Safe Chemical Storage, Use & Disposal

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  • 0:02 Safely Using Chemicals
  • 1:35 Safely Storing Chemicals
  • 3:19 Safely Disposing of Chemicals
  • 4:24 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.

An important part of lab safety involves the correct usage, storage, and disposal of chemicals. Lab safety is everyone's responsibility, so it's important that you know the proper procedures and protocols for using chemicals in the lab.

Safely Using Chemicals

Lab safety is a critical component of lab fun. But lab safety involves more than just wearing protective gear. It also involves proper use, storage, and disposal of any chemicals that you may be working with. Chemicals are very useful in many aspects of lab work and might be something that you work with regularly. Because of this, it's important to understand how following some basic lab safety rules can prevent dangerous chemical accidents and may even save your life or the lives of others.

Have you ever mixed baking soda with vinegar and watched it foam up? Though a very simple one, this is an example of a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction isn't likely to hurt you if you mix a little too much of the two components in the sink, but imagine mixing these two components in a container and then tightly closing the lid. Under the right circumstances, the pressure inside the container could build up to a point where the container might explode, which would create a very dangerous situation for anyone nearby.

As you can see, given the right conditions, any chemical reaction can quickly get out of hand. Any time you're working with chemicals in the lab, you need to be completely aware of what you're doing, how much you are mixing, and the risks associated with each chemical and chemical reaction. It's important that you never mix any chemicals unless you've been told to do so and know how they will react. For example, some chemicals react with UV light and some with water. Some reactions are triggered by heat, others by cold. You should always assume the worst with any chemical and treat it as if it is a dangerous substance that could harm you.

Safely Storing Chemicals

Have you ever gone into your fridge and found a Tupperware container filled with some mystery item? You probably didn't want to eat it, since you had no idea when it was put there, what it consisted of, and whether or not it was safe.

Now imagine that you get some chemicals down from your shelf in the lab and you encounter the same scenario - they are not marked, so you have no idea what's in the container, how long it's been there, and if it's safe to use anymore. To prevent this from happening, you should always make sure to clearly label any containers that have chemicals in them.

Some important things that should always be on your labels are the name of the chemical, when the container was opened, who opened it, and when it expires. It may also help to write the amount that is removed each time, the manufacturer's name (if it's not already on the container), and any other pertinent information, such as things the chemical should absolutely NOT come in contact with.

As I mentioned before, each chemical reacts differently, and some chemicals will need to be stored away from UV light, some will need to be stored away from heat or cold, and some will need to be stored in the heat or cold. Again, all of this information should be written on the container to ensure that proper safe storage methods are followed.

If chemicals can be stored in containers on your lab shelves, keep in mind how easy those containers are to access. Do you feel comfortable pulling jars or boxes of food down from hard-to-reach shelves in your kitchen? Probably not - they're likely to fall on your head or hit the floor and break. The same goes for chemical containers in the lab. It's a good idea to put them in easy-to-reach places so that the chance of something dropping, spilling, or breaking is minimal.

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