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Using laboratory equipment properly, following correct protocols, and maintaining a safe environment should be your highest priorities while in a laboratory setting. More workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry are injured each year than in any other major industry sector. In fact, over 653,900 healthcare and social service workers were injured on the job in 2010. Are you ready to see what you know about laboratory safety? Grab the wheel and let it spin.

Knowledge Wheel Brochure

Knowledge Wheel Brochure

What are some general guidelines for being safe in the laboratory?

One of the main ways to be safe in the laboratory is to make sure that all laboratory directions are thoroughly read, fully understood, and rigorously followed. This implies that no unauthorized experiments should ever be conducted. Make sure to receive approval from your instructor before you take part in any activities not specified in your lab instructions. You should never take part in any horseplay while in the laboratory. No food or drink should ever be consumed in the laboratory.

How should a person dress when working in the laboratory?

The nature of the laboratory activity will many times define what to wear while conducting your experiment. Safety glasses should always be worn to protect your eyes from chemicals, flames, and mechanical damage. In many cases, full laboratory coats or aprons will be required as protective gear. A variety of glove materials can also be used to protect hands from laboratory dangers.

What happens if someone is injured in the laboratory?

All laboratories are required to have and maintain a first aid kit that supplies basic health-related materials in the case of someone being injured in the laboratory. All first aid kits should include a guide that aids in the treatment of injuries. Any time a person is injured in the laboratory, no matter how small or insignificant looking, the person must inform the instructor and a laboratory accident report must be completed. Make it a high priority to immediately locate the following items when you first enter a laboratory: first aid kit, fire extinguisher, fire blanket, eyewash station, drench shower, exits, waste and disposal containers, and a telephone for calling for help.

How can materials safely be heated in the laboratory?

Quite often materials will require heating as part of the laboratory experience. The first step when using a heat source is to make sure that all combustible materials, including hair, clothes, books, papers, and backpack are completely isolated from the heating source. Next, make sure that the location of fire safety equipment is known and all equipment is accessible. When heating a liquid in a test tube, always point the mouth of the test tube away from any classmate and/or yourself. To reduce the likelihood of the liquid being forcefully ejected from the mouth of the test tube, place the flame or heat source in the middle of the test tube to heat the liquid. Never use an open flame when highly flammable materials, such as ether, are present.

How should chemicals be handled in the laboratory?

A major rule regarding chemicals in the laboratory is to treat every chemical as if it is a highly dangerous substance. Chemicals should never be tasted, touched, or smelled in the laboratory unless specifically told to and how by an instructor. Lids must remain on all chemical containers unless the substance is being actively dispensed. Always make sure to point chemical containers away from your face and other’s faces.

How should glassware and sharp objects be used in the laboratory?

Laboratory glassware is designed to be used in a specific application. Always make sure the glassware you select for a given application meets the specifications for that process. For instance, remember that many liquids expand when heated, which may result in an explosion. Brand new glassware is usually slightly basic and must be rinsed with a weak acid solution before usage. Prior to use, glassware must always first be inspected for flaws, such as cracks and chips. If detected, immediately discard the glassware in an approved contaminated or uncontaminated glass waste container. Glassware tends to be extremely slippery. Always use two hands to carry glassware, and hold the glassware with one hand supporting the bottom of the container and one hand on the side of the container. Slip resistant gloves should also be worn when handling glassware.

What steps should be completed at the end of a laboratory session?

Adequate time should always be allocated for clean-up at the end of a laboratory session. A lack of time is never an appropriate excuse for short-cutting proper waste disposal and clean-up procedures designated by the instructor or lab manager. All materials and equipment should be returned to their proper storage location. A written notification should accompany any broken, damaged, or malfunctioning equipment.
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