Safely Using Materials & Equipment in Physics Experiments

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  • 1:00 Goggles and Gloves
  • 2:06 Electrical Equipment
  • 2:54 Chemicals
  • 3:40 Clean Up
  • 4:13 Follow Direction
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

When performing physics experiments, it is very important to follow the safety rules that are given to you. There are some general safety rules that apply to any physics experiment that you want to conduct as you will see in this video lesson.


Before you even make your way to the lab to conduct your physics experiment, you need to make sure that your clothing is acceptable. You can't wear just anything to the lab. Some articles of clothing can actually increase your chances of getting hurt. For example, if you wore a short shirt that didn't completely cover your top torso area, and there was an accidental chemical spill, your exposed skin could potentially get burned. Things to avoid in the lab include:

  • Loose clothing
  • Clothing that exposes your skin unnecessarily
  • Sandals
  • Long and loose sleeves
  • Loose long hair
  • Dangling jewelry

Best practices for the lab include:

  • Close-toed shoes
  • Clothes that fit just right, not too tight and not too loose
  • Pulled up long hair in a bun or ponytail

When you wear appropriate clothing, you allow yourself the freedom of movement around chemicals and sensitive equipment, such as electrical equipment with exposed hot wires. You also give yourself some basic protection against spills and falling equipment.

Goggles and Gloves

Once you are in the lab, it is important to wear goggles and gloves as necessary. Goggles are protective eyeglasses that fit snuggly around your eyes. For example, when you are working with a soldering iron, wearing goggles is recommended, as it is possible that the hot, melted metal might jump into your eye, resulting in eye damage.

Goggles are also recommended when performing experiments that involve the combining of various chemicals. If the chemicals produce a fume that can damage your eyes, wearing goggles will protect them. If you are working with lasers, there are also special goggles to help protect your eyes from the powerful light of the laser. You should never look at the laser beam itself. Doing so can seriously damage your eyes, if not make you blind. Lasers are strong enough to cut through wood and metal.

Gloves are needed when working with any substance that might burn your skin. For example, when working with acids, it is highly recommended that you wear gloves. There are different types of gloves that you can wear. There are thin gloves that give minimal protection, and then there are thicker gloves that protect against acid spills. You need to choose the appropriate type of gloves to wear depending on your experiment.

Electrical Equipment

In some physics experiments you will need to work with electrical equipment. For example, when building an automated marble thrower, you might need to work with wiring to connect a power source that will throw the marbles.

To connect your wiring to a power source, you will be handling exposed wiring. It is very important that you follow the safety rules in regards to working with electricity. If you're not careful, you could end up causing an electrical fire. If you connect the wires wrong, you could cause a short in the system, resulting in lots of sparks and potential fires.

When working with electrical components:

  • Follow the wiring diagrams
  • Never turn on your electrical system when you are working with it
  • Always leave the last connection to the power source for last
  • Always check that your equipment is not live (i.e. turned off) before working on it


When working with chemicals, you need to be just as careful as when working with electrical systems. Each chemical has its own properties and safety rules, described in an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). This sheet describes how to handle the chemical, how to store it, flammability and what not to do with it. It is very important that you read the MSDS for each of the chemicals you'll be working with.

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