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Lab Safety Awareness

| Chaizong Lor

Lab Safety Awareness


General Lab Safety Rules

Laboratory environments often have many potential hazards, including chemical, physical, electrical, and mechanical hazards.  The basic rules provide hygiene and behavior safety information to avoid accidents in the laboratory. They cover what you should know in the event of an emergency, proper signage, safely using laboratory equipment, and basic common-sense rules. 

  1.      Be sure to read all fire alarms and lab safety signs and follow the instructions in the event of an accident or emergency.
  2.      Ensure you are fully aware of your facility/building evacuation procedures.
  3.      Make sure you know the location of your lab safety equipment—including first aid kit(s), fire extinguishers, eye wash stations, and safety showers—and how to properly use them.
  4.      Know emergency phone numbers to call for help in case of an emergency.
  5.      Lab areas containing carcinogens, radioisotopes, biohazards, and lasers should be properly marked with the appropriate warning signs.
  6.      Open flames should never be used in the laboratory unless you have permission from a supervisor.
  7.      Keep a clear area around all fire sprinkler heads, fire extinguishers, and eyewash/safety shower.
  8.      Laboratory glassware should never be used as food or beverage containers.
  9.      Make sure you always follow the proper lab safety procedures for disposing of lab waste.
  10.      Report all injuries, accidents, and broken equipment or glass right away, even if the incident seems small or unimportant.
  11.      If you notice any unsafe lab conditions, let your supervisor know as soon as possible.

Housekeeping Safety Rules

Laboratory housekeeping rules also apply to most facilities and deal with the basic upkeep, tidiness, and maintenance of a safe laboratory. 

  1.      Always keep your work area(s) tidy and clean.
  2.      Make sure that all lab safety equipment, like eyewash stations, emergency showers, fire extinguishers, and exits are always unobstructed and accessible.
  3.      Only materials you require for your work should be kept in your work area.
  4.      Only lightweight items should be stored on top of cabinets; heavier items should always be kept at waist height to avoid bending and lifting.
  5.      Solids should always be kept out of the laboratory sink.
  6.      Any equipment that requires air flow or ventilation to prevent overheating should always be kept clear. 

Personal Protection Safety Rules

Personal protection covers what employees must be wearing in the lab to protect themselves from various lab hazards, as well as basic hygiene rules to follow to avoid any sort of contamination.

  1.      When working with equipment, hazardous materials, glassware, heat, and/or chemicals, always wear  safety glasses or goggles, and additionally use a face shield as needed.
  2.      When handling any toxic or hazardous agent, always wear the appropriate gloves that resist the specific chemicals you’re working with.
  3.      When performing laboratory experiments, you must always wear a lab coat.
  4.      Before leaving the lab or eating, always wash your hands.
  5.      After performing an experiment, you should always wash your hands with soap and water.
  6.      When using lab equipment and chemicals, be sure to keep your hands away from your body, mouth, eyes, face, and items you’ll handle after removing your gloves (e.g., your phone, laptop).

Chemical Safety Rules

Since almost every lab uses chemicals of some sort, chemical lab safety rules are a must. Following these policies helps employees avoid spills and other accidents, as well as damage to the environment outside of the lab. These rules also set a clear procedure for employees to follow if a spill does occur to ensure it is cleaned up properly and injuries are avoided. 

  1.      Every chemical should be treated as though it were dangerous.
  2.      Do not allow any solvent to come into contact with your skin.
  3.      All chemicals should always be clearly labeled with the name of the substance, its concentration, the date it was received, and the name of the person  responsible for it.
  4.      Before removing any of the contents from a chemical bottle, read the label twice.
  5.      Never take more chemicals from a bottle than you need for your work.
  6.      Do not put unused chemicals back into their original container.
  7.      Chemicals or other materials should never be taken out of the laboratory.
  8.      Chemicals should never be mixed in sink drains.
  9.      Flammable and volatile chemicals should only be used in a fume hood.
  10.      If a chemical spill occurs, clean it up right away.
  11.      Ensure that all chemical waste is disposed of properly. 

Maintain Good Hygiene

  1.      Wash hands after handling any hazardous materials, before and after eating, and before leaving the lab.
  2.      Keeping personal items separate from lab work.  This will prevent the spread of hazardous reagents and cut off a potential exposure route.
  3.      Do not apply cosmetics while in the lab.  Applying anything to your face, especially around your mouth or eyes, poses a significant risk of exposure.
  4.      Dry and cracked skin can provide a route for exposure.  Use hand lotion to keep the skin on your hands healthy or wearing gloves can help prevent exposure.

Use Proper Storage Containers

Chemicals should be stored in approved closed containers and cabinets with secondary containment to prevent releases, separated by compatible hazard class (flammable/oxidizers/acids/bases/re-actives) to avoid unwanted reactions and unnecessary exposure to occupants. This applies to individual containers, storage cabinets, and waste. 

  1.      Storing organic solvents in plastic bottles can compromise the container, just like acids in metal containers or HF in glass.  Chemicals should be stored in containers made of materials that will not react.
  2.      Large volumes of flammable chemicals must be stored in fire rated cabinets.  Acids and caustics should ideally be stored in separate cabinets lined with plastic to prevent any vapors from reacting with the metal housing.  Chemicals known to react violently when mixed should be stored separately. 
  3.      As with chemical storage, waste should be stored in non-reactive containers, or containers with non-reactive liners.  

 Label Your Workspace

All containers should be labeled with their contents.  This is crucial so those working near you and anyone visiting the lab will know what hazards are present.  Ideally the hazards present should be included on the label.


There are inherent hazards with every work task or process but when safety is incorporated in every step, the exposure can be eliminated, reduced, or mitigated. It is essential to keep a lab work area clear, clean, properly labeled, and orderly to ensure the work can be done safely, efficiently, and productively. When each member of staff takes safety seriously and hazards are reduced, the laboratory will be a much safer workspace.