Even with proper precautions, lab accidents do happen. When they do, knowing what safety equipment is in your lab, where it is located, and how to use it can prevent further harm to both the lab and the people working in it.
The Importance of Safety Equipment
Imagine that you're cooking in your kitchen and you burn your hand on the stove. The first thing you do is run to the sink and turn on the cold water to help stop the burning and control the damage to your skin, right?
But what would you do if you were burned by a chemical in a lab? Or something splashed into your eyes? Or noxious fumes were floating out into the air? Or an explosion occurred and started a fire? While lab safety rules try to reduce the occurrence of such accidents, they do still occur. Because of this, there are several types of standard safety equipment in your lab that are specifically designed to mitigate any problems that may arise and possibly cause you harm.
If you take a good look around your lab, you should be able to find these items quite easily, and this is no accident! It's important to know ahead of time where they are because the last thing you want when you're hurt is to have to hunt down whatever it is that will prevent further injury. But it's also important to make sure that these safety items stay accessible at all times. Having to push boxes out of the way or climb over containers will take precious time that you may not have to waste. But even worse, this could cause yet another accident - one that could have easily been prevented.
Types of Safety Equipment
A very important piece of safety equipment that all labs should have is an eye wash station. This is specifically designed to flush your eyes with water, which should be apparent if you look at its design. Water comes out of the two inverted faucets, sprays upward to clean your eyes, and then drains into the sink below.
This is useful for rinsing your eyes, but let's say something instead splashes onto your arm, leg, or torso. In this case, an eye wash station is not going to help you. But as you look around your lab, you'll find something that is specifically designed for washing your body in case of an accident - an emergency shower. This is not your typical shower! There should be a handle that you pull, which quickly activates the shower, sending water out and over your body as you stand underneath.
Every lab will also have a fire extinguisher. This can be used to help put out fires since, just like a grease fire in your kitchen, water is not always the best option! As with all other pieces of safety equipment in a lab, fire extinguishers should be tested or inspected regularly to ensure that they will function properly if they are needed.
Ventilation hoods contain gases, vapors, and fumes, preventing you from inhaling them. Ventilation hoods offer an enormous amount of protection from harmful chemical fumes and should always be used when working with noxious chemicals that are unsafe to breathe in. Of course, a non-working fume hood is pretty useless, so make sure that, like all other safety equipment in your lab, your hood is inspected regularly.
Finally, each lab should also have at least one first aid kit that is fully stocked. Not all lab accidents are extreme enough to warrant the use of the eye wash station, the shower, or the fire extinguisher. Sometimes you just need minor care, like a Band-Aid, some burn gel, or a pair of tweezers. Make sure you know where the first aid kit is stored in case you need to get it for someone else working in the lab. A good thing to keep with the first aid kit is a list of emergency numbers, in case you need to call someone for help or notify someone of the accident.
Unfortunately, even with proper precautions and careful work, lab accidents do happen. When they do, the best thing you can do is make use of the standard safety equipment in your lab. Eye wash stations, showers, and fire extinguishers can help mitigate issues like chemical burns, splashes, and small fires.
Ventilation hoods are best for preventing inhalation of fumes, which will allow you to work with noxious chemicals under safe conditions. Just like any other piece of standard safety equipment, these should be inspected regularly to make sure they won't malfunction at a critical time.
And because not all lab accidents are extreme events, sometimes a first aid kit is all you need. Making sure it's located in an easily accessible place and that it's properly stocked will help if or when its contents are needed. Putting emergency numbers with the first aid kit will also allow you to contact someone who may need to be notified of the accident or injury without delay.
After you've reviewed this video lesson, try to:
- Emphasize the importance of having lab safety equipment that is easily accessible and frequently inspected
- List several types of lab safety equipment, including eye wash stations, showers, fire extinguishers, ventilation hoods and first aid kits