There are several rules of behavior that ensure we stay safe from the dangers inherent in school or professional laboratories. Following these indications also ensures the integrity of the tests or experiments that are carried out. Respecting these rules is a way to show appreciation for scientific work and it is also a way to take care of oneself and the other.
The following list of safety rules is not intended to be exhaustive; Some recommendations are general, while others will only apply to certain laboratories with special characteristics.1.- Wear appropriate clothing in the laboratory
You can’t walk into a lab and use the spaces without proper clothing. First, you should wear a lab coat that serves to protect the clothing underneath. This clothing also serves to store objects temporarily, such as a notebook or accessories such as gloves or safety glasses. It is important not to store these accessories when they are dirty or freshly used for an experiment.
Secondly, there are certain garments that are essential for safety and are not always obvious. For example, avoid uncovered shoes such as sandals that expose part of the feet, as spills can be very dangerous.
Finally, it is important not to bring a dirty gown to the laboratory, as foreign organic debris on clothing could compromise the overall hygiene of an experiment.2.- Do not eat or drink inside the laboratory
One of the main rules is not to ingest any type of food or drink in the laboratory areas. It is also unsafe to store food in refrigerators intended for laboratory material. Both the samples of the experiments and the personal food can end up contaminated by using the spaces for both purposes.
There are materials that can be poisonous and food could accidentally become impregnated with them. This can happen if food is placed on a surface or if an accidental spill or condensation of some dangerous gas science experiments occurs.3.- Do not smell or taste any part of your experiment
Another rule to highlight is not to bring the materials to the face to smell or taste them. Some compounds can give off extremely dangerous gases that, at best, can render a person unconscious. There are many procedures that allow you to know the characteristics of the materials without putting yourself at risk.4.- Properly dispose of laboratory waste
When the experiments are over, there is no rush to leave. It is time to plan where and how the residues of experience will be disposed of. It is a sign of respect for other laboratory users to get rid of harmful materials in the proper way and leave the laboratory in order.
It is important to consider how each of the leftovers that were used is disposed of. You have to wonder if it is safe to discard them down the toilet or floor drain. It is also appropriate to ask a more informed person if it is necessary to use pressurized steam to clean certain surfaces.5.- Know the location of all implements
It is important to have a general idea of where everything is in the laboratory to use. For that, if it is the first time that this specific laboratory is used, a reconnaissance tour is opportune.
Not only is it important to know what will be used frequently; You also need to know where the most dangerous materials or delicate objects are, even if they will hardly ever be touched.
In addition, it is appropriate to test whether the safety equipment works as expected. A damaged fire extinguisher can be catastrophic in the event of a fire. One of the most important safety equipment in a laboratory, the safety shower, should always have running water and sufficient pressure.
Finally, it is important that the person in charge of the laboratory keeps it well signposted. You can not always explain everything and that’s what the labels on the chemicals are for, as well as the posters on shelves and walls.6.- Know how to act in the event of a laboratory accident
There are accidents that could turn into catastrophes and it is best to have a prevention plan for each type of accident. For this, good communication with the manager is essential.
Good communication is also about sincerity. If the user of the laboratory made a mistake and caused some type of damage, such as spillage or damage to any material or instrument in the laboratory, he should not hide it: you always have to inform in a timely manner what happened. Otherwise, you could be endangering other users or animals used in the laboratory. Safety first.7.- Learn to follow instructions
Since delicate situations occur in the laboratory, there are many risks. It is essential to have the utmost attention and follow the instructions of the laboratory manager. There is usually an established protocol, depending on the type of laboratory you are in. Follow the steps to the letter without underestimating the instructions; at the end of the day, the manager knows this laboratory better than anyone.8.- Avoid being your own guinea pig
Being your experiment’s own guinea pig may seem funny or appealing, but it’s an argument that only looks good in sci-fi movies. Doing this can lead to serious security issues; The health of the scientist and others in the laboratory may be at high risk. For ethics and respect for the laboratory, it is essential to refrain from being one’s guinea pig.9.- Do not carry objects from the laboratory
It is important that the materials used, and even the animals, are limited to being within the space designated for them in the laboratory. It should be remembered that this space is designed to isolate them and adequately resist the ravages of an accident involving them.
It is essential to refrain from removing materials from the laboratory. In many contexts, not following this rule can pose unnecessary risks. For example, in a laboratory the gases of a volatile chemical may not accumulate as much (thanks to the air extractor), but once outside these gases may be more dangerous.
It should be taken into account that some materials must be moved in a special way when arriving at the laboratory; The scientist should not move them by himself if he is not qualified to do so or lacks the means. ReferencesUniversity of Granada (n.d.). Laboratory in Chemistry 4.0. Available in: https://www.ugr.es/~laboratoriodequimica/5_seguridad.htmAcha, C. (n.d.). Safety in the laboratory. Department of physics. Available in: http://users.df.uba.ar/acha/Lab5/seguridadgral.htm