Safety should be a primary concern for every science experiment. The good news is that most projects you'll find on the Science Buddies website involve virtually no risk. However, almost any tool or technique, no matter how safe, can be used in an unsafe manner. At the same time, many potentially dangerous tools are perfectly safe if they are used in the proper way. So how do you know if your project is within reasonable safety guidelines? Science Buddies recommends you ask three simple questions to test your project's level of safety.
- Is it safe for other people or animals that are involved? All projects involving humans as subjects must involve minimal risk. Unacceptable risks include ingestion of any substance or physical contact with any potentially hazardous materials, as well as unnecessary physical, psychological, or emotional stress, including invasion of privacy. Even if you are simply surveying other students, you should review your questions in advance and decide if the questions meet this test, and determine if a parent/guardian's consent is needed for any students that are participating. If you're not sure, don't hesitate to ask a teacher, parent, or mentor to help you decide.
Live animals (in particular vertebrate animals-those with a backbone) should be housed, cared for, and observed in a safe and humane manner.
- If you are participating in another science fair after your classroom or school fair, does your project meet the safety rules for that higher-level fair? If you will be participating in a city or county-wide fair, make sure that the projects meet the rules of that fair. Science fairs affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) must follow very strict and detailed safety rules, often including pre-approval before experimentation begins. The Science Buddies website has an overview of these rules on the Scientific Review Committee (SRC) page.
- Finally, have you addressed safety concerns to your parents' and teacher's satisfaction? Make sure you address all safety issues in your project proposal so your adult supervisors are aware of any issues ahead of time. Your teacher will then evaluate your project based on the following questions:
- Where will the experiment be performed?
- What safety gear will be used?
- Who will be supervising the experiment?
- Are you knowledgeable about or do you have training in the procedures being used?
If in doubt about the safety of the experiment, ask your teacher, parent, or mentor for advice. Be prepared to choose another project if your teacher decides that yours does not meet the appropriate school safety guidelines. Hopefully good common sense and the questions above will help you put together a fun, informative, and safe science fair project.
The Science Buddies website has additional information about safety, including guidelines for some special areas, such as chemistry, lasers, microbiology, and rocketry. We also have an overview of the safety rules for science fairs affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair on the Scientific Review Committee (SRC) page.
Science Buddies Safety Disclaimer
Although every effort is made to ensure and encourage safe practices and safe use of the materials in our Project Ideas, Science Buddies cannot assume responsibility for uses made of its published materials. We strongly urge all those planning to use materials from our webpages to make choices and to develop procedures for safety in accordance with local needs and situations.