Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Health and Safety statement

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 recognized hazards have been identified, 
  • suitable precautions are suggested, 
  • where possible, the procedures are in accordance with commonly adopted model (general) risk assessments, 
  • where model (general) risk assessments are not available, we have done our best to judge the procedures to be satisfactory and of an equivalent standard. 

It is assumed that:

  • the practical work is carried out or supervised by a qualified science teacher with adequate knowledge of physics and the equipment used, 
  • practical work is conducted in a properly equipped and maintained laboratory, 
  • rules for student behaviour are strictly enforced, 
  • equipment is regularly inspected and properly maintained, with appropriate records are kept, 
  • care is taken with normal laboratory operations such as heating substances and handling heavy objects, 
  • good laboratory practice is observed, 
  • eye protection is worn whenever risk assessments require it, 
  • hand-washing facilities are readily available in the laboratory. 

Teachers' and their employers' responsibilities
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act and related Regulations, UK employers are responsible for making a risk assessment before hazardous procedures are undertaken or hazardous materials are used. 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 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 (general) risk assessments have been taken from, or are compatible with:

CLEAPSS Laboratory handbook (see annually updated CD-ROM)

ASE Safeguards in the school laboratory 11th edition 2006

ASE Topics in Safety 3rd edition, 2001

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 (general) risk assessments detailed in the above publications, and so, in most schools and colleges, you will not need to take further action, other than to consider whether any customisation is necessary 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 Institute of Physics are not responsible for the content of external websites which may be linked from pages on this one.  


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