General Lab Safety

Being safe in a laboratory is very important. There are many things that can easily go wrong if the proper precautions are not taken prior to and during work in a laboratory.


Safety Guidelines

Before starting any work in the lab , make it a point to become familiar with the procedures and equipment that are to be used.

  • Inspect all equipment before use.
  • If you don't understand something, ask.
  • Do not operate equipment unless properly trained.
  • Avoid unnecessary movement and talk in the lab.
  • No food or drink in the lab.
  • Do not do dangerous experiments alone.
  • Confine long hair, and be aware of dangling jewelry.
  • Wear all personal protective equipment.
  •  Check chemical labels twice to ensure accuracy.
  •  Be aware of hazard classification.
  •  Wash your hands frequently.
  •  Do not wear personal protective equipment outside the lab in common areas.  
  •  Do not smell or taste chemicals.
  •  Never point the open end of a test tube toward yourself or your neighbor.

Know the location and use of:

  • Safety shower
  • First-aid kit
  • Exit doors
  • Telephones
  • Fire pull station
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Good work practices:

  • Never look directly down into a test tube; view contents from the side.
  • Vent apparatus which may discharge toxic chemicals into local fume hoods.
  • Always dispose of chemicals properly.  Contact the Division of Hazardous Materials if unsure.
  • Before leaving the lab, ensure gas lines and water faucets are off.
  • Do not cover the windows of lab doors.
  • Maintain a clear pathway to all the safety equipment.

EMERGENCY Procedures

  • Be familiar with evacuation plans.
  • Clean up small spills only if you are properly equipped and trained to do so. Otherwise, contact EHSRM Hazmat Section x5487 for proper clean up.
  • Immediately report all lab accidents.
  • In case of chemical spill on your skin and clothing, rinse the area with plenty of water.
  • If the eyes become affected by a chemical, immediately use the eye wash station and continue for 10-15 minutes, or until professional assistance is obtained. Minor skin burns should be placed under cool running water.

Fire Prevention

  • Be aware of ignition sources.
  • Store flammable liquids in appropriate containers and cabinets.
  • Do not store incompatible materials together.
  • Keep all sprinklers clear.   18 inches below must be clear.


  • Clear lab counter of all unnecessary materials (books, clothing, etc.) prior to beginning of your work.
  • Lab tables and counter tops should be kept clean and free of unnecessary materials.
  •  Fume hoods are not to be used for the storage of chemicals.
  •  Keep all aisles and walkways in the lab clear to provide a safe walking path and an unobstructed exit.
  •  Do not block access to emergency equipment and utility controls.
  •  Inspect all equipment before use.
  •  Do not leave experiments unattended.
  •  Keep lab floor dry at all times.
  •  Lock Out/Tag Out all machinery under repair.
  •  All compressed gas cylinders must be secured and labeled.  Secured with chains or straps at 1/3 and 2/3 height from the floor.
  • Before disposing a chemical, be sure of the proper procedures. Do not pour it down the sink unless you are sure it is OK to do so. Submit an online hazardous waste pickup request or contact the Division of Hazardous Materials.
  • If necessary, clean equipment after use to avoid the possibility of contaminating the next person who needs to use it.
  • Return all equipment, chemicals, and personal protective equipment to their designated locations.
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