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Chemistry Lab Safety & Accuracy Procedures & Equipment

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  • 0:02 Safety
  • 3:55 Accuracy
  • 6:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Working safely and collecting accurate data are the two most important parts of working in a chemistry lab. This lesson will give tips so you can succeed in both areas.

Safety

Timmy and Jimmy are off to work in their chemistry lab. Timmy is extremely sloppy and dangerous, whereas Jimmy is accurate and safe. Let's take a look at how each approaches work in the lab. Being safe in the lab is the number one priority, so before we get to accuracy, let's see if Timmy and Jimmy know our safety tips.

Safety tip number one: No food or drink in the chemistry lab (this includes gum). Timmy and Jimmy need to use hydrochloric acid today. While pouring, Timmy spills some into his open soda and all over the counter. Unaware, he takes a sip and now has burns in his mouth, esophagus and stomach; panicked, Timmy throws his soda can on the floor. Jimmy left his food and drink outside of the lab and safely pours the hydrochloric acid.

Safety tip number two: Follow all verbal and written instructions. Before their lab began, Timmy and Jimmy's teacher told them the following:

  • Always wear goggles, because even if you aren't doing anything dangerous, another lab group could be.
  • Wear an apron if you're dealing with dangerous chemicals, like hydrochloric acid.
  • If you have an acid spill, you can neutralize it with baking soda so it isn't dangerous to you or the rest of the class.
  • Tie your hair back, especially when dealing with fire.

Unfortunately, Timmy wasn't paying attention to those directions. While cleaning up the acid he spilled earlier, he doesn't neutralize it and tries to wipe it up with his hands. Then, Timmy tries to finish the lab and grabs the flask containing hydrochloric acid. Soon, he trips on his empty soda can. Since he isn't wearing goggles or an apron, the acid is now in his eyes and all over his body, causing extreme burns and possibly blindness.

As Timmy screams from the pain, Jimmy alerts the teacher and then uses baking soda to neutralize the acid and safely clean it up. While acid is flying from Timmy's accident, Jimmy's eyes and body are protected because he wore goggles and an apron. Jimmy did many things right. In addition to following his teacher's directions, he also alerted the teacher when his lab partner was injured.

Safety tip number three: Don't mess around or touch anything without knowing the procedure first. Timmy has lost interest in the first experiment and has decided to conduct his own experiment. He digs around without permission and finds some glass bottles, breaking one and cutting his hand in the process.

Next, he decides to dump acid and baking soda into the glass bottle and then plug the top with a stopper to see what happens. The bottle fills up with gas and explodes, sending glass shards all over the room, cutting Timmy's face in the process. Next, Timmy decides to light some paper on fire, but his long hair catches on fire in the process. Jimmy, on the other hand, follows his procedure and focuses on finishing his first experiment. If Jimmy wants to try something new, he knows to ask his teacher first.

Safety tip number four: Follow all cleanup rules and protocols provided by your teacher. Timmy and Jimmy's teacher instructed students to do the following:

  • Dispose of used chemicals in the appropriate waste chemical container.
  • Dispose of any broken glass in the broken glass container.
  • Clean the table with sponges.
  • Wash hands.

Again, Timmy wasn't paying attention and is in a hurry. He dumps some of the used chemicals back into their original container and others down the sink. In addition, he puts broken glass in the garbage can and leaves early for lunch. Timmy's teacher is not pleased. He has ruined the never-used chemicals and caused dangerous chemicals to be added to the wastewater treatment plant. While another student was trying to bag the garbage, she cut her hand on a shard of Timmy's glass. Meanwhile, Timmy inadvertently ate some more chemicals while chomping on a sandwich because he neglected to wash his hands.

Jimmy paid close attention to his teacher's cleanup instructions. He placed the chemicals and broken glass in the correct areas. He cleaned up his equipment and wiped the table down. Finally, he washed his hands.

Now that Jimmy (and hopefully Timmy) know how to work safely in a lab, let's make sure they collect accurate data.

Accuracy

Before we start exploring how to collect accurate data, let's define accuracy. Accuracy means that the measurement is close to the actual value and mistakes are not made. Now, we can discuss some tips on how to be accurate in the lab. There are many tools in the science lab, each with a different function. In Timmy and Jimmy's lab, there are graduated cylinders, beakers, balances, rulers, pipettes and thermometers.

Accuracy tip number one is using the right tool for the job. Timmy and Jimmy need to figure out the length of a leaf. What tool should they use? Timmy decides to use a graduated cylinder and is measuring the leaf length using milliliters, but Jimmy knows that milliliters (mL) measure volume and not length. Jimmy is using a ruler, measuring in centimeters (cm) because centimeters are a measure of length. Measuring in mL would not be accurate.

Here's just a quick rundown for Timmy and Jimmy:

  • For volumes of liquids, they should use graduated cylinders. Beakers are a good tool to contain liquids, but most graduated cylinders will provide a more accurate measurement.
  • For temperature, they should use a thermometer.
  • For length, width and height, they should use rulers or meter-sticks.
  • For mass, they should use a balance.

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