III. SAFE LABORATORY PRACTICES
A. General Principles
Everyone in a laboratory should observe the following rules:
- Understand and utilize the safety procedures that apply to the work being performed. Determine the potential hazards (physical, chemical, biological, or radiological), and the appropriate safety precautions to be followed, before beginning any task.
- Be familiar with emergency procedures, the location and use of emergency equipment, and how to obtain help.
- Be aware of types of protective equipment available. Use the proper type of personal protective equipment for the particular task.
- Call attention to unsafe conditions or work practices so that appropriate corrections can be implemented.
- Never consume food or beverages, or smoke near areas where chemicals are being used or stored. Do not apply cosmetics or insert contact lenses while in the laboratory or chemical storage area.
- Always adhere to appropriate waste disposal procedures.
- Be certain that all chemicals are correctly and clearly labeled. Post the designated warning signs or labels when specific hazards, such as radiation, flammable materials, biological hazards or other special hazardous conditions exist.
- Check all burners and gas outlets to ensure that they are off before leaving the laboratory. Do not place gas burners by open windows or in a draft. No gas burner shall be left unattended while in operation.
- Remain out of the area of a fire, chemical spill, or personal injury unless your assistance is required to help meet the emergency.
- Use laboratory equipment only for its designated purpose.
- Carefully position and secure equipment. Take the necessary steps to avoid the accidental jarring of an apparatus or piece of equipment. Use caution in handling hot objects.
- Check all gas cylinders to ensure that they are securely fastened and that the straps are in good repair.
- Keep laboratory doors closed to prevent escape of odors into hall.
- Think, Act, and Encourage Safety.
B. Health and Hygiene
The following practices should be observed:
- Wear appropriate eye protection, such as safety glasses, goggles, and/or a face shield at all times. Contact lenses should not be worn in the laboratory. (See appendix H for ESF’s Personal Protective Equipment Policy)
In the event that a chemical is splashed into the eye, a contact lens may serve to trap and concentrate the chemical, thereby increasing the potential for eye damage. In some cases, the lens may dissolve or in some way become “glued” to the eye.
“Soft” contact lenses can absorb organic solvent vapors and thus potentially damage the eye.
There may be exceptional situations in which contact lenses must be worn for therapeutic reasons. In these situations, employees who MUST wear contact lenses MUST inform their supervisor so that appropriate safety precautions can be devised.
- Use protective apparel, such as gloves, gowns, lab coats, and other special clothing or footwear as needed. Wearing shorts, tank tops, halters, sandals, or clothing that exposes a large amount of unprotected skin is strictly prohibited. It is imperative that the possibility of skin contact with chemicals be minimized.
- Confine long hair and loose clothing when in the laboratory.
- Do not use mouth suction to pipette chemicals or start a siphon. A pipette bulb, aspirator or vacuum-assisted pipette must be used.
- Avoid exposure to gases, vapors, particulates, and aerosols. Use of fume hood whenever such exposure is likely. Appropriate safety equipment must be used when work is not conducted inside a fume hood.
- Frequently and thoroughly wash hands during the day, immediately before eating and always before leaving the laboratory. When appropriate, a shower should be taken before leaving campus.
- Avoid the use of solvents for washing the skin. They may remove the natural protective oils from the skin and can cause irritation. Some solvents can facilitate absorption of toxic chemicals or have their own potentially adverse
- Do not attempt to identify chemicals by smell or taste.
Minimize your potential for exposure by protecting against inhalation, ingestion, injection and absorption of chemicals.
C. Food, Beverages, and Chemical Contamination
The contamination of food, drink and smoking material is a potential route for exposure to hazardous chemicals. Food and beverages must be stored, handled and consumed in an area entirely free of hazardous chemicals. Smoking is prohibited in all buildings.
- Well-defined areas must be established for storage and consumption of food and beverages. No food will be stored or consumed outside of this area.
- Consumption of food or beverages, or smoking is not permitted in areas where laboratory operations are conducted or chemicals are handled.
- Glassware or utensils used for laboratory operations must never be used to prepare or consume food or beverages. Laboratory refrigerators, ice chests, and cold rooms, are not to be used for food storage.
There is a definite relationship between safety performance and orderliness in the laboratory. Where housekeeping standards are lax, safety performance inevitably deteriorates. The work area must be kept clean, with chemicals and equipment properly labeled and stored.
- Work areas must be kept clean and free from obstructions. Cleanup will follow the completion of any equipment, laboratory session, or as soon as possible.
- Spilled chemicals must be cleaned immediately and disposed of properly. Disposal procedures must be followed and all laboratory personnel must be informed of them. Chemical accidents and spills are to be attended to promptly. Contact University Police (x6666) if the spill presents a health or safety risk, or is beyond your cleanup capabilities.
- Unknown chemicals and chemical wastes are to be disposed of promptly using the appropriate procedures. Waste must be deposited in appropriate receptacles.
- Floors are to be cleaned regularly and kept free of clutter. Keep isles established for emergency egress.
- Stairwells and hallways may not be used for storage.
- Access to exits, emergency equipment, valves, controls, alarms, and electrical panels must not be blocked.
- All glassware shall be properly disposed of in accordance with the appropriate procedure (See section F.8.)
- Bicycles, children and pets are not permitted in any laboratories.
- Used sharps such as needles, syringes, and razor blades, etc. must be
stored in puncture-proof containers while awaiting disposal.
E. Laboratory Equipment Maintenance
Improperly functioning equipment may provide a false sense of safety and create hazardous situations.
- Equipment must be inspected and tested regularly. Service schedules depend on both the possibility and consequences of failure.
- Maintenance plans must include a lock out/tag out procedure to ensure that a device cannot be restarted while repairs are being conducted. (See Physical Plant Policy)
Accidents involving glassware are a leading cause of laboratory injuries.
- Careful handling and storage procedures must be used to avoid damaging glassware.
- Damaged items are to be discarded or repaired.
- Adequate hand protection must be used when inserting glass tubing into rubber stoppers or corks, when placing rubber tubing on glass hose connections, or when picking up broken glass.
- Glass-blowing operations are not to be attempted unless proper annealing facilities are available.
- Vacuum-jacketed glass apparatuses are to be handled with extreme care to prevent implosions.
- Only glassware designed for vacuum work is to be used for that purpose.
- Proper instruction must be provided in the use of glass equipment designed for specialized tasks.
- Designated “GLASS ONLY” waste containers must be used to dispose of glass.
G. Protective Apparel and Equipment
A variety of specialized clothing and equipment is available for use in the laboratory. The proper use of these items will minimize or eliminate exposure to the hazards associated with most laboratory procedures. All laboratory personnel must be familiar with the location and proper use of protective apparel, safety equipment and emergency procedures.
Each laboratory should include:
- Protective apparel and equipment recommended for the substances being handled.
- An accessible drench-type safety shower or means of providing flushing for corrosive chemical splashes as immediate first aid treatment.
- An eyewash fountain or self-contained eyewash station for corrosive chemical splashes.
- An accessible fire extinguisher appropriate for the types of fire hazards present. Combustible metals require Class D fire extinguishers.
- A chemical spill kit for small spills.
- Access to a fire alarm and telephone for emergency use.
H. Cryogenic Hazards
The primary hazard associated with cryogenic materials is the extreme cold and potential for thermal burns. These burns can be severe.
- Insulated gloves and a face shield are required when preparing and using dry ice or cold baths.
- Neither liquid nitrogen nor liquid air will be used to cool a flammable mixture in the presence of air.
- NEVER lower your head into a dry ice chest. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and suffocation may result.
- Recycled ice bath chemicals should be stored in metal containers and allowed to reach room temperature before sealing to prevent explosion.
I. Systems Under Pressure
- Reactions must only be conducted in apparatus that is designed to withstand pressures generated.
- All pressurized apparatus MUST have an appropriate relief device.
- Heat must never be added to apparatus that is not designed to withstand heating.
- If a reaction system cannot be vented directly, an inert gas purge and bubbler system should be used to avoid pressure build up.
J. Warning Signs and Labels
Laboratory areas that have specific hazards must be posted with warning signs.
- Use standard signs and symbols that have been established for special situations (i.e., radioactivity hazard, biological hazard, fire hazard and laser operations).
- Post signs that show location of emergency equipment.
- Waste containers must be labeled to indicate the type of waste that can be safely deposited.
- Laboratory Directors shall ensure that all chemicals under their control are labeled in accordance with the ESF Hazardous Chemical Labeling Program. (See Appendix B)
- Each laboratory must post signs identifying the Laboratory Director(s).
- Chemical code sheets must be posted if cryptic codes are used for laboratory stock solutions. (See Appendix C)
K. Unattended Operations
It may be necessary to conduct laboratory procedures over extended periods of time or to run equipment continuously.
- Such unattended operations must be designed safely.
- Contingency plans must provide for potential hazards that may result from interruptions of utilities, such as electricity or water.
- Appropriate signs indicating that a particular laboratory operation is in progress MUST be posted with the name and phone number of the person to contact in an emergency.
L. Working Alone
Avoid working alone in a laboratory. If this is not possible:
- Arrange with a co-worker to check in with you periodically.
- On nights, weekends, and holidays contact Campus University Police
(x6666) and arrange for an officer on patrol to check in at your lab periodically.
- Procedures known to be extremely hazardous may not be undertaken when working alone.
- The Laboratory Director(s) will determine which procedures have need for special precautions to be taken.
M. Laboratory Security
For the protection of employees, students, equipment, supplies, and the public, laboratories must be locked when unattended.
Security within the laboratory is also important. Locked storage cabinets are advised for sensitive or expensive supplies and equipment. Lockable storage areas or lockers for securing personal property are advised. Needles and syringes must be secured.
Computers, scientific equipment, and research data can be the object of theft, vandalism, or damage from fire or utility failure. Appropriate cabinetry designed to protect these items should be considered. Upon request, Campus University Police can assist laboratories with crime prevention surveys and recommendations.
If you observe suspicious persons or activities in your area, contact Campus University Police (x6666) and an officer will be sent to investigate. Report any thefts or other crimes immediately. Information from these reports is used to adjust patrol activities and may prevent further problems.