General Safety Practices
Safety practices from The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Ohio State University
- Working alone is not good laboratory practice . An individual is advised to work only under conditions in which appropriate emergency aid is available when needed. In other words, try and work when others are around to provide help if it is needed. If others are working nearby, let them know where you will be working so that they can occasionally check on you and you can check on them.
- Eye Protection . In all laboratories where chemicals are used there is the hazard of splashes or dust particles entering the eyes. Pressurized or vacuum vessels may explode or implode sending shrapnel through the lab. While working with electrical wiring there are hazards from molten solder and debris. When testing samples on Instrons or other equipment, pieces can chip and enter the eye. All of these activities, and many others, require the use of either safety glasses, chemical goggles or face shields. Most lab operations simply require the use of safety glasses. However, when any chemicals are being used at least chemical goggles should be used or in some cases a face shield is required. The appropriate eye protection is generally specified on the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) found with the chemical.
- Ear Protection . The healthy ear can detect sounds ranging from 15 to 20,000 hertz. Temporary exposure to high noise levels will produce a temporary hearing loss. Long term exposure to high noise levels produces permanent hearing loss. There appears to be no hearing hazard (although possible psychological effects) to noise exposure below 80 dB. Exposure above 130 dB is hazardous and should be avoided. Ear muffs offer the highest noise attenuation, and are preferred for levels above 95 dB. Ear plugs are more comfortable and are preferred in the 80-95 dB range. If you suspect that a hearing hazard exists then notify your supervisor to have the sound level measured.
- Respiratory Protection . Use only respirators provided and/or recommended by your safety coordinator. There are many shapes and sizes of respirators and in order to be effective it must be properly fitted. There are also a variety of cartridges available each having a specific application. Respirators should only be used following proper fitting and instruction by certified personnel.
- Clothing . In situations where splashing or spills may occur it is wise to protect your body with lab coats. Goggles and face shields, splash aprons, and gloves may be needed for chemicals that are corrosive or easily absorb through the skin. Open-toed shoes and sandals should be prohibited when working in the lab. Do not work in a laboratory wearing loose hair, loose clothing or dangling jewelry.
- Hand Protection . For any laboratory procedure requiring the use of gloves, make sure you are using gloves made of a material suitable for the operation. Gloves are made of a variety of materials and have specific uses, if used improperly they may not provide the necessary protection. The MSDS should specify the glove type.
- Eating . Consumption of food and beverages in laboratories where chemicals are being stored or used should not be permitted.
- Wash hands and arms prior to leaving the laboratory.