Lab Safety Reminders from Student Days

lab-safety-school-daysIn this post, we’re going back to school. After all, most of us learned the basics of lab safety from a science teacher somewhere along the way, and even if IonBench is primarily used in professional laboratory settings, every classroom science lab must adhere to certain—often similar—safety rules.

Perhaps you remember some of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) rules from your student days. Even if you don’t, many are worth revisiting as a foundation for lab safety in any environment.

Standards of Student—and Adult—Conduct

The NSTA begins with some reminders about acting responsibly in the lab. No matter where you do your work, there is no place for mischievous behavior when you are handling dangerous chemicals, open flames, and unknown substances. As adult researchers, we’ve all had to learn to leave the birthday pranks out in the parking lot or break room.

We can also benefit from the reminder to leave all food, drink, and chewing gum outside the lab, while also keeping all dangerous substances within lab confines. Teens are reminded not to apply cosmetics in the lab, and even adults need to remember not to touch their contact lenses during an experiment.

Personal Lab Safety Reminders

Goggles, goggles, goggles—or safety glasses—at all times. Wear the right sized lab coat and gloves, and don’t take them off in the middle of a procedure. Leave the fancy—and flammable!—acrylic nails at home, as well as the baggy clothing and dangling jewelry.

Know the location of all safety equipment, read all instructions, and pay attention while doing so (Can you hear the voice of your science teacher echoing through these words?!)

Young researchers are admonished to report all spills and accidents—no matter how minor—and the same certainly holds true for adults in a professional research lab. While instructors might have to handle regulatory paperwork on behalf of their students, you will have plenty of paperwork to fill out yourself—especially if you procrastinate on reporting an accident.

Handling Chemicals, Lab Equipment, and Dedicated Lab Furniture

Part of the student lab experience is discovering that their school really is allowing them to handle dangerous substances. This is significantly different than what they’ve experienced in English or math. While by now you know better than to fill a pipette by mouth suction, students may not know that yet, plus they often like to take shortcuts.

The danger in a professional research lab, on the other hand, comes when you begin to get comfortable in a lab work environment and forget that you are handling dangerous substances. And so we remind you: Don’t take your lab safety for granted. Avoid inhaling fumes, never leave an open flame unattended, and remember that cold glass is the same color as very hot glass.

You will also want to be careful when setting hot or corrosive substances on your dedicated lab furniture. It might have an epoxy resin work surface, but that doesn’t mean it’s impervious to everything you’re working with.

Fostering a Safer Lab Environment

Along with specific requirements for dangerous substances, the NSTA reminds us that basic housekeeping is one of the best lab safety measures we can take. Keep all work areas clean and neat at all times. Don’t sit on lab furniture. Don’t dump just anything down the sink or into the trash. Clean everything until you could eat off of it—but don’t!

Of course, part of fostering a safe lab environment involves protecting your hearing. This is why we created the MS Bench, which reduces mass spec vacuum pump noise by 75 percent. Our HPLC Bench was also designed with safety in mind, easily raising and lowering in order to prevent spillage of chemicals when servicing instruments.

For a quick—but thorough—lesson in the advantages of dedicated lab furniture, contact us today to learn more about how our benches can improve your lab safety record and workplace efficiency.