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Eye Dissection

Submitted by sat on 15 August 2016

In Brief

School science dissections can be educationally sound and highly motivating activities when done with respect and safely organised. Appropriate Standard Operating Procedures and safety guidelines must be in place and observed at all times. A site specific risk assessment should be carried out prior to the dissection and the use of scalpels or scissors be based upon the results of this assessment. Consideration should be given to the experience of the teacher, technician and age and ability of students involved.

We can fully appreciate your safety concerns regarding the use of scalpels for eye dissections. However similar hazards are also encountered when using scissors. Scissors should have pointy ends to enable a clean entry point to be made. The scissors could slip just as easily as a scalpel and stab or cut the user.

It is important that the eyeball should never be held in the hand to dissect. The cornea and the sclera of the eyeball are tough and extra care is required when trying to cut into them. There is the chance of the vitreous and aqueous humour squirting out when using either scissors or scalpels. Therefore aprons, safety glasses or goggles should always be worn in case there is a sudden spurt of this fluid when an eyeball is being opened up. The teacher and/or laboratory technician could use a scalpel to make the initial slit in the eyes for students, who are then able to continue the dissection using scissors, which then removes the need for the students to handle scalpels.

In response to your feedback we have updated the information for the SOP. Click on this link to access the updated SOP: Performing an eye dissection

Additional information:

Safe use of dissection instruments

Before a dissection it is recommended the teacher or laboratory technician trial the dissecting instruments (scalpels, scissors and pointed forceps) to establish that they are sufficiently sharp enough.

It is very important that the teacher clearly demonstrates to students the correct dissection procedure and how to use dissection instruments safely:

Student safety rules for dissection:

The following links provide additional general information for dissections:

‘Dissection safety tips’, Flinn Scientific website. (2010)

‘Dissection Safety Policy and Procedures’ Flinn Scientific website. (2013)

Roy, K. 2007. ‘Dissection: Don’t Cut Out Safety’, NSTA website,


CLEAPSS. 2014. G268 Dissection: a guide to safe practice. Uxbridge UK.

‘Dissection safety tips’, Flinn Scientific website. (2010)

‘Dissection Safety Policy and Procedures’ Flinn Scientific website, December, 2016)