Practical Biology

A collection of experiments that demonstrate biological concepts and processes.

Standard Health & Safety guidance

See the health and safety notes in each experiment. This is general guidance.

Health and safety in school and college science affects all concerned: teachers and technicians, their employers, students, their parents or guardians, as well as authors and publishers.

These guidelines refer to procedures in the United Kingdom. If you are working in another country you may need to make alternative provision.

Health & safety checking

As part of the reviewing process, the experiments on this website have been checked for health and safety. In particular, we have attempted to ensure that:

  • all common recognized hazards have been identified;
  • suitable precautions are suggested;
  • where possible, the procedures are in accordance with commonly adopted model risk assessments;
  • where model risk assessments are not available, we have done our best to ensure that the procedures are satisfactory and of an equivalent standard.


It is assumed that:

  • the practical work is carried out or supervised by a qualified science teacher with suitable knowledge of biology, chemistry, or physics (as appropriate) and the equipment used;
  • practical work is conducted in a properly equipped and maintained laboratory;
  • rules for student behaviour are strictly enforced;
  • mains-operated equipment is regularly inspected, properly maintained and appropriate records are kept;
  • care is taken with normal laboratory operations such as heating substances and handling heavy objects;
  • good laboratory practice is observed when chemicals are handled;
  • eye protection or goggles are worn whenever risk assessments require it;
  • any fume cupboard used operates at least to the standard of Building Bulletin 88, and has been tested within the last year;
  • students are taught safe techniques for such activities as heating chemicals, smelling them, or pouring from bottles;
  • hand-washing facilities are readily available in the laboratory;
  • eye wash facilities are readily available in the laboratory;
  • first aid facilities and a trained first aider are available within the school.

Teachers' and their employers' responsibilities

Under the COSSH Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, and other regulations, UK employers are responsible for making a risk assessment before hazardous procedures are undertaken or hazardous chemicals and materials are used or made. Teachers are required to co-operate with their employers by complying with such risk assessments.However, teachers should be aware that mistakes can be made and, in any case, different employers adopt different standards.

Therefore, before carrying out any practical activity, teachers should always check that what they are proposing is compatible with their employer’s risk assessments and does not need modification for their particular circumstances. Any local rules or restrictions issued by the employer must always be followed, whatever is recommended here. However, far less is banned by employers than is commonly supposed.

Be aware that some activities, such as the use of radioactive material, have particular regulations that must be followed.

Reference material

Model risk assessments have been taken from, or are compatible with:
CLEAPSSHazcards (see CLEAPSS website)
CLEAPSS Laboratory handbook (see CLEAPSS website)
CLEAPSS Recipe cards (see CLEAPSS website)
CLEAPSS Guide L93 (see CLEAPSS website)

ASE Safeguards in the school laboratory 11th edition 2006
ASE Topics in Safety 4th edition, 2011
ASE Safety reprints, 2006 or later


Clearly, you must follow whatever procedures for risk assessment your employers have laid down. As far as we know, almost all the practical work and demonstrations on this website are covered by the model risk assessments detailed in the above publications, and so, in most schools and colleges, you will only need to adapt the model risk assessments for the particular circumstances of your school or class.

Special risk assessments

Only you can know when your school or college needs a special risk assessment. But thereafter, the responsibility for taking all the steps demanded by the regulations lies with your employer.

External websites

The Nuffield Foundation and its partners are not responsible for the content of external websites which may be linked from pages on this one.