Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrations

ACS Division of Chemical Education Demo Guidelines –

Chemical Demonstrations

Those planning chemical demonstrations have a responsibility to follow and document safe laboratory practices. Only persons who have appropriate education and experience in chemistry and chemical safety should perform chemical demonstrations. Thus these are for use only by experienced chemical practitioners.

Before the Demonstration

  1. Always follow a tested, written procedure that includes comprehensive safety precautions. Use the smallest scale possible for the location and viewers.
  2. Review the safety precautions. Effective safety precautions provide easy-to-follow instructions to minimize risk and prevent unplanned incidents.
  3. If a written procedure is not available, or safety precautions are not clear, perform an independent hazard and risk assessment. Write the demonstration procedure with appropriate safety precautions to protect against the hazards and reduce risk, and retain the procedure on file for future use.
  4. Always practice before presenting a demonstration.
  5. Ensure that all demonstrations are appropriate for the room. Keep all exit paths clear. Check the ventilation. Use of a fume hood is required for any demonstration that uses or produces a substance with a TLV less than 50 ppm.
  6. Consult current Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for any chemicals which will be used.
  7. Prepare and follow a safety checklist for all combustion demonstrations involving the use of a flammable liquid. Dispense only the amount of the liquid required BEFORE beginning the demonstration. Cap the solvent bottle and REMOVE it from the demonstration area. NEVER add more flammable liquid to a combustion demonstration once it is underway.
  8. In a small setting such as a classroom or lab, all participants and observers must wear appropriate eye protection at all times.
  9. Ensure there is an appropriate fire extinguisher on hand.
  10. Keep a spill kit nearby.
  11. Plan for appropriate handling or disposal of reaction byproducts or excess chemicals.

During the Demonstration

  1. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  2. Provide safety shield protection whenever there is the slightest possibility that a container could be propelled with sufficient force to cause exposure and/or personal injury.
  3. Warn members of the audience to cover their ears if a loud noise is anticipated.
  4. Participants and spectators must not taste any substances used in the demonstration.
  5. Do not perform demonstrations in which parts of the human body will be placed in danger.

Special Notes for Outreach or Public Demonstrations

  1. Ensure proper packaging and secondary containment for the safe transport of all chemicals to and from off-site locations.
  2. Notify security and/or administrators that you will be performing demonstrations.
  3. Provide a written demonstration procedure.


American Chemical Society. “Guidelines for Demonstrations”. 2015.