Lab safety, though it may seem easy, may actually require more precautions than you might think. It does involve a lot of common sense, but there are probably at least a few things you may not have thought of. Though there are a few chemistry-specific procedures here, most of these standards can be applied to any science class.
- No fooling around or “cutting corners” (cheating in the procedure)
- Always wear your lab coat (or apron), gloves (if required), and safety goggles (or other eye protection).
- Assume ALL chemicals are dangerous. You never know which ones really are, do you?
- This one is mainly for girls, but tie back long hair, and secure all loose jewelry and other possessions. Also, no open-toed shoes should be worn during a lab.
- When you finish, clean the table thoroughly.
- When you begin, read all labels and warnings for chemicals thoroughly.
- NEVER put chemicals back in their containers! They may have touched something when they were removed. If you are unsure of where to dispose of a certain chemical, ask your teacher.
- Follow the procedure steps in the order they are given. Do not skip around; you may have needed something from a previous step in order to go to a later one; they are in a certain order for a reason.
- MSDS: Every lab should have an MSDS, or “Material Safety Data Sheet.” It’s an individual piece of paper (or otherwise form of record) for every single chemical in the lab. Ask your teacher if you’d like to view it for a certain chemical or chemicals.
- AAA: Always remember the three A’s: “Always Add Acid” when mixing an acid with another substance, such as water. If, for instance, water is added to acid, the acid is heavier than the water, which means it will repel off of the acid and this can be extremely harmful to you and others around you. This goes for all acids, but it is extremely dangerous especially if the acid in question is strong. Always add acid to water (or other substances) so that you can be sure it will dilute properly.
- Check the gas hose. If you are using a gas-related piece of equipment such as a Bunsen burner, always make sure the gas hose has no rips, tears, or holes in it so the gas vapors and fumes cannot leak out and harm anybody.
- When using a burner (such as a Bunsen burner), always make sure you have a pointed blue flame, as this is the safest kind of flame to work with. If you are unsure about how to adjust the flame, ask your teacher.
- When using a test tube with a burner (such as a Bunsen burner), always point the test tube AWAY from yourself and others, so that if any unexpected reaction occurs, it will happen in the opposite direction of you and others around you.
- Test tubes should always be held ABOVE a flame. Do not even put a test tube in a flame, because if the glass gets too hot, it can crack or break and cause a chemical spill, which can be very hazardous.
- If there is an accident, the first thing you should do is tell your teacher. They are the experts and will know what to do in every situation. No accident is too small to mention.
- Carry all glass in a vertical position. Do not wave glassware around or carry it at an angle other than vertical to minimize the risk of injury to others.
In the event of a lab emergency, ALWAYS notify your teacher first. Your teacher should also explain how to use the eyewash station and chemical shower, as well as the fire blanket. Your school has fire alarm pull stations should any serious fire event occur, as well as a fire extinguisher.
This document is to be used as a reference only. All students should follow standard lab procedures as indicated by their school and teachers. The author of this document is not responsible for any accidents or injuries that occur in your lab, or for any inappropriate behavior.