It’s important to follow lab safety rules to avoid accidents and be prepared in case of an emergency. Follow these 10 rules to protect yourself and others and get the most from your lab experience.
Follow the Instructions
The most important lab safety rule is to follow the instructions. Read or listen to instructions and get answers to questions before you start lab work. This is the most important rule because if you don’t follow it:
- You could endanger yourself and others.
- You could ruin your experiment.
- You could cause an accident.
- You could get suspended or fired.
Know the Location of Safety Equipment and How to Use It
It’s important to know the location of safety equipment and how to use it. Be familiar with key safety signs and know the location of the emergency exit. Make sure equipment is in working order.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Gear
Wear shoes with covered toes and long pants. Tie back long hair and secure dangling jewelry. Avoid acrylic nails when working with flames. You shouldn’t wear contact lenses in chemical labs (and some biological labs). Once you get to the lab, wear appropriate safety gear. You may need goggles, a lab coat, gloves, hearing protection, or other gear.
Don’t Eat or Drink in the Lab
Don’t eat or drink in the lab. Similarly, don’t store food or beverages in a refrigerator that contains chemicals, cultures, or other experimental material. Don’t use lab glassware as cooking utensils. Even if it looks clean, it could retain chemical or biological residues from experiments.
Don’t Taste or Sniff Experiments
Tasting or smelling chemicals or biological cultures can be dangerous or possibly deadly. Use labels to identify samples. If you must sniff an experiment as part of a protocol, use your hand to waft the scent over toward your nose.
Don’t Play Mad Scientist
Be responsible in the lab. Don’t randomly mix chemicals or deviate from the lab protocol. You could cause a fire or explosion or produce toxic fumes. Similarly, don’t engage in horseplay in the lab. You could distract others, break glassware, or cause an accident.
Know What to Do in an Emergency
You can prevent most lab accidents, but should know what to do when one happens. Immediately report an accident when it occurs. Don’t lie about it or try to cover it up because there could be consequences for you, other people, or the facility.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Clean up after yourself and know what to do with an experiment once it’s completed.
- Know where to dispose of “sharps” such as broken glass and needles.
- Know whether chemicals can be poured down the drain. If not, learn how to neutralize or store them.
- Know whether biological cultures can be cleaned with soap and water or require an autoclave.
Leave Experiments in the Lab
Don’t take experiment materials or specimens home with you. In some cases, lab notebooks must stay in the lab, too.
Treat Everything Like It’s Hazardous
Always label containers, even if they only contain water. Remember hot glass looks just like cool glass. If there’s heat in the lab, assume a container could be hot. Assume biological agents are infectious and treat them with respect. Basically, use caution with all lab equipment, chemicals, and specimens.
More Lab Safety Rules
- Don’t experiment on yourself.
- Don’t leave experiments unattended.
- Don’t work alone in the lab.
- Report unsafe conditions as soon as possible.
- Never pipette by mouth. Always use a pipette bulb.
- Don’t set hot glass directly on a lab bench. It will shatter.
- Know emergency phone numbers in case you need to call for help.
- Work using appropriate ventilation. If an experiment requires a fume hood, don’t perform it out in the open.
- Check glassware for chips and cracks. Damaged glassware is harder to clean, more susceptible to breakage, and more likely to cut you.
- Don’t use equipment until you have been trained in its proper usage.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before leaving the lab.
- Don’t put unused chemicals back in their original container.
- Don’t mix chemicals in sink drains.