Students who are associated with chemistry and topics of chemistry need to have laboratory services. This is another most important segment in chemistry. Students who want to opt their career as laboratory experts need to learn some basic measures of safety in laboratory practices.
Why safety measures in lab practices should be taken?
A laboratory used for chemical studies can be subject to lots of hazards of various kinds. A lab practitioner working here should be aware of all these mishaps. Most of these mishaps occur due to overindulgence or carelessness of students working there. It is important to have a safety-first before practicing any chemical reaction. Thus, safety measures and guidelines should be followed strictly.
What are the rules/instructions in a lab one should follow?
Inexperienced use of equipment handling in a lab can cause sudden injuries as well as accidents. Take a print out of the safety guidelines and paste it on the main door and main areas of a lab where these chemical practices take place. This will push the mind of any practitioner and he/she will be careful while preparing acids.
- All written and oral instructions shall be followed carefully. Students should do only those particular experiments which are assigned to him/her by the professor. Any type of unauthorized chemical experiments is forbidden and if harms anyone is affected by law.
- It is recommended to all students never to work alone in labs. There shall always be a group of people working together accompanied by an invigilator.
- In case you are going through any serious medical treatments, you must tell your teacher regarding that. In case you do not divulge the same, it can cause medical problems such as asthma or any bad allergies.
- Drinking, smoking and eating in labs is strictly forbidden since it can react with harmful chemical components and enter through your mouth to lungs.
- The work areas should be kept completely clean and tidy to maintain decorum of labs. Carry only manuals related to labs and notebooks that you need during work. Too many materials can cause overcrowding and spilling of chemicals.
- Always look into what your neighbor is practicing as his/her mistake can cause harm to your activity as well. In case you see any forbidden task being performed, you must report the invigilator.
- Always have written data documented properly as you perform every experiment in lab. Get it signed by the teacher.
- Chemical substances and labs are not places to have fun and excitement. Keep calm and perform whatever task your teacher gives you.
- Prescribed instruments such as test-tubes, tong holders and chemical carriers are to be used only in labs.
- If you are to perform any experiment that involves poisonous vapor or gases, it is recommended to perform them in fumed cupboards only.
- Any waste materials shall be disposed of as per instructions are given by the teacher.
- After all, experiments are done, it is necessary to clean off all waste materials and wash off hands very well.
- Knowing the location as well as correct usage of emergency equipment is needed. These include- Fire extinguisher, first aid kits, and fire shower, fire blankets.
- All combustible components shall be kept away from any open flame to avoid accidents.
- All combustible materials shall be kept away from open flames.
- It is advised never to put one’s face too much near to any chemical container or smell them directly. While you need to taste odors, using a wafing motion to direct the odors to your nose is better.
- Appropriate clothing needs to be worn while working in labs. Loose garments can cause much harm. Roll up your sleeves or secure them properly. Girls having long hair need to tie up neatly. Wearing lab apron and gloves is mandatory.
- Open shoes and sandals shall never be worn in labs.
- Wearing goggles and safety glasses, eye shields every time during any investigation is mandatory. One should not wear contact lenses too.
As per the above instructions, it is necessary to maintain every guideline to avoid mishaps. In case your hands, face or arms get contacted with lab chemicals, wash it off fast with soft soap and warm water. Using of eyewash fountain is advised in case chemicals to get into your eyes or face. If a chemical gets accidentally spilled on larger areas of your body, using safety shower and towel in the affected area is recommended. Rush for proper medical support immediately.
How to handle certain chemicals?
Handling chemicals in a lab is an art every student of chemistry should learn. Since it is required to handle harmful chemicals as well as gases, it is necessary to read very carefully the labels on bottles of chemicals before one removes it. Only that amount of chemical should be taken which is exactly required.
Contamination is yet another deadly factor in labs. To avoid any such contamination, it is advised not to return any unused chemical bottles to the stock collections. Also, chemicals shall not be touched with hands directly. In case accidentally it happens, it is recommended to wash them off with soapy water immediately. While mixing acid to water, adding acid in correct proportions is advised. Use of latex gloves is recommended while a student handles concentrated acid as well as bases in labs.
Symbols of common hazards with meaning
The term hazard is common now days owing to so much pressure around us. Anything and everything can happen if you are a slight unconscious while performing any work. In a laboratory, students can come across hazardous components. They are therefore labeled properly for any student to understand better. It is useful for you to know the symbols so that you can take correct precautions while dealing with such substances. Some common symbols one would find are:
This symbol is given on certain containers which have flammable chemicals in them. Examples are- Ether, benzene, petrol, etc. These chemicals should always be kept at places where there are no open flames since chance of catching fire is there.
This symbol is labelled in containers carrying explosives such as as-sulphur and phosphorus. Never should these containers be subjected to heat or any pressure.
Containers having corrosive components use this symbol to determine them. These chemicals are harmful to skin and should never be brought to the contact of skin.
Another most important symbol often found in labs is poison. Mainly used for chemical purposes only, these bottles should be kept away from easy reach.
Emergencies in a lab- First aid measure
Anything can happen accidentally while you are busy working in labs. Even in well-equipped labs, accidents do take place. Here are some first aid tips and trick to be used:
- Minor cut and bleeding-
Cuts that happen in chemical labs should never be taken for granted. If so happens, allow the bad blood to flow for few minutes and immediately flush the wound area with cold water. Apply soft pressure to wounds with a proper clean cloth that will absorb blood. Apply cream or antiseptic, bandage it over to avoid any contamination. If bleeding persists, take patient to doctor.
- Thermal burns-
This is dangerous when thermal burns happen in labs. Apply cold running water immediately or ice over wound unless pain dies down. Wrap it up properly with clean cloth to avoid any infection. Do not apply oils or any type of ointments to burnt area. It is better to take victim to doctor first.
- Acid spilled over skin-
Immediately remove any clothing and wash off the skin with cold running water for 20 minutes. Take the patient to doctor soon.
- Splashes of chemical substance-
There are safety showers as well as eyewashes available in good laboratories. It has been researched that in case of chemical burns, washing off skin with proper amount of water is most effective way to avoid any burn stains. Pull out the ring of safety shower to give rapid flow of water to victim.
- Spilling of chemical in mouth-
Chemical are generally very poisonous and do not have a good effect on skin. If mistakenly any chemical is taken into mouth, immediately make the victim spit out the same. Rinse mouth thoroughly with cold running water. During this time, water shall not be swallowed. Notify name of chemical he/she has taken and taken him/her immediately to doctor.
- Hair with fire or cloth with fire-
If there is sudden catching of fire in your clothes, immediately drop clothes to the floor and roll over it to extinguish flames. If there is another person who has caught fire, smother him/her by helping him/her to roll over the ground. A well-equipped lab has fire blankets and heavy coats in case there is any danger. Visit doctor soon.
Protective equipment to keep while in labs
One must always keep in hand certain protective equipment for personal protection as well. They include safety glasses and eye shields. Also, there are chemical goggles provide by labs which protect your eyes from immediately coming in contact with harsh chemicals.
Good labs have safety showers that are situated in labs for instant first aid treatments in case there is chemical burns or splashes in eyes. Corrosive resistant gloves made of latex is used while a student is handling corrosive chemicals. These include- concentrated acids or alkalis. Apron coat or a lab coat is a must for those working in labs. Fume cupboards should also be kept in labs so that reactions having fumes of toxic can be carried out there. One uses gas masks too while dealing with toxic materials. If there are explosive reactions, a face shield can be best option to protect the face from any chemicals or any particles of glass.
How to store chemicals?
Here are some basic rules why chemicals in labs shall be stored in safety measures. The first and foremost idea is to segregate all those chemicals that are incompatible marked with hazard codes. Like chemicals should be stored away from unlike chemicals in other groups.
Store flammable materials after approval only and always in separate cabinet or room. Chemical liquids shall be stored in containers having double packaging or unbreakable containers. Acids and alkalis should be placed in dedicated places and away from easy reach.
Studying of laboratory properties
Thus, all that has been described above is required for students who want to specialize in chemical laboratory works. It is better to learn safety measures first because there is news where many people have been in danger due to improper handling of chemicals.
If you are ever given assignments or projects based on laboratory techniques, you have tips and tricks to write as discussed here. If there is any issue ever, it is better to get confirmed from your laboratory expert rather than handling materials on your own. You might be thinking as in what career options are there for lab technicians or chemical practitioners. Well, if you enhance your skills in this, you can work in a renowned hospital and institutes all around the world working as their lab expert. There are chances for you to become a scientist too. Chemistry is all about reactions and if you know it from base or core, who tells one day you will be the renowned scientist in the world!
Joyce Bourkee is a famous chemistry expert teaching student for years. He is a professor by occupation who has done his masters in chemistry from the University of Arizona and has been in this profession for more than twenty years. Students love his unusual ways of teaching, his story like concepts in chemistry and his way of handling lab techniques as described by him. He is an inspiration for many young chemical practitioners in near future.