ACS is committed to helping combat the global COVID-19 pandemic with initiatives and free resources. Learn More

Recognize the Hazards

The first principle of laboratory safety is to recognize the hazards of chemicals, equipment, and procedures.


  • Use Safety Data  Sheets (SDSs) to identify Globally Harmonized System (GHS) hazards of the chemicals you will be using. These  include physical, health, and environmental hazards. The main hazard categories are flammables, explosives, corrosives, oxidizers, irritants, and toxicants.
  • Understand the nature of the hazard (its chemistry and/or toxicological/biological effects).
  • Identify the most important physical hazards from equipment, conditions, and procedures. These include electrical and mechanical hazards and high or low temperature or pressure.

Establishing a Safety Culture in a School Setting

The first step toward recognizing hazards is awareness of safety to begin with.

It's the teacher's responsibility to instill a general understanding of safety in the laboratory. We recommend adopting an appropriate set of safety rules and guidelines for students that is manageable and specific for a particular class and setting.

In addition to providing students with a set of guidelines, it's also important to have them (and their parents or guardians) sign a safety contract.

Useful Resources

The links in this section provide foundational information on how to identify hazards. If you're comfortable with the concepts and information presented in this section, check out Recognize the Hazards (Advanced).

Basic Terminology and Concepts

Regulatory Agencies


Any source of potential damage or harm to a person’s health.

Get Involved with Chemical Safety Initiatives

Engage with other members of the chemical safety community. Membership provides networking opportunities, access to career advancement tools, meeting discounts, and more.

Join the DivisionJoin ACSView All Benefits


Connect with Us

Email Safety Team