Chemists commonly live to a grand old age, in spite of dealing regularly with hazardous equipment and dangerous substances. What's their secret? They keep alert, they know about the hazards involved, and they think SAFETY in the laboratory.
Safety is not just about you living a long life. It's also about everyone else around you being safe, it's about not getting injured, it's about protecting your clothes, your books, your experiments.
Guidelines for Laboratory Safety
- SAFETY GLASSES or GOGGLES AND LAB COATS MUST BE WORN at all times. They are intended to prevent accidents from chemical splashes and breaking glass. Contact lenses are NOT recommended in the laboratory, especially when using volatile organic solvents.
- EATING, DRINKING and SMOKING are not allowed in the laboratory.
- Students are required to wear reasonable clothing. A lab coat is required. This not only protects your clothing, but could prevent serious burns. Closed-toed shoes must be worn in the lab; sandals or any open-toed footwear are not proper footwear. Shorts, capris and short skirts are less protective than full-length pants.
- Use common sense, e.g. do not leave papers or flammable solvents near lit bunsen burners.
- Know the location of the safety showers. Use them if your clothes catch fire or if acid is spilled on them. Don't worry about getting wet.
- Know the location of the eye-wash stations. If you get something in your eye, wash it out with plenty of cold water from the eye-wash station.
- Know where the fire extinguishers and the first-aid boxes are located.
- Read your lab manual before entering the lab and listen to your T.A. Special hazards and precautions for particular experiments are noted in the laboratory manuals and may be pointed out by the T.A.
- Never use cracked or broken glassware. They are liable to cause an accident.
- Keep your bench-top clean and uncluttered, to avoid unnecessary accidents.
- Take due care when handling chemicals and solvents. If they are spilled, let your T.A., lab supervisor or professor know about it.
- Disposable gloves can protect your hands from accidental exposures to small quantities of materials. Solvents can, however, seep through gloves. Replace your gloves if something spills on them and properly dispose of contaminated gloves.
- Don't carry hazards outside the lab. Anything you touch (the door knob, for instance) will become contaminated with whatever is on your gloves. So remove your gloves when leaving the lab. Your hands need no protection from chemical spills outside the lab, anyway.
- All accidents, no matter how small, must be reported to the laboratory instructor.
The labels on bottles and jars of chemicals carry symbols indicating any dangers associated with their use:
A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a given substance is designed to provide both lab workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with that substance. The MSDS will include information such as physical data, toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures. These are of particular use if a spill or other accident occurs.