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Chemical Reactions! How To Stay Safe In The Lab

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Safety is the number one concern of every science or research lab. Whether you are in a high school science laboratory studying the properties of polymers or a cancer lab investigating the side-effects of chemotherapy on dysplastic cells, there are specific universal procedures and equipment that are necessary to ensure a safe working environment.

Science Equipment
Any science lab, be it a high school chemistry lab or a research lab at Harvard, should be equipped with basic standard equipment, and anyone conducting experiments in the lab should know where each of these items is located and how to effectively use of these items. The following items should be standard in any science lab:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Safety Shower
  • Germ Disinfectants
  • Fire Blankets
  • Ventilation/Fume Hood
  • Eye Wash
  • Telephone


Protective Clothing
In addition to being familiar with the above safety equipment, anyone working in a lab and conducting investigations or experiments should wear the following protective clothing:

  • Goggles/Protective Eyewear – Never begin work in the lab without protecting your eyes. Glasses are not considered protective eyewear. Goggles should form a seal around the eyes to be 100% effective.
  • Lab Coat – This the first line of defense against corrosive or toxic spills and biological hazards. A lab coat protects not only your clothes but your skin from any burns and irritants. Be certain the lab coat fits appropriately.
  • Disposable Gloves – Gloves provide a temporary layer of protection from substances and help to ensure sanitary conditions.
  • Leather Topped Closed Shoes – Just as the lab coat protects your body from spills, the closed leather shoes protect your feet. Open-toed shoes or canvas shoes should not be worn in a science lab.
  • Hair Tiebacks or Nets for Long Hair – Long, unrestrained hair can fall forward into chemicals or flames.

Safety Procedures
Along with making sure that the lab has the proper safety equipment and you are wearing the proper protective clothing, there are basic procedures that must be strictly followed to prevent accidents. These include the following:

  • No eating, drinking or smoking in the lab.
  • Keep all counter surfaces clean.
  • Clean up any spills of chemicals or other materials immediately.
  • Wash with a disinfectant at the end of your experiment.
  • Conduct any experiments that release toxic fumes or vapors in a well-ventilated area.

Preventing accidents in the science laboratory should always be the primary concern of everyone in the lab. However, because accidents will occur, it is imperative that the above basic procedures be adhered to and the standard protective equipment be properly utilized to minimize the effects of any accidents that should occur.

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Chuck Stevens is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @chuckstevens12.

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