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Lab Safety: Common Issues and How to Avoid Them

January 11, 2022

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Laboratories are all about safety; after all, one wrong move can cause serious injuries, if not death. From biological to radioactive to chemical, lab workers face a myriad of hazards every day. But, in the interest of your own safety and wellbeing, what kinds of things should you know to stay safe in a lab? Three issues you should pay special attention to are

  1. Proper storage of hazardous materials
  2. Proper labeling and storage containers
  3. Wearing proper protective gear

There are more, of course, but these three things are the most common.

First is the proper storage of hazardous substances. If you store hazardous waste on top of a cupboard, remember to leave at least 18 inches of space between the container and the fire alarm sprinkler. That way if a fire starts, the sprinkler won’t be blocked.

Next, when storing materials, you should check to see if the container is in good shape and if it is labeled properly. Also, only add waste to the containers of the same substance, otherwise you risk a dangerous chemical reaction that could hurt or kill people. Each container should be clearly labeled to provide information on the substance that’s being stored, i.e., the material’s concentration and volume. If an accident occurs, the details on the container provide information on how to clean up, as well as how to treat specific wounds. If a label is damaged or falling off, you should replace it as soon as possible.

Storing hazardous material in the proper containers can also help you stay safe. Using proper storage container decreases the chance of you or your co-workers from being injured. You should also inspect containers regularly to make sure they aren’t leaking or broken. It is recommended that these inspections take place at least every 12 months but performing inspections within a smaller time frame also decreases the chances of an incident occurring.

Finally, remember to always wear appropriate laboratory equipment. This means wearing safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes, gloves to protect your hands, a lab coat to protect your body and clothing, and closed-toed shoes to protect your feet. Remember to tie back loose hair so that it doesn’t get in the way of your work.  You should also remember to wear a mask when the occasion calls for it to protect yourself from fumes.

There is a lot more to lab safety than what we just covered, so be sure to check out our website if you want more information on lab safety guidelines or if you’re interested in other topics covered by the Hard Hat Training series.

Good luck and stay safe!