Why students tend to damage lab property – and possible solutions

Maintaining all the science and computer laboratory equipment in good shape is absolutely imperfect, because we’re dealing with students here – and even the worst is possible. This is why so many schools have incurred multiple expenses in effort to replace or repair damaged property.

In this article, we discuss the usual reasons why students intentionally or accidentally damage school lab property.

1. Absence of strict lab rules

Due to the expense of the lab equipment, every school has rules and regulations on how to handle the lab property, and usually the consequences of mishandling the property. Examples of the strict rules include;

  • Nobody should touch a single thing until instructed by the teacher
  • Students have no access to the lab unless they have a practical class or exam
  • No food and drinks are allowed inside the lab
  • Any student who breaks or destroys something will have to pay

Without properly enforced rules and regulations, lousy accidents and malicious damage to the lab property are always reported to the school authorities.

2. Ignorance on how to use the equipment

So many teachers make the mistake of assuming that students will figure out on their own how to use the lab equipment. However, students need the teachers’ full step-by-step instructions throughout the process.

Through ignorance, students can mistakenly mix incompatible chemicals, drop the equipment or even program the computers the wrong way to erase them clean.

3. Excitement

In many schools, students don’t make it into the science lab before they’re in S3 or in some cases, S4. This kind of delay causes them to anticipate and admire others that have access, thus building up a strange anticipation. When they’re excited, students are capable of things like;

  • Accidentally dropping the equipment
  • Experimenting too soon without the teacher’s permission
  • Fighting for the equipment with other students because they want to be the first to use

It is quite hard for students to tone down the excitement, unless the teacher points it out and personally makes sure it is kept in check.

4. Limited supervision

Supervision is the most important activity during the practical lessons. If not done, there are so many things that can go wrong during the practical lesson. This is because;

  • Students won’t take so much care as they would if you were around
  • You might not detect some damages right away – meaning you won’t find the students that damaged the equipment
  • Students won’t report to you if they detect something wrong with the lab equipment

In multiple schools, various cases of students drinking or getting scorched by corrosive chemicals have been reported. All this is due to gaps in the supervision and guidance of students.

5. Notoriety

Every school has a bunch of notorious students that almost seem to rewrite their own rules on almost everything. When notorious students enter the lab, expect things like;

  • Intentionally breaking or damaging some equipment because they want to see what happens next
  • Stealing lab equipment because they intend to use it for something else

Even in extreme cases like school strikes, the notorious students usually head for the places where the school keeps valuable stuff, and the lab is a huge priority.

6. Nervousness / panic

Quite similar to excitement, there are some students that are just too afraid of making mistakes that they soon inevitably make them.

These students incredibly crumble under pressure to the point that they almost seem like they don’t know what they’re doing.


Lab problems aren’t that hard to solve if you know how students behave and actively try your best to control them when you still have time. Some of the most effective measures include;

1. Guiding students on how to handle lab property

Before and during their session, students always have to be guided on how to handle the lab equipment with care. This includes what they have to use and how to use it.

With proper knowledge of the use of different equipment, there will be limited cases of damage to lab property.

2. Setting penalties for all that damage the property

When you know that every mistake has undesirable consequences, you stop being reckless. This is exactly what students need to keep them in check.

With a strict replacement policy, students will take care not to make careless mistakes while in the lab.

3. Supervision

Rules and regulations are almost useless if they aren’t enforced. This is because students always need to be reminded.

If teachers always inspect the room while the students are inside, they’ll hardly be reckless because they know that they won’t get away with a reckless move.


No school claims that they’ve never had to replace or repair any damaged lab property, even in the presence of the strictest lab rules and supervision. However, rules and regulations are important because sometimes, the school won’t have to do the replacing. Also, students will be cautious as they handle the equipment – that sometimes even if there’s any damage, it’s small and rather easy to contain.

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