The most important element of laboratory safety is adherence to good laboratory practices that reduce the risk of exposure to laboratory hazards. Laboratory personnel must be trained and proficient in the practices and techniques required for work in the laboratory. Laboratory Manager are responsible for identifying and adopting practices and procedures designed to minimize or eliminate exposure to laboratory hazards and for training all laboratory personnel. The following general safety guidelines should be followed in all research and instructional laboratories:
Before beginning work in the laboratory:
- Complete required safety training and specific laboratory training.
- Be familiar with the Laboratory Safety Manual, Supplemental Laboratory Safety Plan to be prepared by each individual College is the need arise. All Supplemental material related to Safety should have the preliminary approval of the ULSC. The location and use of safety equipment, MSDS, and laboratory-specific emergency procedures.
- Know the location of emergency equipment such as chemical spill supplies, emergency showers, eye wash stations, fire extinguishers, etc.
- Consult the MSDS of the chemicals to be used in order to determine risks associated with the chemical, appropriate PPE, and recommended safety precautions.
- Be familiar with spill response procedures for the substances being used.
- Restrict access in instructional and research laboratories to approved laboratory personnel or visitors who have received appropriate safety training.
- Keep the door to the laboratory closed at all times and locked when the laboratory is not in use.
- Avoid working alone in the laboratory.
- Provide warning signs to identify physical hazards (e.g., equipment that operates at extreme temperatures, exposed sharp or moving parts).
- Routinely inspect the laboratory for failing structures such as shelves, chemical storage units, and furniture.
- Implement good laboratory housekeeping practices and maintain a clean and tidy laboratory to prevent chemical accidents and injuries:
- Clean work surfaces regularly.
- Keep floors and access to safety equipment clean and unobstructed.
- Do not store instruments, small equipment (e.g., vacuum pumps, tabletop centrifuges, ring stands) and chemicals on the floor.
- Conduct informal inspections to identify problem areas in the laboratory and notify Safety Officer of any safety issues or concerns.
- Make sure the area selected to perform procedures is equipped with the appropriate safety equipment.
- Wear appropriate PPE.
- Confine long hair, scarves, loose clothing, and jewelry.
- Use appropriate head scarves not posing hazard (see picture)
- Do not eat, drink, use tobacco products, and apply cosmetics, or store food and beverages in the laboratory.
- Follow proper procedures for labeling and storing chemicals and make sure chemical storage containers are in good condition.
- Use a chemical fume hood whenever possible, particularly for operations that may release airborne chemicals or chemical vapors.
- Line work surfaces with absorbent, flame-retardant, plastic-backed bench paper that can be discarded after use, or use chemically resistant trays or pans that can be easily decontaminated.
- Use equipment only for its designated purpose.
- Handle glassware carefully. Shield glass apparatus that have the potential to implode or explode.
Minimize splash and aerosol production by:
- Conducting procedures that may produce aerosols in a chemical fume hood (for aerosols containing chemicals or radioactive material) or biosafety cabinet (for aerosols containing biological material).
- Keeping tubes sealed during vortexing or centrifugation.
- Allowing aerosols to settle before opening centrifuge, blender, or the tube.
- When combining liquids, discharging chemical down the side of the container or as close to the surface of the chemical as possible.
- Do not smell, taste, or touch chemicals to identify, manipulate, or transfer them.
- Never pipette by mouth.
- Avoid activities that might confuse, startle, or distract other laboratory personnel.
- Identify unattended experiments with proper signage and warnings, provide secondary containment for unattended experiments in case equipment fails or breaks, and leave the laboratory lights on. Experiments that require electrical devices should have controls that can automatically shut off the equipment at a determined time or cut power in the event of a spill or accident. Experiments that require open flames or have the potential to start a fire must not be left unattended.
- Handle unknown chemicals as hazardous chemicals until they are properly identified. Unknown chemicals must be stored in an appropriate container and labeled as “Unknown”.
- Before heating a chemical, consider its physical and chemical properties. The boiling point and flashpoint of the chemical, as well as dangers associated with chemical vapors should be considered.
- Avoid heating liquids in closed containers to prevent a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE), which can occur when the vapor generated from heating a liquid has sufficient force to rupture the container.
- Decontaminate work surfaces, instruments, and equipment after each use and immediately after a spill according to recommended decontamination procedures.
- Do not discharge hazardous waste into the sewer system unless specific direction has been given by Safety Officer.
Wash hands after completing work and before leaving the laboratory.
Leave lab coats and other PPE in the laboratory before exiting.
Remain alert to unsafe conditions. Take steps to rectify unsafe situations and bring laboratory safety issues to the attention of the Safety Officer.