CSIRO takes safety seriously in all of our activities and experiments. While we ensure all activities and demonstrations are as safe as possible, there are some precautions which all young scientists need to keep in mind.

CSIRO offers a wide variety of simple, hands on activities and demonstrations that explain scientific principles in everyday terms. All activities have been tested for difficulty, availability of materials and safety before being published.

While we make every effort to ensure that an activity presents no danger to those involved, certain risks sometimes need to be taken into consideration.

We like to encourage young minds to be as involved as possible in exploring the world around them. However, there are occasions when it’s preferable for an adult to assist.

Safety warnings on our activities

The following is a list of the most common materials or actions that present potential concerns for young scientists. In all cases, an adult should be present and supervising the activity, and should complete particularly risky tasks themselves.

Sharp tools

  • Examples: knives, scissors, cutting blades, compasses, saws, drills, needles 
  • Precautions:
    • Ensure the proper tool is being used for the task.
    • Blades should be as sharp as necessary - blunt knives and scissors can often cause injury due to extra force being applied to cutting.

Flames

  • Examples: matches, firelighters, gas stoves
  • Precautions:
    • Have fire safety equipment nearby - a wet fire blanket, sand bucket and/or fire extinguisher.
    • Perform activities that use fire in a clear area away from flammable items.

Heat

  • Examples: boiling water, stoves and ovens, hot items (such as baking tins) 
  • Precautions:
    • Have fire safety equipment nearby - a wet fire blanket, sand bucket and/or fire extinguisher.
    • Perform activities that use fire in a clear area away from flammable items.

Chemicals

  • Examples: acids, poisons, caustic material, irritants
  • Precautions:
    • Before using any chemical, read the safety instructions on the side of the container and be aware of its potential health effects.
    • Wear latex or rubber gloves and safety goggles for all potentially caustic or irritating chemicals.
    • Wash hands thoroughly after use.
    • When using any toxic chemicals, conduct activities away from areas where food is prepared.
    • Dispose of chemicals in an appropriate manner, such as down the sink with plenty of water or through a council recycling centre.
    • Schools should use their own Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) where possible.
    • A free MSDS database can be found on the ChemSupply website .

Bright light

  • Examples: lasers, sunlight
  • Precautions:
    • If an activity uses a laser, use low powered beams (less than 5mW power).
    • Never shine bright lights into anybody's eyes.
    • Take care around highly reflective surfaces.
    • Wear sunglasses around bright or glaring light sources.
    • Never look directly at bright light sources, such as the Sun.

Food

  • Examples: allergies, food poisoning
  • Precautions:
    • If you are conducting an edible experiment, follow proper food hygiene rules.
    • Wash your hands before cooking.
    • Use clean cookware.
    • If you have to keep your food overnight, put it in the fridge.
    • Don’t eat food that has been around potentially toxic or unidentified chemicals.
    • Avoid or substitute foods to which you are allergic or intolerant.

Biological

  • Examples: plants, insects, pets, fungi, bacteria
  • Precautions:
    • Some plants and fungi are poisonous. Always wash your hands after handling them.
    • Many animals, such as insects, can bite or sting. Take care to avoid placing fingers near dangerous animals.
    • Materials that are growing mould or bacteria should be sealed in plastic to avoid inhaling spores. Dispose of these materials in diluted bleach where possible.

Electrical

  • Examples: circuits, batteries
  • Precautions:
    • Only use a power supply appropriate to an activity.
    • Never use old or leaking batteries.
    • Dispose of batteries responsibly - look up battery disposal in your local area.
    • Never leave circuits on for longer than necessary - wires can overheat and burn.
    • Conduct activities in a clear area away from water or flammable materials.

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