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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds SPEAKER: No matter how much we risk assess and no matter how much that we can be cautious and careful when we’re doing practical work, sometimes, accidents do happen. Here, we have an example of a spillage which you would expect students to be able to clean up of their own accord. Simply, we have 0.1 molar hydrochloric acid– very low risk, very low hazard. And there’s probably only about two mils, 2 centimetres cubed on the bench here. So we’re just going to wipe that up, and then place that in the bin, and wash our hands.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds In the event of a larger spillage, all labs should have, nearby them somewhere, a spills kit. Depending on your health and safety provider, you’ll need to consult them with regard to the contents of that. We use the Cleaps guidance here at the National STEM Learning Centre. And I’ll give you a quick run-through of some of the things that we have in our spills kit. So we have mineral absorbent for absorbing spills up to 400, 500 mils We have sodium carbonate for neutralising any acid spills, citric acid for neutralising any alkaline spills, a detergent– [INAUDIBLE]—- something like that, a dispersing agent for organic matter, along with a variety of PPE.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds So we’ve got a full-face shield, face mask, nitrile gloves, Marigold gloves, and, of course, a dust pan and brush for sweeping that up. Along with our spills kit, we have a checklist which has all the items listed in it, and we check that off on a regular basis to make sure that none of those items have gone walkies.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds And we have a flowchart so that the user can identify a suitable route for disposing of any material and neutralising that waste.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds So in the event of a large spill, we’ll need to use our spill kit. And here, we’re going to use our mineral absorbent. So to start off with, we need to make sure that we’re well protected. So we’re going to make sure we’ve got gloves on and a face shield to make sure that nothing sprays up. Then, we’re going to take our mineral absorbent, and we’re going to sprinkle that over the surface, ensuring we have complete coverage over the spill. We need to leave that now in order to allow the mineral absorbent to completely absorb the spill which is on the floor.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 seconds So once completely absorbed, we need to deal with the remaining mixture of mineral absorbent and broken glass using our dustpan and brush. And we’re going to sweep up all of the contents, and pop that into a bucket to be safely disposed of. That’s going to go into the prep room. And it will be neutralised if it’s an acid spill. It will be neutralised with a base. If it’s a base spill, it’ll be neutralised with an acid and then disposed of in a safe glass-containing route.


No matter how cautious we are or how diligently we plan, accidents do at times happen. As a teacher it is important that students understand exactly what types of spills and breakages they can clear up themselves and when they need to ask an adult for help.

In this video we will watch examples of a small spill which students should be trained to clear up themselves and a larger spill and breakage requiring specialist knowledge and equipment.

Small spills are a few millilitres of reagents students have been issued with as part of their experiment. Different concentrations are appropriate for different age and maturity groups.

Any unknown spills, for examples puddles from a previous lesson, should have all been cleaned up prior to the next class entering. However, just in case they haven’t, students must always tell a teacher or technician as it could be something particularly harmful.

In terms of broken glass, this is dependent upon a correct method statement and training, but there is no reason why students should not clear up their own small breakage, for example test tube or small beaker.

REMEMBER: A suitable protocol should be written and risk assessed for spills and breakages, students should be trained in this protocol.

Review your protocols

Referring back to Week 1 where you looked at department processes, check how spills are managed.

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre