Safety In The Laboratory

Here are some great tips to remember concerning safety in the laboratory

by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.
Updated December 15, 2017
ThoughtCo – click the link for the full article.

“The science lab is an inherently dangerous place, with fire hazards, dangerous chemicals, and risky procedures. No one wants to have an accident in the lab, so you need to follow lab safety rules.

1. The Most Important Lab Safety Rule
Follow the instructions! Whether it’s listening to your instructor or lab supervisor or following a procedure in a book, it’s critical to listen, pay attention, and be familiar with all the steps, from start to finish, before you begin. If you are unclear about any point or have questions, get them answered before starting, even if it’s a question about a step later on in the protocol. Know how to use all of the lab equipment before you begin.

Why is this the most important rule? If you don’t follow it:

You endanger yourself and others in the lab.
You could easily ruin your experiment.
You put the lab at risk of an accident, which could damage equipment as well as harm people.
You could get suspended (student) or fired (researcher).
Now that you know the most important rule, let’s continue to other lab safety rules…
2. Know the Location of Safety Equipment
In the event something goes wrong, it’s important to know the location of the safety equipment and how to use it. It’s a good idea to periodically check equipment to make sure it is in working order. For example, does water actually come out of the safety shower? Does the water in the eye wash look clean?

Not sure where safety equipment is located? Review lab safety signs and look for them before starting an experiment.
3. Safety Rule – Dress for the Lab
Dress for the lab. This is a safety rule because your clothing is one of your best forms of protection against an accident. For any science lab, wear covered shoes, long pants, and keep your hair up so it can’t fall into your experiment or a flame.

Make sure you wear protective gear, as needed. Basics include a lab coat and safety goggles. You may also need gloves, hearing protection, and other items, depending on the nature of the experiment.

4. Don’t Eat or Drink in the Laboratory
Save your snacking for the office, not the lab. Don’t eat or drink in the science laboratory. Don’t store your food or beverages in the same refrigerator that contains experiments, chemicals, or cultures.

There is too much risk of contaminating your food. You could touch it with a hand that is coated with chemicals or pathogens or set it down on a lab bench that has residue from past experiments.
Having drinks in the lab risks your experiment, too. You could spill a drink on your research or lab notebook.
Eating and drinking in the lab is a form of distraction. If you are eating, you aren’t concentrating on your work. It’s unsafe.
If you’re used to drinking liquids in the lab, you might accidentally reach for and drink the wrong liquid. This is especially true if you did not label your glassware or used lab glassware as dishes (2 other safety mistakes).
5. Don’t Taste or Sniff Chemicals
Not only should you not bring in food or drinks, but you shouldn’t taste or smell chemicals or biological cultures already in the lab. The best way to know what’s in a container is to label it, so get in the habit of making a label for glassware before adding the chemical.

Tasting or smelling some chemicals can be dangerous or even deadly. Don’t do it!

Lab safety rules for students – United Federation of Teachers

Report all accidents, injuries, and breakage of glass or equipment to instructor immediately.

Keep pathways clear by placing extra items (books, bags, etc.) on the shelves or under the work tables. If under the tables, make sure that these items can not be stepped on.

Long hair (chin-length or longer) must be tied back to avoid catching fire.

Wear sensible clothing including footwear. Loose clothing should be secured so they do not get caught in a flame or chemicals.

Work quietly — know what you are doing by reading the assigned experiment before you start to work. Pay close attention to any cautions described in the laboratory exercises

Do not taste or smell chemicals.

Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes when heating substances, dissecting, etc.

Do not attempt to change the position of glass tubing in a stopper.

Never point a test tube being heated at another student or yourself. Never look into a test tube while you are heating it.

Unauthorized experiments or procedures must not be attempted.

Keep solids out of the sink.

Leave your work station clean and in good order before leaving the laboratory.

Do not lean, hang over or sit on the laboratory tables.

Do not leave your assigned laboratory station without permission of the teacher.

Learn the location of the fire extinguisher, eye wash station, first aid kit and safety shower.

Fooling around or “horse play” in the laboratory is absolutely forbidden. Students found in violation of this safety rule will be barred from participating in future labs and could result in suspension.

Anyone wearing acrylic nails will not be allowed to work with matches, lighted splints, bunsen burners, etc.

Do not lift any solutions, glassware or other types of apparatus above eye level.

Follow all instructions given by your teacher.

Learn how to transport all materials and equipment safely.

No eating or drinking in the lab at any time!


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