.g. conc. sulfuric acid, conc. sodium hydroxide solution, non-metals like bromine


Highly flammable: Most organic solvents, petrol and other hydrocarbon fuels, alkali metals?
hazard Toxic - very poisonous: Chlorine, iodine, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and compounds
hazard Oxidising: Chlorine and oxygen gases, potassium manganate(VII), potassium chlorate (in some weed killers), peroxides
hazard Radioactive: Radioisotopes giving off dangerous ionising radiation 
hazard Explosive: TNT, hydrogen, fireworks, peroxides
hazard Biohazard: organisms and viruses infectious to humans, animals or plants (e.g. parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi); and biologically active agents (i.e. toxins, allergens, venoms)
  Carcinogenic: nitrates, organic aromatic compounds like phenols, 

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