Research in physical science can be exciting, but it also has potential dangers. For example, the field scientist in this photo is collecting water samples from a polluted lake. There are many microorganisms in the water that could make her sick. The water and shore are also strewn with dangerous objects such as sharp can lids and broken glass bottles that could cause serious injury. Whether in the field or in the lab, knowing how to stay safe in science is important.
Lab procedures and equipment may be labeled with safety symbols. These symbols warn of specific hazards, such as flames or broken glass. Learn the symbols so you will recognize the dangers. Then learn how to avoid them. Many common safety symbols are shown in the Figure below.
Q: Do you know how you can avoid these hazards?
A: Wearing protective gear is one way to avoid many hazards in science. For example, to avoid being burned by hot objects, use hot mitts to protect your hands. To avoid eye hazards, such as harsh liquids splashed into the eyes, wear safety goggles. You can learn more about these and other lab hazards and how to avoid them at this URL: http://www.angelfire.com/va3/chemclass/safety.html.
Following basic safety rules is another important way to stay safe in science. Safe practices help prevent accidents. Several lab safety rules are listed below. Different rules may apply when you work in the field. But in all cases, you should always follow your teacher’s instructions.
Lab Safety Rules
- Wear long sleeves and shoes that completely cover your feet.
- If your hair is long, tie it back or cover it with a hair net.
- Protect your eyes, skin, and clothing by wearing safety goggles, an apron, and gloves.
- Use hot mitts to handle hot objects.
- Never work in the lab alone.
- Never engage in horseplay in the lab.
- Never eat or drink in the lab.
- Never do experiments without your teacher’s approval.
- Always add acid to water, never the other way around, and add the acid slowly to avoid splashing.
- Take care to avoid knocking over Bunsen burners, and keep them away from flammable materials such as paper.
- Use your hand to fan vapors toward your nose rather than smelling substances directly.
- Never point the open end of a test tube toward anyone—including yourself!
- Clean up any spills immediately.
- Dispose of lab wastes according to your teacher’s instructions.
- Wash glassware and counters when you finish your work.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before leaving the lab.
In Case of Accident
Even when you follow the rules, accidents can happen. Immediately alert your teacher if an accident occurs. Report all accidents, whether or not you think they are serious.
- Lab safety symbols warn of specific hazards, such as flames or broken glass. Knowing the symbols allows you to recognize and avoid the dangers.
- Following basic safety rules, such as wearing safety gear, helps prevent accidents in the lab and in the field.
- All accidents should be reported immediately.
Examine this sketch of students working in a lab, and then answer the question below.
- These students are breaking at least six lab safety rules. What are they doing that is unsafe?
- What hazard do think this safety (Figure below) symbol represents?
- Identify three safety rules that help prevent accidents in the lab.
- Create a safety poster to convey one of the three rules you listed in your answer to 2.