Safety and Health Guidance - Curriculum

Science Health and Safety

Prohibited Chemicals - Science

Theater Safety and Health

Fine Arts 


Science Health and Safety

All schools are required to comply with the Montgomery County Public Schools Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), which has been provided to science staff. Key requirements are provided below. All science teachers must:

  • Properly plan all laboratory activities, including researching and implementing all necessary safety precautions;
  • Complete all required training, including the annual online course, Science Lab Safety;
  • Maintain a chemical inventory and safety data sheets (SDSs) for all science chemicals;
  • Train all students in the hazards and safety precautions associated with all science activities, including teacher demonstrations;
  • Conduct all science activities with flammable* and/or toxic chemicals** in lab hoods;
  • Minimize the purchase, use, and storage of hazardous chemicals;
  • Ensure all students are trained in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety equipment, such as eyewash stations and emergency showers;
  • Test eyewash stations and emergency showers at least monthly, and ensure they are unobstructed and clean;
  • Ensure proper PPE is readily available and in good condition, including chemical-resistant gloves and aprons, lab coats, chemical-splash goggles, and face shields;
  • Ensure all chemicals, especially flammable and corrosive chemicals, are properly stored;
  • Ensure all doorways, halls, aisles, and stairs used for building evacuation are unobstructed;
  • Prohibit eating, drinking, smoking, gum chewing, application of cosmetics, manipulation of contact lenses, and other such activities in the laboratory;
  • Prohibit horseplay, practical jokes, or other behavior that might confuse, startle, or distract people in the laboratory.

* Flammable liquid: any liquid having a flashpoint at or below 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit; Flammable gas: a gas that, at ambient temperature and pressure, forms a flammable mixture with air at a concentration of 13% by volume or less or a range of flammable mixtures with air wider than 12% by volume; Flammable solid: any solid that is liable to cause fire through friction, absorption of moisture, spontaneous chemical change, or retained heat from manufacturing or processing, or which can be ignited readily and when ignited burns so vigorously and persistently as to create a serious hazard.

** Toxic chemical: A substance having a TLV or PEL less than 50 ppm or 100 mg/m3 or an LC 50 less than 200 ppm or 2,000 mg/m3

Resources for more information:

NIOSH School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide  

Chemical Safety for Teachers and Their Supervisors, American Chemical Society

Laboratory Safety Guidance, OSHA

Laboratory Chemical Fume Hood Safety, OSHA

Reducing Risks to Students and Educators from Hazardous Chemicals in a Secondary School Chemical Inventory, American Chemical Society

Contact the Science, Technology, and Engineering office at 301-279-3421 or Mr. Peter Park, Team Leader, Systemwide Safety Programs, Department of Systemwide Safety and Emergency Management, at 240-314-1070 with questions regarding science safety information or procedures.

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Prohibited Chemicals

Substances listed below are PROHIBITED for use or storage in schools.

Explosive substances (This is not a complete list of explosive substances.):

  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Carbon Disulfide
  • Diisopropyl Ether
  • Ethyl Ether
  • Picric Acid
  • Perchloric Acid
  • Potassium metal
  • Sodium Azide

Known or probable human carcinogenic substances listed below shall not be used or stored by MCPS and are prohibited:

  • Acrylonitrile
  • Ammonium chromate
  • Aniline (or any of its salts)
  • Anthracene
  • Antimony trichloride
  • Arsenic Pentoxide
  • Arsenic Trioxide
  • Asbestos
  • Benzene
  • Benzidine
  • Beryllium Carbonate
  • Cadmium Powder
  • Cadmium Sulfate
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Chloroform
  • Chromium (IV) Oxide
  • Chromium Powder
  • Colchicine
  • Dichloroethane
  • Diethyl Sulfate
  • Dimethyl Sulfate
  • Dioxane (p-Dioxane)
  • Ethylene Oxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hexachlorophene
  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Hydroquinone
  • Lead Acetate
  • Lead Arsenate
  • Lead carbonate
  • Lead Diacetate
  • Mercuric chloride
  • Methyl methacrylate
  • Nickel Carbonyl
  • Nickel Powder
  • Nickel Subsulfide
  • Nicotine
  • Osmium Tetraoxide
  • O-Toludine
  • p-Dichlorobenzene
  • Phthalic anhydride
  • Pyrogailic Acid
  • Sodium Arsenate
  • Sodium Arsenite
  • Sulfuric Acid, Fuming (= Oleum)  [regular sulfuric acid is NOT banned]
  • Thioacetamide
  • Toluene
  • Urethane (Ethyl Carbamate)
  • Vinyl Chloride

Highly toxic substances:

  • Mercury (shall not be used or stored under any conditions)
  • Phosphorus (white)
  • Phosphorus Pentoxide
  • Potassium Cyanide
  • Potassium Periodate
  • Silver Cyanide
  • Sodium Cyanide

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Science Chemical Inventory

Secondary school science departments are required to complete a thorough science chemical inventory annually. A job hazard analysis describing required safety procedures for conducting a science lab chemical inventory is provided below.

A spreadsheet, which may be used to create chemical information lists (CILs), is provided below. CILs and safety data sheets (SDSs) for science lab chemicals should be printed and stored near the chemical storage room. Please note the following when entering chemical data:

  • When entering chemical names, CAS numbers should be included, if possible
  • ‘Container Type’ can include: glass bottle, plastic jar, glass vial, aluminum can, cardboard drum, plastic bag, metal can, etc.
  • ‘Total Amount’ is the estimated maximum quantity expected to be at the facility at any time during the year
  • ‘Date Brought’ is the date on which the chemical was introduced to the facility

  • Chemical Information List Form

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Model rockets propelled by sources other than compressed air or water may not be launched on MCPS property (MCPS Regulation EBA-RA, Fire Safety). The Aquapod Bottle Launcher® is approved for 8th grade science use. A job hazard analysis describing required safety procedures is provided below.

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Theater Safety and Health

Drama and Theater Safety

The MCPS Drama and Theater Safety Handbook provides guidance and requirements related to drama and theater-related activities.

Weight-Supporting Theater Structures

All weight-supporting theater structures must be inspected and approved by the Division of Construction. To request an inspection of a stage prop, set piece, pit cover, scaffolding, catwalk, trap doors, or other weight-supporting theater structure, schools may contact the Division of Construction at least 30-60 days prior to the start of the associated production. Approved modular pit covers must also be inspected by the Division of Construction each time they are re-assembled, before use. Questions and inspection requests can be directed to the Division of Construction, Department of Facilities Management, at 240-314-1000.

Schools are not permitted to fabricate (or allow parents, volunteers, or unauthorized vendors to fabricate) orchestra pit covers, stage extensions, storage lofts, or theater rigging components.

Fly Systems

Schools wishing to use a vendor-installed fly system must submit information about the system and intended use to Systemwide Safety Programs and ERSC at least 60 days prior to the start of the associated production for approval. Information must include:

  • A detailed description of the equipment and the method for installing it;
  • How the equipment will be used;
  • Who and/or what will be suspended;
  • The height, duration, and distance of suspension;
  • The vendor’s insurance information (at least $500,000 required).

Fog Machines

The approval process for fog machine use is as follows:

  1. An appropriate fog machine must be selected for the application.  It must bear a label showing it has been tested by a recognized independent testing laboratory for safety.
  2. A material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the fog “juice”, the liquid used to generate the fog, must be provided to Sean Yarup of the Indoor Air Quality Unit, Division of Maintenance, for review.  The fog juice must be designed for use with the specific fog machine selected.  If Sean does not approve the product, it may not be used.
  3. If an appropriate machine is selected and the fog juice is approved by Sean, a smoke detector test must be completed to determine if the intended use will activate any smoke detectors.  Please note that not all smoke detectors are readily visible; some are located in ducts.   
  4. The required steps for conducting a smoke detector test are:
  • Schedule the test with the school principal and building service manager. The test may not be conducted while classes are in session.
  • Before activating the fog machine, notify school administration and Department of School Safety and Security, Electronic Detection Unit (301-279-3232), that a test will be conducted that might activate the fire alarm system.
  • Ensure a copy of the fog juice MSDS is available.  The MSDS is needed for fire personnel if the test activates the fire alarm system and to address any health-related concerns that might arise.
  • Activate the fog machine in the location required for the performance, producing the amount of fog needed. If the test activates the fire alarm system, fire evacuation procedures must be followed: call 911 and evacuate the building. The building may not be re-occupied until permission is granted by the fire department.
  • If the test does not activate the fire alarm system, the location and quantity of fog generated should be recorded. School administration and the Electronic Detection Unit should be notified the test has been completed.
  • If the test indicates the fog machine will not activate the fire alarm system, it may be used in a similar manner for the performance.
  • For the performance, audience notification of fog machine use must be provided via a lobby and program notice. The notice must also note that audience members may contact a production representative if there are questions or concerns. The MSDS should be reviewed for any information indicating potential hazards for individuals with respiratory conditions. A copy of the fog juice MSDS must be available during the performance.
  • If the fog machine activates the fire alarm system during the performance, fire evacuation procedures must be followed.

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Fine Arts

Kiln Safety

The following precautions should be observed when operating a ceramic art kiln:

  • Keep combustible materials at least 2.5 feet (30 inches) away from the kiln.
  • Ensure the kiln exhaust ventilation system is operating properly (signs of poor exhaust airflow include excessive heat or odors in the kiln room and/or rusty sprinkler heads or ceiling tile grids).
  • Ensure the kiln exhaust ventilation system is turned on, and the hood is not obstructed, when the kiln is on.
  • Regularly inspect the kiln, including the electrical cord, for damage.
  • Do not fire pieces that have newspaper or wires embedded in the clay.
  • Keep the kiln area free of clutter and excessive dust.  Remove ceramic (clay, glaze) dust using wet cleaning methods or a HEPA vacuum - do not vacuum with a regular vacuum.
  • Safely open and secure the kiln lid with the appropriate safety arm or chain when loading and unloading.
  • Do not overload the kiln.
  • Turn off the kiln prior to loading or unloading.
  • Do not leave the kiln unattended while firing.
  • Do not open the kiln until it has cooled to room temperature.
  • School staff should not attempt to move kilns. Schools should contact Division of Maintenance if a kiln must be moved.
  • Always keep students away from the kiln. Contact Systemwide Safety Programs at 240-314-1070 if a kiln screen is needed.

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