University life can be extremely exciting and also very hectic. With so many deadlines, assignments, tests, lectures, and other commitments, university students have little time to focus on anything else besides their studies.
To help them with their workload and succeed in their classes, universities are staffed with teaching and research staff. However, university staff and students often come face to face with hazardous materials such as chemicals, solvents, and other chemicals that can be harmful to their health.
This is why university-level lab safety is of vital importance.
What is Lab Safety?
Lab safety is the practice of safely handling chemicals and biological materials in a laboratory setting. If you think this is only an academic subject, think again. There have been many cases of lab accidents that have endangered the lives of university staff and students.
The most common lab accidents include slips, spills, and exposure to harmful materials.
In this article, we will be discussing the importance of lab safety and lab safety precautions in universities.
Why is Lab Safety Important?
Over the years, there have been many lab accidents involving university staff and students. Some of the most common incidents of lab accidents include chemical burns, electrical shocks, equipment breaks, and fires. One of the most dangerous lab incidents was the 2013 House Fire that occurred at the Rayburn Building Extension at the University of Ottawa. This fire happened in a building that was used to store lab equipment. During the fire, one of the flammable walls collapsed, causing the chemicals inside to catch fire. This resulted in the complete destruction of the lab.
This incident showed how important lab safety is. It can affect the lives of both staff and students. But how?
One of the most dangerous lab incidents occurred at the University of Alberta in 2015. A researcher was working with genetically modified yeast. However, the lab equipment malfunctioned and supplied the yeast with a high amount of electricity. This caused the yeast to produce a highly toxic and carcinogenic substance called acetophenone. Fortunately, the researcher was wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when the accident happened. If the researcher was not wearing PPE, the toxic substance could have easily caused serious injuries and even death.
Lab Safety Practices
There are a few lab safety practices that you should follow to reduce the risk of lab accidents. These practices do not only increase your lab safety but also protect you from harmful chemicals.
Select the Right Safety Gear – Before you begin working in a laboratory setting, ensure you select the right safety gear. Make sure you wear gloves, a lab coat, and eye protection. To maintain proper airflow, use a breathing apparatus whenever you are performing hazardous experiments with solvids and vapors. Clean up After Yourself – Another lab safety practice is to clean up after yourself. Do not leave solvids and hazardous materials on the lab bench. Clean up spills immediately and dispose of used materials in the correct lab waste receptacles. Avoid the Use of Faulty Equipment – Ensure that faulty equipment is not used to perform experiments. Choose to use only certified equipment that has been approved for use in a laboratory setting. Remember to follow these practices to reduce the risk of lab accidents.
Steps for Lab Safety
With the right lab safety practices in mind, you can greatly reduce the risk of lab accidents.
Always follow safety protocols when working with harmful solvids, chemicals, or biological materials. When performing experiments, always have a lab notebook, and a list of equipment used for the experiment. Do not conduct hazardous experiments alone. Always tell your instructors and lab supervisors before you start working with any new equipment. Wear your safety gear at all times. Do not remove your safety gear until you are done working. Wash your hands before eating or drinking.
Lab safety is vital in the life of anyone working in a laboratory. This is especially true for students working with labs at universities. The importance of lab safety cannot be overstated.
In order to reduce the risk of lab accidents, you must follow the 5 lab safety practices discussed above. If you do, lab accidents will be much less likely to happen.
As long as you follow the safety practices, you will greatly reduce the risk of lab accidents.