Lab Safety 101: Health & Safety Resource For Students
Laboratory safety is of paramount importance. That’s exactly why this safety resource has been created, to encourage and promote safe and efficient working practices in any lab.
Many laboratory guidelines are written based on experience – notably when things have gone badly wrong. Remember, you could be dealing with extremely dangerous and hazardous chemicals, so caution is required at all times.
Whilst many laboratories are governed by their own rules and regulations, much of the safety precautions come down to each individual student. Staff can’t be available at all times for supervision and for this reason; responsibility ultimately falls to the individual.
Many laboratory accidents and problems are accountable to haste. In the lab however, it’s important to take your time - not only for safety reasons, but also to avoid wasting samples, money and time.
Laboratory hazards can have a serious consequence and as such, extreme care and attention is required at all times. There are three main hazards to be aware of: equipment, gases and chemicals.
The lab is full of a whole range of specialist equipment and required for varying activities. This equipment is not only expensive, but can be delicate and easy to break. As a result, before using any new equipment it’s important to get a better understanding of its proper use and best practices. Misusing lab equipment can result in injury, expense and a delay in your project.
Chemical gases can cause a number of complications and may be toxic, corrosive and flammable. To ensure safety is of highest priority, only use the correct equipment for your project and ensure you’re fully trained and prepared in handling dangerous gases. Just some of the things to be aware of include ventilation, safety valves and proper confinement.
When conducting experiments in the lab and completing certain projects, you’ll come into contact with a range of different chemicals. Chemicals such as acids can cause severe burns and damage to tissues and organs. Improper use can lead to severe health risks, whilst also presenting the possibility of a fire.
Throughout this resource you’ll read much on the importance of safety and this can’t be highlighted enough. Safety awareness in the lab starts with familiarising yourself with all equipment and correct procedures before commencing work.
Rules and regulations will vary from lab to lab, but some of the basic safety awareness measures include:
- Calling attention to any unsafe equipment so action can be taken as soon as possible
- Correctly labeling all equipment and ensuring chemicals are stored in the right containers
- Ensure a date is recorded when a chemical is opened
- Be aware of the correct storage conditions and ensure to follow these guidelines
- When mixing chemicals, pour the more concentrated solution into the less concentrated – e.g. Add acid to water, not vice versa.
Your personal safety is very important and in the laboratory, always abide by the following:
- Wear safety goggles at all times
- Ensure a laboratory coat or apron is worn
- Use appropriate gloves when required
- Wear correct shoes
- Make use of a breathing mask if required.