Learning by doing is by far the best way to fully understand a subject. The laboratory provides an invaluable environment in which to apply the theory you have learned in the classroom. While there are hazards that you must be aware of, and safe practices you must adhere to, these should not be obstacles to achieving great things in the lab. In fact, the assessment of risk and preparation of safe experimental practices must be part of the natural everyday process of conducting safe laboratory work.
This guide is meant as an aid to provide you with basic information about everyday procedures and safety regulations in our labs, but it does not contain all of the information needed for dealing with specific substances, equipment or situations.
Here are some of the safety guidelines that must be followed when working in our classical chemistry and biology lab:
1) It is your responsibility to obtain and study any relevant information on the potential health and safety hazards posed by chemical and biological materials you intend to use, before commencing any work involving those substances.
2) Always remember to wear your lab coat, and safety glasses and gloves where appropriate, in the laboratory. Tie long hair back.
- Do not use gloves to handle clean equipment or clean materials (e.g. door handles, phones, calculators, computers, books and papers etc.). Remember always to put a glove on one hand to hold samples and leave the other hand bare to open doors, drawers, and work with lab equipment.
3) Make sure you know the locations of the nearest emergency/fire alarm, emergency exit and evacuation meeting point.
4) Make sure you know where the safety equipment is located, such as eye-wash bottles, emergency showers, fire extinguishers and blankets, and first aid kits.
In the event of an accident in which the eyes are contaminated with chemicals, solvents or solutions, the eyes must be rinsed with water from a rinse bottle or tap. It is essential that rinsing takes place as quickly as possible following an accident. Assistance will be required to hold the victim's head down and in some cases to keep the eyes open to ensure all of the rinse water reaches the affected area.
Treatment with large amounts of water is also obligatory for burns and corrosion by strong acids, bases, as well as strong oxidants and reductants. Rinsing should continue during transportation to a doctor.
5) Never run or rush about in the laboratory – this can result in unfortunate accidents.
6) Be aware of those working around you and what they are working with. Inform those working around you of the hazards associated with your work.
7) All contact with chemicals, whether via skin, ingestion or inhalation, should be avoided.
8) Clean up spills immediately and dispose the waste in the appropriate containers.
9) Before using equipment for the first time, or if you are unfamiliar, you must learn how to use it, receive any required training and review the instructions on its proper use, care and safe operation. Contact a technician, a supervisor or a student assistant when in doubt.
10) Before conducting any work, ensure someone working in a nearby laboratory or office is aware of what you are doing and is available to help in case of an emergency.
11) You are required to wash your hands before leaving the laboratory.
Following these guidelines is essential for preventing accidents and for minimizing the severity of accidents when they occur.