Complacency is an enemy of lab safety. Once you’ve been working in a particular lab for a while, it’s easy to take things for granted—you know the workflow, you develop your routines, and eventually everything you’re doing seems automatic.
While this is a natural human tendency, and not cause for guilt or blame, it also opens the door to lab accidents. Which is why periodic lab safety reminders—even getting back to the very basics—are important to ensure that no one forgets that a lab can be a dangerous place.
Preventing the 4 Most Common Types of Lab Accidents
There are four types of common lab accidents, which can happen in any type of lab environment:
Eye Injuries – Do you sometimes get lazy and not bother to don your safety glasses, perhaps when “just checking up” on something’s progress? Lab safety should always be a primary consideration, regardless of how much time you will spend in the lab.
Eye accidents are the most common of serious injuries; don’t become a statistic. Put on those safety glasses, even if you’re wearing regular glasses, as agents can find lots of real estate between frame and face. Remember that contact lenses never protect your eyes, and can even absorb airborne chemicals, worsening eye injuries.
Glassware Cuts – Many lab professionals can vividly recall doing something foolish in their “younger days,” like forcing glass tubing through a stopper and ending up with broken glass all over their hands. Foolishness may decrease with age, but it increases again with complacency.
Wearing gloves is wise, but it can be a catch-22, as gloves may inhibit the fine dexterity required with certain tasks. Whenever you can, however, do wear gloves.
Also, always keep your mind on the processes taking place in your hands, and don’t try to force anything—ever. If it doesn’t fit, find another solution.
Chemical Irritation – Another reason to keep those gloves handy is to prevent chemical irritation or burns from accidental exposure. Note that your hands aren’t the only body parts at risk. Dangerous chemicals can also be accidentally inhaled, dropped on exposed arms or legs, or even ingested if you aren’t careful about thoroughly cleaning up after yourself.
Your earliest training in kindergarten is as useful now as ever: “Wash those hands!”
Heat Burns – Burns are the final type of common injury to take place in a lab environment, and they occur particularly frequently due to lack of careful attention. Forget to tie back long hair, forget glass gets hot, or forget to keep your hands and other body parts away from a Bunsen burner or hot plate and burns are likely to occur. In all of those situations, the operative word is “forget.”
Consciously making the effort to pay attention in the lab is the best preventive measure you can take to enhance lab safety.
Two Additional Lab Safety Reminders
In addition to being aware of the common lab accidents listed above, there are other preventive lab safety measures you should regularly take:
- Familiarize yourself with every material safety data sheet (MSDS), to remind yourself of potential dangers.
- Check all lab safety equipment (fire blanket, extinguishers, eyewash, shower) to (1) remind yourself where to go in case of emergency, and (2) make certain that everything is in place and prepared to function properly.
We care about lab safety and have made it a central focus in the development of our IonBenches. To that end, we’ve designed our dedicated lab furniture to limit noise that can impact attention and hamper communication, while also ensuring that each bench and desk is easy to move and rearrange.
If you have other lab safety suggestions, we’re happy to listen and share them. Contact us today to discuss how our IonBench can contribute to a safer environment in your lab.