5 top tips for school science lab safety

 

Hazardous.

Corrosive.

Poisonous.

What have these words got in common (and no Brexit jokes, please)?

They’re WARNING adjectives that you might find in labs, on equipment or containers.

And they’re trying to tell you: be lab safe or face the consequences! And not just detention, but melting your hand off kind-of-thing.

It’s super important to learn about, and pay attention to, laboratory rules. They may seem overly cautious, but they keep you and others safe, so you can get on with all the fun science stuff!

No. 1 - Be Prepared

Proper preparation really helps. Read any instructions your teacher gives you. Make sure to read carefully from start to finish.

Text is often arranged under headings like "Materials," "Procedures," and "Observations."

Your teacher should advise you where to get all the materials you're using that lesson. Gather all your supplies in one place in one go, instead of having to rush around.

Take note of any special precautions so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises while you're working.

No. 2 - Be Careful With Chemicals

Chemicals often look harmless, but looks can be deceiving. Make sure to read the labels, especially any official observations like the NFPA diamond.

For example, acetyl chloride looks just like water, but it’s actually poisonous, flammable, and corrosive. If you spilled some of that on your arm, it would burn your skin.

No. 3 - Dress Appropriately

Unfortunately, accidents do sometimes happen, which is why it's so important to dress properly for the lab.

“Personal protective equipment” means form-fitting, long-sleeved clothing and closed-toed shoes, protecting your skin from any broken glass and chemical spills.

Some experiments may require you to wear lab coats, gloves, and safety goggles.

And if you have long hair, pull it back, and remove or stow any dangling accessories, which are dangerous around open flames and mechanical equipment.

Your lab should come equipped with a fire extinguisher, and an eyewash station, if something gets in your eyes.

No. 4 - Keeping It Clean

No, not your language, though that would be nice too. A messy work area makes spills and other mistakes more likely, so keep it neat and well organised.

Tell your teacher right away if you see anything spill. They'll let you know if you need to keep away, or if you just need to clean up.

If you break anything, don’t try to pick it up with your hands. Use a broom and a dustpan instead and throw it away into a sharp objects container.

And if you’re working with dissections, be careful with those scalpels. Cuts and punctures are the number one cause of injury in the lab!

No.5 - Use your common sense!

Don't eat or drink in the lab! You don’t want Acetic Anhydride all over your bagel.

Keep all backpacks, coats, and personal items in a designated area away from your workspace. This prevents cross-contamination and reduces the chances of tripping.

Never leave open flames or hot plates unattended.

Don't pour any chemicals down the drain unless your teacher says so.

Don't taste any chemicals or sniff them directly. If you need to know what something smells like, waft the air above it toward you.

And finally, after working in the lab, wash your hands thoroughly!