5 Ways to avoid injuries in your chemistry lab

The chemistry laboratory is a mainstay of secondary education where students learn chemical reactions, lab instrument handling, and data analysis. Students grow to appreciate what happens on the molecular level that leads to amazing natural and technological events in the bigger world. It is vital, as the teacher, to ensure a safe environment for your class amid potential hazards. Take note of these five safety tips to minimize dangers and accidents in your laboratory.

Conduct regular safety orientation and reminders

Most common injuries can be prevented by wearing the proper safety gear, knowing what to do when an accident happens, and being mindful of the environment. Conducting your orientation at the start of the school year is not enough to cultivate a culture of safety in your laboratory. Students can forget if they’re in a rush or if they become lax given the lack of accidents. Create a safety checklist to be followed before a student starts their lab work and post them on easily seen places.  You can refer to the comprehensive guide of the Imperial College of London on laboratory and chemical safety.

Install anti-slip tape

Wet areas caused by spills, unlevelled surfaces, and recently polished tiles can make the floor slippery.  Tripping and falling in the lab is dangerous, causing sprains, cuts, and bruises. What more if the student is carrying a volatile and toxic chemical? Make sure your bases are covered by installing anti-slip tape in accident-prone and high-traffic areas – lab entrance, near the sink and wiring, and ladder steps.  These tapes increase the friction between footwear and the floor to help prevent slipping. They are easy to apply, durable, water-resistant, and meet the guidelines of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work for avoiding tripping. Maybe you can even experiment to learn more about traction and friction.

Store and label chemicals properly

Chemicals

Every chemical in the lab must be stored and labelled according to safety guidelines, even if they are non-toxic materials or water. It is advisable to place an actual label on a container to avoid erasures during handling and not forget to date all chemical bottles when received and opened.  Hazardous materials should be out of reach and only taken out with your permission. Do your students also know the protocol for disposing lab waste, especially broken glass, needles, and corrosive chemicals?

Check equipment regularly

Schedule regular inspections and maintenance of your lab equipment to ensure they are in working order. It’s better to repair broken parts, clean the equipment, and replace needed materials during downtime and not in the middle of an emergency.  Here are a few questions you might want to add in your checklist:

  • Are your first aid kits fully stocked?
  • Are your fire extinguishers in full working condition?
  • Is there enough ventilation provided by the chemical fume hoods?
  • Does clean water come out of the safety showers?
  • Are there exposed wires caused by wear and tear?

Post an evacuation plan near the exit

Information on exit routes should be readily available and seen in case of an emergency. Post the evacuation map detailing the location of the classroom and highlighting the various exits available to the students. You may also want to conduct evacuation drills for familiarity with the protocol.

Safety is a core tenet in the chemistry laboratory. Equip your students with the knowledge and resources to keep themselves secure and avoid accidents.

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