The chemistry laboratory can be a place of discovery and learning. However, by the very nature of laboratory work, it can be a place of danger if proper common-sense precautions are not taken. Effort has been made to eliminate the use of explosives, highly toxic and carcinogenic substances from the experiments which you will perform. However, there is a certain unavoidable hazard associated with the use of a variety of chemicals and glassware. You are expected to learn and adhere to all safety guidelines. This will ensure a safe laboratory environment for yourself and the people you may be working with or those near you. The following are important laboratory safety measures to obey:
Label and lock all storage areas, cupboards, drawers, storage cabinets, refrigerators, etc. Locking will prevent accidental contact with chemicals or interference with equipment.
Be familiar with the location, use and limitations of the safety devices. This includes fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fume hood, spill cleanup materials, first aid kit, eyewash stations and fire alarm.
Keep all chemicals in properly labelled containers. This will prevent accidental use of the wrong chemical for a particular experiment.
Be familiar with the appropriate safety measures to take when exposed to different hazardous materials. Information is available from your teacher or laboratory technician.
All chemicals that react with each other must be stored separately.
Be aware of the interaction of laboratory furniture and equipment with chemicals used or stored in the laboratory. For example, oxidizers should not be stored directly on wooden shelves.
Use fume hoods/cupboards/chambers whenever possible.
Never store food in a refrigerator or freezer where hazardous chemicals are stored. Also, do not eat anything you find in the laboratory or in the laboratory freezer or refrigerator.
Make sure fire extinguishers are in good condition. Report any broken seals, damage, low gauge pressure or improper mounting to the teacher or laboratory technician. If the seal has been broken, assume that the fire extinguisher has been used and must be recharged. (Note: Do not use fire extinguishers unless you are trained and feel confident to do so).
Stored chemicals must be inspected regularly to ensure they have not expired. Note the date when bottles were received and when were first opened. Note expiry dates on chemicals and their special storage conditions.
Eliminate safety hazards by maintaining laboratory work areas in a good state of order.
The laboratory must have wide emergency exits and wide windows. Wide exits facilitate easy evacuation in case of emergency. Wide windows allow enough air to enter and circulate in the laboratory. (Note: Maintain at least two clear passages to laboratory exits).
Always keep tables, seats, fume hoods, floors and desks clear of unnecessary material.
All equipment should be inspected before use. In addition, they should be checked regularly to ensure they are safe for use.
If experiments must be left unattended, place a note next to experimental apparatus indicating the chemicals involved, your name and telephone number on which you can be reached in case of an emergency.
Keep the laboratory floor clean and dry at all times. Clean spills of water or chemicals immediately. Then notify other laboratory workers of potential slipping hazards.
The laboratory must be equipped with potable fire extinguishers and other safety devices with clear instructions on how to use them in case of any emergency.
Containers for holding or storing chemicals must be inspected for leakages or other damages. They should have tight stoppers or covers.