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Personal Safety Equipment for the Science Lab

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  • 0:01 Lab Safety
  • 0:34 Hand Protection
  • 1:17 Protecting Your Eyes and Face
  • 2:30 Overall Body Protection
  • 3:30 Ears, Feet, and Airway
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

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.

Science labs are great places to explore and learn. But they're only as safe as the people who use them, so in this lesson, we'll discuss some of the ways that you can protect yourself and prevent personal harm in the event of a lab accident.

Lab Safety

Working in a science lab can be a lot of fun. But it can also be very dangerous if proper safety measures aren't followed. One of the best ways to ensure you and everyone else in the lab has an enjoyable experience is to protect yourself with personal protective equipment, or PPE. This is any clothing or equipment that protects your body from injury. PPE encompasses a wide variety of items, which are often classified by their type. Let's look at some of the basic types of PPE and how they can help keep you safe while working in the laboratory.

Hand Protection

Your hands are very useful in the lab because you use them to stir, mix, invert, clamp, flip, write, measure, and so much more. Protecting your hands, then, is of utmost importance! There are a variety of different types of gloves available that protect your hands, and the type you should use depends on what types of chemicals or equipment you're going to be working with.

Some gloves might be basic disposable gloves. These are often made of nitrile and protect you from initial harm, as long as what you're working with isn't likely to break the rubber of the gloves. You may also be working with Nomex gloves, which are fire-resistant, or you may use heat-resistant gloves if you're working with things that are very hot. And there are even gloves that will help protect you if you are cutting or connecting glass.

Protecting Your Eyes and Face

Your face - especially your eyes - is very vulnerable in the lab. Chemicals may splash, containers may explode, items may fall, and if any of these things happens near your face or eyes, you're likely to be in big trouble. The good news is that while you can often prevent these events from occurring in the first place, you can also protect yourself quite easily from getting hurt in case they do happen.

One of the easiest ways to do this is with safety goggles. They probably won't make you look cool, but personally, I'd rather look a little goofy but still have my eyesight after I leave my lab! You'd be surprised how much protection a good pair of safety goggles will provide from objects and chemicals. And based on what you're working with, you may need more specific eye protection that protects you from certain types of light or radiation.

If necessary, you may also want to wear a face shield. Again, these are not designed to help you look cool, but they will help keep your face looking as beautiful as ever after you're done in the lab. It's surprisingly easy for something to go wrong in a lab, and if you're working around UV light, explosives, or extreme heat, you probably won't care if your face shield makes you look goofy for a little while!

Overall Body Protection

Moving down from your face, we also need to consider protection of the rest of your body, as well. Often a regular old lab coat will help protect both you and your clothing from spills and objects. This coat should cover your arms entirely and most of your legs. But you'll want to make sure it fits well because an overly loose or tight lab coat is a good way to cause an accident.

Aprons are another good source of PPE for your body. These may be made of rubber or plastic, and the type of apron you'll want to use will depend entirely on what it is you're working with in the lab. There's certainly no harm in wearing both a lab coat and an apron, and in some cases, you may even be required to do so.

Just like with other PPE, if you're working with more extreme things (chemicals, heat, light) you'll want to don a more protective covering. Lab coats also come in fire-resistant Nomex, or you may want to consider an entire body covering - think of those white Hazmat suits that provide entire body protection and you'll get the idea here.

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