Back To CourseFundamental Biology
36 chapters | 333 lessons
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Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.
One of the best parts about taking a biology course is the labs. There are so many fun activities that allow you to apply your newfound knowledge in a hands-on setting. But lab activities can quickly go from 'oh-yeah!' to 'oh-no!' when proper safety precautions are not observed. Lab safety may seem like a big downer, but it's in everyone's best interest to follow the rules.
So, to ensure that you and everyone else in the lab have an enjoyable experience, let's go over some of the basic safety rules that must be followed in any laboratory setting.
Your mom drilled this into your head, and we're making it a top priority here too - wash your hands. Dirty hands can contaminate your lab materials if you don't wash them before you start your work. Washing your hands after you're done in the lab will also ensure that you don't take away any hitchhikers along with you when you leave.
And, while it's never a good idea to touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth while in the lab, if it's absolutely necessary, you should always wash your hands before doing so in case they have chemicals or other substances on them.
While we're on the subject of your face, it's important to keep all food, drinks and gum out of the lab. Not only can you contaminate your lab materials, but your lab materials may contaminate your food. Because of this, it's also not a good idea to put anything else in your mouth while in the lab, like pens and pencils.
Lab substances can be dangerous, and you should always treat them as such. Never taste or smell chemicals or other lab materials. Additionally, it's good practice to always wear safety goggles, gloves and a lab coat to protect your eyes, skin and clothing.
Even if you don't have a lab coat, there are guidelines to follow for the clothing you should wear in the lab. In general, try to avoid wearing your nice clothes as they may become stained. Anything that is loose or baggy can catch on equipment and containers, causing spills or accidents, so these should be avoided as well. The same goes for jewelry and long hair, but you can easily tie back long hair and remove jewelry before working in the lab. Appropriate shoes will protect your feet if you drop equipment or substances. Always wear close-toed shoes instead of flip-flops or sandals.
One of the most important things about working in the lab is knowing what you're doing and what you're working with. It's good practice to read through your entire lab ahead of time to prepare yourself for the day's activities.
All of your containers and substances should be properly labeled. If something is not labeled correctly, notify your lab instructor so that they can find you the appropriate materials. Again, don't smell or taste it to find out what it is. Just assume it's hazardous and get a hold of the right stuff.
Each time you're done with a container make sure you close it tightly. You may think that it will save some time to only sit the lid on there so you can easily open it later, but there's always the chance you'll forget the lid isn't on tightly and cause a spill. It's also a good idea to pour your materials into a separate container to prevent contamination in the container, as well as to allow for more accurate measuring.
Even if you're being careful and following all of the safety precautions, accidents still happen. The first thing to do if someone gets hurt, a substance spills or something breaks is to notify your instructor immediately, no matter how minor the accident or spill may seem. She will best know how to clean up a spill or care for an injury, so it's safer to get instructions first rather than trying to do it yourself.
On that note, it's never safe to pick up broken glass with your hands. Again, if you're unsure how to best clean up broken equipment, ask your lab instructor and she can help you.
Even though your instructor is the first step in dealing with an accident or spill, you should always make sure you know where the emergency stations are located within the lab. Each lab will have an emergency shower and eyewash station, as well as a fire extinguisher. Knowing where these are located can save precious time if you end up needing to use them.
A clean lab station is a happy lab station. Keeping your work area clean will reduce accidents and will also make it easier to clean up when you're done with your activities. Cleaning and putting away your lab equipment allows others to use it later.
One thing to keep in mind is that each lab substance has specific disposal instructions. Not everything can be put in the trash or poured down the sink, so check with your lab instructor if you're unsure of how to properly dispose of your materials.
As you have probably noticed, lab safety involves a lot of common sense. In addition to the previously mentioned lab safety rules, there are a few others worth mentioning. It may seem silly to bring them up, but too often these cause serious accidents or injuries, so we like to cover them just in case.
Lab work is fun, but having a good time in lab isn't the same as goofing off. Horseplay has no place in the lab, as you could easily knock something over, causing an accident.
Often, we heat materials in the lab, and just like you wouldn't walk away from food cooking on a stove, you should never leave heating lab materials unattended. Make sure you stay with your materials and watch them carefully. Again, just like you shouldn't touch chemicals or materials, you shouldn't touch hot plates or open flames, even when wearing protective equipment.
Lab time is one of the best parts of biology. Working hands-on and applying what you've learned in class can be exciting. But in order for it to remain enjoyable for everyone, it's important to practice lab safety. Most of this involves common sense rules, like not tasting or smelling materials, wearing appropriate clothing and not horsing around. But it's also good to know what to do in case of a spill or accident and to keep your workstation clean and organized. Following basic lab safety rules allows everyone to enjoy lab activities and will keep the lab safe and available for future activities and students.
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Back To CourseFundamental Biology
36 chapters | 333 lessons