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Laboratory Safety

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  • Safety in the laboratory must always be of primary concern to those of us involved in the sciences. In general, safety is a matter of careful, knowledgeable planning, clear thinking and logic. For students new to laboratory procedures, the following general guidelines should be helpful. 

    • The supervisor should be notified immediately of a pregnancy, any medical condition or the use of any drug that may require precautionary measures in the laboratory. Allergies, color blindness, impaired hearing and other sensory variations should be reported as well. 
    • The location of all exits from the lab, all fire extinguishers, fire blankets, chemical showers, eye washes, first aid kits, broken glass containers and cleanup materials will be identified by the faculty member and proper training in the use of each of these will be provided. It is the responsibility of the student to ask for guidance should any procedure or the use of any piece of equipment be unclear to them.
    • Proper attire, such as a laboratory coat, footwear, eyewear and gloves, must be worn in the lab at all times.
    • Unauthorized experiments or use of lab equipment is forbidden.
    • No piece of equipment should ever be used unless its user is fully aware of the proper procedures for using that equipment. 
    • All equipment should be handled correctly and with care EVERY time it is used. 
    • All problems with equipment, even those which appear to be slight must be reported to the appropriate supervisor immediately and before continuing use of that equipment. 
    • Electrical equipment that is crackling, smoking, sparking or otherwise malfunctioning, should not be touched, even to disconnect it. Call a supervisor.
    • All breakage and spills must be reported immediately. 
    • Proper cleanup and disposal procedures must always be followed in the lab. If there is ANY doubt, a supervisor should be consulted immediately. 
    • The disposal of hazardous material must be supervised by an appropriately trained member of the staff. Students must NOT attempt such cleanup themselves.
    • ALL injuries, even those judged to be minor, must be reported immediately.
    • Appropriate eye protection must always be worn in the lab. Contact lens wearers should consult their ophthalmologists and their supervisors for guidance on whether contact lens use is appropriate in their work.
    • Long hair should be tied back, long sleeves should be rolled up and any other potential clothing or grooming hazards, such as dangling jewelry, should be eliminated.
    • Eating, drinking, smoking or applying makeup should never be done in a laboratory nor should any roughhousing occur.
    • No heat source should ever be left unattended.
    • Hot plates should always be assumed to be hot.
    • All glassware should be cleaned before and after its use.
    • Hot glassware should be carried with appropriate apparatus and care.
    • Chemicals should not be left in direct sunlight or in direct contact with a heat source.
    • All chemical containers should be properly capped and kept away from heat sources. Alcohol and other flammable liquids should never be used near an open flame.
    • Electrical outlets and plugs should never get wet or be near liquids. Should an outlet or plug get wet, a supervisor should be called immediately to handle the problem.
    • All items should be returned to their proper storage locations at the end of a lab session and the lab workstation should be appropriately cleaned.
    • Hands should be thoroughly washed before leaving the lab.

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