Skip to content
Printer-friendly version

Science Safety Handbook Updates

Updates made to the Science Safety Handbook since the previous update in 2012.

Providing a safe learning environment is an essential part of any performance-based, hands-on science lesson, whether in a kindergarten classroom or a high school chemistry laboratory. Last updated in 2012, the Science Safety Handbook for California Public Schools helps science teachers, administrators, and other school staff members understand and avoid situations in which accidents might occur in the science classroom or laboratory or during learning opportunities and experiences that take place outside the classroom. 

This document highlights several important updates to the Science Safety Handbook (PDF), which can be viewed in its entirety online.

Changes noted here include:

1) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals


In 2003, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS includes criteria for the classification of health, physical and environmental hazards, as well as specifying what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals as well as safety data sheets. The United States was an active participant in the development of the GHS, and is a member of the UN bodies established to maintain and coordinate implementation of the system. The official text of the GHS can be found on the UN web page External link opens in new window or tab.. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised the Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) to align with the GHS for the classification and identification of chemical hazards.

The GHS promotes a universal approach to classifying and communicating information about chemical hazards in countries that voluntarily adopt the system. The system is being phased in and will be enforceable under the HazCom Standard by June 1, 2015. This new system will result in more consistent labeling. All labels will have standardized pictograms, a signal word (either warning or danger), hazard and precautionary statements, product identifier, and supplier identification. Another significant change will be the replacement of the currently used Material Safety Data Sheets with standardized safety data sheets (SDS) that will be used globally.

OSHA has established the following deadlines for phasing in the GHS:


Flinn Scientific External link opens in new window or tab. is offering a free 20 minute online video followed by a short assessment. By watching the video and completing the assessment, participants will fulfill the GHS training requirement under the new OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Once training is completed, participants will be able to print a Certificate of Completion for their records.

Additional Resources:

2) Reasonable Laboratory Class Size (p. 3) is 50 square feet per pupil, not 20 square feet.

The 2012 Handbook (p. 3) currently states:

“No current legal mandate prescribes special limits on class size in science laboratories. However, the Uniform Fire Code classifies science laboratory classes as “academic subjects” and specifies 20 square feet per student as a minimum standard, in contrast to a vocational education class, for which the requirement is 50 square feet per student. In reality, more than 20 square feet per pupil is required for hands-on laboratory science activities.”

This occupant loading standard is not necessarily used for determining a practical loading standard, such as how many people can occupy the space comfortably while performing whatever functions are needed in that classroom or science lab. The purpose of this standard is to ensure that all occupants can safely exit a space.

The Division of the State Architect (DSA) has issued an Interpretation of Regulations (IR A-26) to clarify this issue:

"1.2 Science Lab Classrooms where exempt amounts of hazardous materials are used or stored as identified in the CBC Table 307.1(1) and (2), the room shall be classified as a group “E” Occupancy, with an Occupant Load Factor of 50 (net)."

3) 2.4-Dinitrophenol

This substance is considered very toxic to tissues (category 3) and can be easily absorbed through the skin, and is a category 4 reactivity hazard. If volatized, the procedure must be carried out in a fume hood. It should be added to both table 7.2 and 7.3 of the Handbook as a chemical that should be handled and disposed of with great caution and most likely should not be in a K-12 setting.

Questions: STEM Office | | 916-323-5847 
Download Free Readers