A laboratory is a place bound by rules to ensure the safety of everyone. There are precautions to observe and safety measures to follow.
Safety rules in the laboratory are all the more crucial, especially now that we are in the midst of the pandemic.
The following has to be observed when you are in the laboratory:
Safety Precautions in the laboratory in the time of Covid-19
- Limit close contact – Distance from one another must be observed at all times. Movement should also be limited to essential trips.
- If possible, work remotely or stagger shifts to minimize the number of people in the lab.
- Observe proper hand hygiene at all times. There should be a hand washing station and a hand sanitizing area.
- Frequently touched surfaces must be kept clean and sanitized using products that meet the criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It includes laboratory equipment and cabinet handles. Make sure to wear personal protective equipment while cleaning and sanitizing the lab.
- If someone in the lab is positive of Covid-19, the protocols established by the Center for Disease Control should be followed. Track the areas used by the infected person and clean and decontaminate it using EPA-recommended disinfectant.
General safety rules in the laboratory
- Be mindful of the safety signs and fire alarm. In case of an emergency, make sure you strictly follow safety and escape instructions.
- Make sure you know your building’s evacuation procedures.
- Know your laboratory equipment’s storage area and place of designation, especially those needed in times of emergency like:
- First aid kits
- Eyewash stations
- Safety showers
- Fire extinguishers
- Memorize emergency phone numbers as it is seemingly beneficial during an emergency.
- Appropriate warning signs must be placed and emphasized when working in a laboratory filled with hazardous materials like radioisotopes, lasers, biohazards, and carcinogens.
- Avoid using open flames in the laboratory unless permitted by a qualified supervisor.
- Familiarize the laboratory’s settings, especially the location of fire alarms and exits.
- When doing a fire drill, see to it that electrical equipment is turned off and all containers are closed.
- Make sure that the laboratory is well-ventilated, especially if you are working on something.
- A big NO when inside the laboratory – eating, drinking, and chewing gums.
- Laboratory apparatus such as glassware should be used for laboratory activities alone. Do not use it as a food container.
- When using glass lab equipment, you should always check for any signs of chipping or the presence of cracks. Inform your lab supervisor should there be any damage to the equipment.
- Use only equipment you are trained to handle. If you don’t know how to use it, then don’t use it to avoid any problems.
- Report to the lab technician if any laboratory tools and equipment are not functioning properly. Do not attempt to do a repair on your own.
- If you are in-charge to close the lab, do your part in making sure that all ignition sources are closed and doors are locked.
- As much as possible, avoid working alone in the lab.
- Make sure you complete the experiment. If it needs to be left for some time, see to it that there is someone looking after it. Do not leave your experiment unattended.
- When working with solutions or any glassware, make sure that it is within your eye level. Do not lift it above your eye level to avoid the solution from dripping. Do not smell or taste chemicals as they can be extremely hazardous.
- Follow proper lab waste disposal procedures.
- Any incidents that resulted in broken equipment, tools, and injuries should be reported no matter how minor it is.
- If you sustained an injury, ask for help immediately.
- If the chemicals you are working with splashes into your eyes or skin, immediately flush with running water for at least 20 minutes.
- Inform your supervisor the soonest time possible if you notice any unsafe conditions.
Also see : Lab safety symbols and their meanings
Housekeeping safety rules
- Keep your work area clean at all times.
- Make emergency stations accessible and unobstructed, specifically emergency showers, eyewash stations, exit areas, and fire extinguishers.
- Work areas are designated for materials and tools used for lab-related works.
- When storing items on the cabinet, the heavy materials should be placed at the bottom while the light materials should be stored on top.
- Keep solids away from the lab sink.
- Equipment that needs ventilation (airflow) must be kept clear to avoid overheating.
Laboratory Dress Code
There are clothing materials that must be worn inside the laboratory and there are those that need not be worn such as shorts and skirts. When going inside the laboratory, make sure that the following is carefully observed:
- Hair that is chin-length or longer must be tied back.
- Keep loose clothing and dangling jewelry secure. As much as possible, do not wear them in the laboratory.
- Use proper footwear. Do not wear sandals or open-toed shoes. The footwear should completely cover the foot.
- Wearing the proper clothing is a must. Do not wear shorts or skirts.
- Remove acrylic nails when working with fire or things that could ignite fire such as lighted splints, matches, and Bunsen burners.
Personal Protection Safety Measures
It pertains to what lab personnel should wear to protect themselves from lab hazards and to observe proper hygiene, and avoid contamination.
- Wear face shields and safety glasses when working with hazardous materials, chemicals, heat, and glassware.
- Gloves should be worn when handling toxic or hazardous agents.
- A smock or lab coat is worn when performing laboratory experiments.
- Wash your hands before entering and after leaving the lab using clean water and soap.
- When working with chemicals and performing experiments in general, you should refrain from touching your eyes, mouth, face, and other sensitive areas of the body.
Safety Rules When Handling Chemicals
Chemicals are one of the must-have items in the laboratory. Safety rules in handling chemicals in the laboratory have to be followed to avoid spills and chemical-related accidents.
- All chemicals in the lab setting must be treated as dangerous.
- Make sure that chemicals will not come in contact with your skin.
- Chemicals should be labeled correctly: name, concentration, date received, and the name of the person responsible for it.
- Read the label a few times before pouring the content from a chemical bottle.
- Take only the chemical you need.
- Unused chemicals should not be put back in the original container.
- Chemicals and other laboratory solutions and materials should not be taken away from the lab.
- Chemicals should not be mixed in the sink drain.
- The fume hood is the designated place for chemicals tagged as volatile or flammable.
- In the case of chemical spills, it should be cleaned immediately.
- Observe proper chemical waste disposal.
Chemistry Laboratory Safety Rules
- Check the materials you are going to use and be aware of the hazards they bring.
- Exercise extreme caution when refluxing, distilling, and transferring highly volatile liquids.
- Pour chemicals from a large container to a smaller container.
- Do not pour chemicals back into the stock container.
- Never tap vacuum flask.
- Be very mindful when handling chemicals. Do not mix, measure, or heat chemicals in front of your face.
- Avoid pouring water into concentrated acid. The best way is to pour the acid slowly into the water while constantly stirring the water.
Electrical Safety Measures
Electrical equipment can be found in a laboratory setting. It prevents errors in using electronic instruments, electric shocks, and other related injuries. The following has to be observed when dealing with electrical equipment in the lab:
- Ask permission from your laboratory supervisor before using high-voltage equipment.
- Make sure you do not modify or change the setting of high-voltage equipment.
- When attaching a high-voltage power supply, make sure you turn it off.
- Use one hand when adjusting high-voltage equipment. Your other hand should be placed behind your back or in your pocket.
- As much as possible, do not use extension cords.
Safety Rules When Using Laser
Many labs use lasers and lab personnel must strictly follow safety precautions when working with a laser to prevent injuries.
- Never look into the laser beam even if it is tagged as low power or safe for your eyes.
- Whenever lasers are present, you have to protect your eyes by wearing the right goggles. There are different types of laser-related injuries but the most common ones are caused by scattered laser light that reflects off the shiny surface of the side of the mirror, optical tables, and mountings. If you are wearing goggles, your eyes will be protected from laser’s scattered light.
- Make sure your head is not at the same level as the laser beam. The laser beam should be below or at chest level.
- Avoid laser beams from spreading into the lab by using beam stops.
- Avoid walking through the laser beams.