This section describes some practices which are basic or fundamental to safety in any laboratory where potential hazards exist. Following these simple, somewhat “common sense” rules are important. They will save you from most of the common accidents that happen in laboratory.
- Each lab should have a designated lab-in charge who is responsible for day-to-day enforcement of safety protocols. Each lab will also have a faculty associated with it who is ultimately responsible for safety in the lab.
- Known and anticipated hazards are considered for all materials or equipment being used. Before using unfamiliar chemicals, equipment, or new products, please read the labels, material safety datasheets (MSDS) and/or user manuals.
- Training should be provided for all new lab users. Training of existing users must also be provided when new hazards are introduced into a lab, e.g. during introduction of new substances, processes, or equipment.
- Only proper equipment, in good condition, should be used. Before trying something very different from an equipment’s intended use, please talk to the lab-incharge.
- Boxes, chairs, cartons, shelves, chairs with wheels, or anything else that is not a ladder, should not be used as a ladder.
- Emergency equipment (e.g. fire extinguishers, emergency eyewash/shower units, etc.) should be unobstructed, clearly visible, and in good working condition.
- First aid kits are available in quickly accessible, visible and designated places. Ensure that first-aid kits have not expired.
- Eating, drinking, or applying cosmetics near hazardous materials (radioactive, bio-hazardous, or chemical) is not permitted. Since all labs in IISc count as hazardous, NO FOOD/DRINK SHOULD BE ALLOWED INSIDE THE LAB.
- Food and drinks should not be stored in the refrigerator or freezer used to store hazardous materials. Refrigerators storing hazardous materials should have a clearly visible label saying, “No food or drinks” (see appendix for a sample).
- All labs need to fill, update and periodically review the “Laboratory Hazard Sheet” (see appendix) and post it on the laboratory door. To conform that the sheet is current, the lab in charge much sign and date the sheet.
- All labs must maintain a working landline which is kept near the door.
- All labs must maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted very near the phone at eye level. The emergency list should include cell phone numbers of the faculty in charge, the lab in charge, and other regular lab users. The emergency list should also include the number for the IISc health centre, the campus security, as well as the local police and the fire station.
- Follow Buddy system. Never work alone in a lab, especially at night and during weekends.
Buddy is a fellow lab-user who is working close enough to notice if you are in any distress. Friends on cell-phone, in offices, or hostels don’t count.
Good Housekeeping Practices
- Work areas are kept uncluttered and are cleaned upon completion of operations or at the end of each workday. This is particularly important for areas with hazardous materials and equipment.
- Floors are maintained free from tripping, slipping, and falling hazards (e.g. cords, cables, wires, equipment, and tools).
- Spills are attended to immediately and thoroughly.
- Emergency equipment and controls are not blocked
- Hallways and stairways are not used as storage areas.
- Workbenches and shelves are not overloaded with unused equipment, chemicals, or other materials.
- Maintain personal cleanliness, so that hazards don’t affect you after you leave the lab.
- Confine long hair and loose clothing when in the laboratory to keep them from catching fire, dipping into chemicals, or becoming entangled in moving machinery. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/nyregion/yale-student-dies-in-machine-shopaccident.html?_r=0)
- Avoid wearing dangling jewelry. These can reflect light from lasers or get caught in moving parts.
- Avoid wrist-bands, rakhees, rings and wrist-watches, and other wrist ornaments. These may become contaminated with chemicals, react with chemicals, or be caught in the moving parts.
- Remove laboratory coats and gloves before you leave the laboratory to prevent spreading contamination to other areas.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Protective clothing and equipment safeguard against harmful chemical spills on the body, inhalation, projectiles etc. You are responsible for wearing the proper protective gear according to the activity you are doing in your lab.
- Understand the difference between safety glasses, chemical splash goggles and face shields. The first is for mechanical hazards, the second for liquid hazards and the third for extra safety when handling bigger hazards.
- Eyes are the most easily injured external organ, so whenever in the vicinity of sharp objects, rapidly moving machines, hot material, or flying particles, safety glasses with side shields must be worn. In fact, it is strongly advisable that safety glasses be worn in the lab at all time.
- Eyes are also covered with blood capillaries, so they can quickly absorb many harmful chemicals. Splash goggles must be worn when there is danger of splashing chemicals.
- When working with large amount of chemicals (e.g. 4-liter bottles) or in vicinity of explosive/implosive hazards (e.g. vacuum systems with glass jars), a face shield with safety or splash goggles offers maximum protection.
- Prescription lenses in spectacles do not provide enough protection. In fact, unless they are shatter resistant, they are hazardous on their own. People who need to wear prescription glasses must wear safety-glasses/splash-goggles over their prescription glasses.
- Gloves need to be worn anytime you are handling something in the lab.
- Gloves are worn to prevent contact with toxic or biological agents, burns from hot or extremely cold surfaces or corrosives, or cuts from sharp objects. Several types of safety gloves are available, each for specific hazards. For adequate protection, select the correct glove for the hazard in question (see for example http://www.ansellpro.com/downloa/Ansell_7thEditionChemicalResistanceGuide.pdf).
- Chemicals will eventually penetrate all glove materials. Change gloves periodically to minimize penetration.
- Wash hands after leaving the lab even if you were wearing gloves. Long term exposure to even minuscule amounts of toxin can have very adverse effects on your health. Such chronic exposures are very hard to diagnose or detect. Prevention is the only option.
Body and Feet
- Clothing can prevent small chemical from damaging skin. Cover unprotected skin whenever possible. No shorts. Only wear full-length trousers, salwars, etc.
- Aprons or laboratory coats must be worn especially when handling chemicals.
- Wear stable hard-toe shoes in lab area to protect feet from chemical splashes and sharp objects on the floor. No slippers, sandals, or high heels. No bare feet.
- Proper respirators (self-contained breathing apparatus) must be used whenever there is a chance to inhale hazardous chemicals, gases or nano-particles.
- Proper respirators (self-contained breathing apparatus) must be used whenever hazardous gas cylinders are being installed/changed.