The most important aspect of lab safety is having the proper equipment to protect you while working. Always wear a lab coat to protect your clothes and skin from damage.
Latex or nitrile gloves should be worn at all times when handling chemicals. Goggles that protect both your eyes and the sides of your eyes are also essential.
- Closed-toe shoes should always been worn while working.
- Long pants should also be worn to protect your legs.
- Never eat or drink while experimenting.
Flammable and corrosive chemicals should be stored in a special cabinet to prevent fire or explosions. These chemicals should also be stored in separate containers within the cabinet to prevent them reacting with each other. Never store chemicals near household items like food and drinks.
- Read the material safety data sheets (MSDS) for all of the chemicals that you own to store them properly.
- Use the proper storage container for your chemicals. Some strong acids can only be stored in plastic, while other chemicals may need to be stored in glass.
- Make sure hazardous chemicals are stored under lock and key or safely away from the access of small children or pets.
Always have a fire extinguisher nearby and a working smoke detector in the area. Make sure the fire extinguisher is not expired and keep it in an easily accessible location. Get a fire extinguisher that works against ABC or BC fires (can be corrosive to metals, but useful for chemical, electrical, and ordinary burning materials). These work best against chemical fires, but are not effective against strong alkali (basic) or strong acid fires.
- Check the status of the fire extinguisher and the smoke detector once a month to make sure they are both in working order.
- Never throw water on a strong acid. It will explode.
Spills are inevitable in the lab and having a spill kit will help you keep the spill from turning into something major. Keep your spill kit easily accessible and ensure all materials are within their expiration date. Make a spill kit that contains the following items:
- latex gloves
- eye protection that covers the sides of your eyes
- apron or lab coat
- a dustpan and brush (also useful for broken glass)
- Absorbent materials: kitty litter, sand or clay, and absorbent pads
- Neutralizing materials: baking soda for acid spills; citric acid for basic spills
- Store all items in a 5-gallon polypropylene (plastic) bucket. Use the bucket to contain all the materials after cleaning up the spill.