Laboratory Hazards & Safety
Hazards in the laboratory fall into three general categories:
Equipment: A wide variety of equipment is used for different activities. Most of the equipment is delicate, sensitive and expensive. Before you use any equipment you must learn about its operation and its safety implications. Misuse of equipment can lead to injury delay in project work and substantial cost in repair bill.
Gases: A variety of compressed gases are used, some of which may be toxic, corrosive, flammable, or explosive. These hazards have been minimized by the use of proper equipment, proper confinement, ventilation, safety valves, etc., and by procedural controls. You must learn about the safe handling of gases before embarking on their use. An accident with any of these could be catastrophic.
Chemicals: Acids, bases, etching solutions and solvents are commonly used in materials chemistry and device fabrication. These are “hands on” hazards which are hard to control by engineering controls only. These chemicals can cause severe burns, tissue damage, organ damage, asphyxiation, and genetic damage if used improperly. You must take chemical safety instructions before using any chemical.
In addition, improper use of solvents can result in a major fire. These chemicals even they look ordinary, are definitely not hazard free.
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Filling in a COSHH form should not be for the fulfillment of legal obligation only, this is an opportunity to learn about hazards associated with chemicals, their safety implications and how to handle and use them safely.
General Safety Awareness
- Familiarize yourself with all aspects of safety before using any equipment.
- Be alert to unsafe conditions of the equipment, procedures and actions, and call attention to them so that corrections can be made as soon as possible.
- Label all storage areas, appropriately, and keep all chemicals in properly labelled containers.
- Date all chemical bottles when received and when opened.
- Note expiry dates on chemicals.
- Note storage conditions and adhere to them.
- Familiarize yourself with the appropriate protective measures when exposed to the following classes of hazardous materials.
Flammable – Corrosive – Toxic – Carcinogen – Compressed Gases – Poisons
- Segregate chemicals by compatibility groups for storage.
- Post warning signs for unusual hazards such as flammable materials no naked flames or other special problems.
- Pour more concentrated solutions into less concentrated solutions to avoid violent reactions (i.e. add acid to water, not water to acid).
- Avoid distracting other worker.
- Use equipment only for its designated purpose.
- Position and secure apparatus used for chemical reactions in order to permit manipulation without moving the apparatus until the entire reaction is complete.
- Always use extracted wet benches for chemical work.
- Always wear safety glasses or goggles at all times in the laboratory.
- Always wear laboratory coat/apron in the laboratory.
- Appropriate gloves should be worn as needed.
- Appropriate shoes should be worn in the laboratory.
- Wear breathing mask as and when appropriate.
- Only trained personnel may use breathing apparatus.
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- Wash hands before leaving the laboratory.
- Never mouth suck anything in a pipette in the laboratory.
- No food or drink is allowed in laboratories or areas where chemicals are used or stored.
- No food should be stored in a laboratory refrigerator.
- Never eat or drink from the laboratory glassware.
- Keep exposed skin covered in the laboratory.
- Aware yourself of ignition sources in the laboratory and service areas (open flames, heat, electrical equipment).
- Purchase chemicals in quantities that will be used in not distant future.
- Always store flammable liquids in appropriate cabinets.
- Do not store incompatible reagents together (e.g., acids with organic solvents).
- Do not store ether or similar chemicals for extended periods of time as explosive peroxides could form.
- Date chemicals when received and opened.
- Make sure that all electrical cords are in good condition and all electrical outlets are earthed.
- Remain out of the area of a fire or incident if you are not in position to help.
- Familiarize yourself with siting and condition of fire extinguishers. Broken seals mean fire extinguisher has been used and need be recharged.
- Do not use fire extinguishers unless you are trained and feel confident to do so.
- Eliminate safety hazards by maintaining the laboratory work areas in a good state of order.
- Maintain clear passages to the laboratory exit.
- Always keep bench tops, extracted wet benches, floors and aisles clear of unnecessary material.
- Wipe down bench tops and other laboratory surfaces after each use.
- All equipment should be inspected before use.
- If experiments must be left unattended, place a note next to experimental apparatus indicating the chemicals involved and possible hazards and your name and a number where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
- Keep the laboratory floor dry at all times. Attend to spills immediately and notify other lab workers of potential slipping hazards.
- Only authorized personnel should do maintenance work on laboratory equipment.
- Sink traps should be flushed with water on a regular basis to prevent the release of chemical odors in the laboratory.
- All compressed gas cylinders should be securely chained or clamped to a rack.
- Take empty cylinders to the empty cylinder bay for collection. Unnecessary delays accumulate rent that is usually much more than the price of the gas.
- Please familiarize with the location, use and limitations of the following safety devices.
- Eye Wash Station
- Breathing Apparatus
- Spill Cleanup Materials
- First Aid Kit
- Fire Alarm
- Fire Extinguisher
- Clean up all small spills immediately. If a spill is large and is expected to poses a hazard to others in the laboratory, stop the activity or equipment if possible, and call for help.
- If volatile, flammable, or toxic material spill, shut off flames and spark-producing equipment at once and evacuate and call one of the above members of staff for help to deal with the spill.
- In the event of fire or explosion, call for help.
- Maintain a clear path to all safety equipment at all times.
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Personal Protective Equipment
- Protection of health and safety of workers at work is a legal requirement for all according to Health and Safety Executive Directive. Familiarize yourself with the safety guidelines and adhere to them.
- Splashing chemicals or flying objects are possible at any time in a laboratory environment. Eye protection should be worn in the laboratory all the time. Safety glasses, Goggles, and Safety
- Visors are available in the laboratory. Please select the one most appropriate for your work.
- The laboratory coat is designed to protect the clothing and skin from chemicals that may be spilled or splashed. Please wear laboratory coat in the chemistry laboratory all the time
- An apron provides an alternative to the lab coat. It is usually made of plastic or rubber to protect the wearer against corrosive or irritating chemicals. An apron should be worn over garments that cover the arms and body, such as a laboratory coat.
- It is important you keep the protective clothing in good condition. Dirty and damaged clothing should be cleaned and repaired or replaced. Dirty protective clothing is a hazard in itself.
- Always wear protective gloves in the laboratory specially when handling chemicals. Because certain glove types are not impervious in contact with chemicals, please select one on the basis of the material being handled and particular hazards involved.