Chemical laboratory safety measures

Signs and Information

Labels and warning signs should alert employees to potentially hazardous materials and allow those unfamiliar with the laboratory surroundings to identify hazardous chemical use and storage areas, safety facilities, emergency equipment and exits and aid emergency response personnel.

Personal Protective and Safety Equipment

Maintaining a safe laboratory environment is the responsibility of the P.I., but all employees play a role in observing safety guidelines. Personal protective equipment and safety devices must be provided to all employees under the appropriate circumstances and employees have the responsibility of properly using such equipment. According to safety regulations, it is obligatory to wear a lab coat and closed shoes in the lab, safety glasses and gloves if necessary. The MSDS will provide some information on the personal protective equipment and safety procedures recommended for a given chemical.

Eye Protection:

Eye protection must be available to all employees and visitors in laboratories where chemicals are used and stored. Eye and face protective equipment must be used where there is a reasonable probability of injury from hazardous chemicals. Specialized types of eye protection, such as ultraviolet light restricting safety glasses, are available. Prescriptions for optical safety glasses can be obtained from the Safety Unit.

The following types of eye protection are recommended for use in the laboratory:

  1. Standard safety glasses.
  2. Safety goggles (impact goggles) offer adequate protection against flying particles . These should be worn when working with glassware under reduced or elevated pressure or with drill presses or other similar conditions.
  3. Faceshields protect the face and neck from flying particles and splashes. Faceshields must be used when working with liquid air, liquid nitrogen, and strong acids. Always wear additional eye protection under faceshields. Ultra-violet light face shields should be worn when working over UV light sources.

It is strictly forbidden to wear contact lenses in the laboratory.

Protection of Skin and Body: Skin and body protection involves the use of protective clothing to protect individuals from chemical exposure. Determine clothing needed for the chemical being used are not equally effective for every hazardous chemical.
The basic and most effective forms of protection are gloves and lab coats
. It is forbidden to wear open-toed shoes, sandals, shorts, etc. when working in the lab. Even when there is minimal danger of skin contact with an extremely hazardous substance, lab coats, coveralls, aprons, or protective suits should be utilized. These garments should not leave the work site.

Exposures to strong acids and acid gases, organic chemicals and strong oxidizing agents, carcinogens and mutagens require the use of specialized protective equipment that prevents skin contamination. Impervious protective equipment must be utilized. Examples include: rubber gloves, aprons, boots and protective suits.

Respirators: Use of respirators in laboratories is strongly discouraged. Respiratory use is only allowed where engineering controls are not feasible or where they are being installed.

Health and Hygiene

The following practices have been established to protect laboratory employees from health risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals:

  1. Avoid direct contact with any hazardous chemical. Know the types of protective equipment available and use the proper type for each job.
  2. Confine long hair and loose clothing and always wear footwear which fully covers the feet.
  3. Do not mouth pipette.
  4. Use appropriate safety equipment whenever exposure to gases, vapors or aerosols is suspected and ensure exhaust facilities are working properly.
  5. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chemicals, before leaving the laboratory and before eating or drinking.
  6. Replace personal protective equipment as appropriate.
  7. Laboratory employees shall be familiar with the symptoms of exposure to the chemicals with which they work and the precautions necessary to prevent exposure.