Lab Safety Tools You Hopefully Will Never Use

Lab Safety


This month, the ChemSW blog is covering fire code reporting. Fires and chemical emergencies are a real possibility, and fire code reporting gives crucial information to emergency responders. These heroes can make life-saving decisions given accurate chemical inventory information. For the people present when a fire or chemical emergency occurs, there are tools available to use in addition to calling emergency services.

In the news lately, we have been reading about a court case surrounding the tragic UCLA lab fire in 2009. This accident resulted in the death of a research assistant after a syringe containing t-butyl lithium came apart and ignited on air contact. News sources report that the flash fire burned the late research assistant’s clothes, including a synthetic sweater. She was not wearing a lab coat and had not received safety training from UCLA. The current court case is examining whether the professor was responsible for the culture of safety in the lab that lead to the tragedy. This is a solemn reminder that we may all have ways to improve the safety in our professional lives.

There are many tools in the lab that you hopefully will never use. The safety equipment in the lab, such as the shower station, eye wash station, emergency exit and fire extinguisher are there for the trained researchers to use in an emergency situation. Protective eye and body gear is another tool we use daily that protects us from harm while also giving us funny-goggle-face! Just by looking around the lab, you can probably see these devices and more.

This blog post is a conversation about safety equipment and it is not a comprehensive safety plan. You should consult your EH&S consultant for accurate safety information.

Protective Gear

It’s a good idea to add extra layers of protection between our bodies and the hazardous chemicals in front of us. Protective face and body gear is the season’s must-have accessory for the safe scientist! According to OSHA, failing to wear proper protective gear is a common safety violation.

Eye-wash Station and Lab Shower

These stations are here for your safety in the unfortunate case that chemicals spray onto the body or eyes. Hopefully the protective gear did it’s job keeping most of the face and body protected, and these stations will continue to help.


Fire Extinguishers

The United States Fire Administration recommends that only people trained to use fire extinguishers should use them. It is a life-saving tool, but many adults do not know how to use them properly or choose which type of extinguisher to use. There are four types of fire hazards according to OSHA with different extinguishers for each type. Training, sound decision-making, and maintenance are three things to remember about to fire extinguishers.


Prevention Is the Key to Lab Safety

All of these tools are important and reflect changes in technology and society over the last several decades. Prevention is the key to a safe workplace. Employee training and a safe lab environment are crucial steps toward accident prevention. Good housekeeping and clear paths to the exits are daily tasks to keep the lab ready for anything. Maintenance of this equipment is the homework that comes with the safety lesson. Fear not, you are not alone in this upkeep. You can find software to help you schedule, track and report lab equipment maintenance inspections.

Dow Chemical also holds a pre-experiment meeting for every project and senior researchers advise on chemicals and emergency protocol. This is an example of an excellent safety practice that goes beyond regulations. Working conditions are much safer now than 40 years ago, when OSHA was started, but industrial and educational science labs are not yet perfect. We can all give ourselves a pat on the back for the safety prevention we have already done, and then a nudge in the direction of doing even more to make the workplace safer.

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