This section of the online hazard manual for the Lower Division Biology Program
describes general safety considerations for students and instructors in a teaching
laboratory environment. Even though many of these are commonsense guidelines,
you should be familiar with them before engaging in, or teaching, a laboratory
Fostering a Safe Lab Climate
Common Lab Emergencies
First Aid Guidelines
Lab Equipment Checklist
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Safety information, commonsense, patience and cleanliness prevent most
accidents. Failing to follow guidelines may result in injury and equipment damage.
REPORT accidents or other lab emergencies to any of the Lower Division Staff
listed on the Lower Division Staff contact page.
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Fostering A Safe Lab Climate:
The instructor is the key to maintaining a positive safety attitude in the laboratory.
The trick is to encourage laboratory safety without creating a fearful climate.
Successful lab exercises rely on everyone taking responsibility for safety.
● Know the safety procedures, potential hazards and precautions for each
experiment before teaching or conducting a laboratory exercise.
● Know the location and operation of emergency equipment, what emergency
procedures are appropriate and how to summon assistance if needed.
● Understand the chemical hazards and precautions specified in the pertinent
● Explain each experiment and alert others to possible hazards before they
begin the lab.
● Foster a serious attitude toward lab content and safety. Supervise students
closely while encouraging respect for safety.
Safety guidelines are often ignored. Include safety guidelines in instructions to
students and make periodic reminders as needed.
● Wear comfortable, inexpensive clothing or a lab coat.
● Do not wear sandals or open-toe shoes.
● Confine long hair and remove dangling jewelry.
Turn off equipment when finished:
● Turn off hot plates and gas lines when not in use.
Cleanup when you are finished:
● Clean work surfaces after each lab.
● Clean glassware before you leave.
● Wash your hands before leaving.
Handle chemicals carefully:
● Do not sniff chemicals!
● Wear goggles.
● Do not mouth pipet liquids!
Watch what you do in the lab.
● Do not eat, drink or use a tobacco product in a lab.
● Never eat or drink from laboratory glassware.
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Common Lab Emergencies:
A lab emergency requires the instructor to: Evaluate the situation, notify
appropriate personnel, evacuate the lab if necessary and control the problem if
Do not ignore an alarm! Assume it is an emergency and evacuate.
● Use the posted exit. DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR!
● Direct students to gather at the end of the library cul-de-sac
north of the building.
● Turn off gas jets, close windows, unlock and close lab doors.
● Join students in the assembly area and take roll. Report
missing students to response personnel.
● Wait for clearance before returning to the lab.
Wheelchair bound students need special assistance.
● Move the wheelchair bound person to a fire secure area. In Heldenfels hall,
secure areas are the stairwell landings if they are smoke free and the fire
doors are closed.
● Place the person out of the way of foot traffic. Use a cell phone or walkie
talkie to send someone to request professional assistance.
● When speaking to an emergency responder, identify the person’s condition
and location (i.e. “there is a wheelchair bound person in need of assistance
on the 3rd floor landing of the north stairwell”). Let rescue personnel handle
Know the location and operating instruction of the lab fire
extinguisher. It is rated A-B-C for electrical fires, combustibles
and flammable liquids. If a fire occurs DO NOT PANIC!
● Send a student to notify the staff who will issue an alert and
● Evacuate the lab and close doors, windows and hood sashes. Turn off gas
● Confirm the staff has been notified before you leave for the assembly area.
FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSTRUCTIONS
Do not try to extinguish a large fire. If a fire is small, you may
choose to try to control it. Stay at least eight feet away from
burning liquids and four feet away from other types of fires.
● Lift the extinguisher off its bracket, hold it upright and
remove the pin from the handle.
● Point it at the base of the fire, and squeeze the trigger until
the retardant is ejected. Some extinguishers have an O2 "cap"
which may cause an initial flare-up. If this happens, DO NOT PANIC.
Trigger the extinguisher until the retardant is released.
● Invert the extinguisher to obtain additional pressure if needed.
Biological hazards are materials that might be infectious.
● Look for warnings on materials used to transport, handle, or
store potentially infectious agents.
● Use leakproof color-coded bags and autoclave prior to
● Sterilize equipment and surfaces after contact with possibly infectious
agents. If autoclaving is not possible, rinse materials with a germicidal
detergent or 10% bleach solution.
● Use appropriate protective gear (gloves, lab coat, goggles etc).
Check the first aid section for tips on handling accidents. Improperly
discarded sharp waste may injure members of the custodial staff.
USE THE GLASS DISCARD CONTAINER for glass sharps
waste. Use the METAL WASTE DISCARD for all other sharps waste. Report
any injury accidents.
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Know the hazards associated with a chemical before using it. Read the labels,
MSDSs and chemical hazard summaries. While most chemicals used in the Lower
Division labs are not hazardous, some flammable solvents, poisons, corrosive
acids, caustic bases and biohazards are used. Be prepared for an emergency.
Locate and know how to use the spill control materials before an accident occurs.
CHEMICAL SPILL CONTROL GUIDELINES
In a serious spill, evacuate the lab before starting the cleanup. Wear
the personal protective devices(respirator, goggles, gloves, lab coat)
specified by the MSDS. Refer to the MSDS for cleanup procedures.
Absorbents used for hazardous chemical cleanup are must also be
treated as hazardous materials. Since chemicals often generate
fumes, open windows during cleanup. Check the spill control center in the lab for
materials to cleanup spills. See the technical staff for assistance during a major
It is safest to assume chemicals are toxic unless you know otherwise.
In a toxic spill, ventilate and evacuate the lab. Wear protective gear
and follow the cleanup procedures given in the MSDS. Avoid
contact since many toxicants are rapidly absorbed. Small amounts
may cause tissue damage or organic dysfunction if absorbed,
ingested, inhaled or injected. Local toxicity occurs at the exposure
site while systemic toxicity occurs after absorption by the
bloodstream. Acute toxicity results from a single exposure while chronic toxicity
is the cumulative effect over time. Symptoms may not develop until after
permanent damage occurs.
Fires need fuel, an ignition source and oxygen to burn. Fire control
eliminates one or more of these elements. The MSDS describes
protective gear and cleanup procedures. Place cleanup materials in
an airtight bag to limit exposure to fumes and handle as hazardous
materials. Flammable organic solvents have vapors which may form
ignitable mixtures in air. This mixture can travel to distant ignition sources so it is
essential that ignition sources be controlled. Powders may be an explosive hazard
if mixed with air in a confined space.
Open windows to increase ventilation and use appropriate materials
to neutralize acid or base spills. Slowly add neutralizer to the spill,
working from the perimeter inward until the spill is neutralized.
Neutralized slurry measures pH 7 when checked with pH paper.
Scoop neutralized material into a disposal bag. Wipe surfaces with a
sponge and put the sponge, scoop and gloves in the bag to be disposed of in
accordance with local regulations. Always wear the protective gear specified by
the MSDS when handling acids or bases.
Contact injuries from acids range from mild irritation to disruption of body
tissues. Damage may be caused by chemical reactions, dissolution of essential
components, protein destruction or disruption of cellular membranes.
Concentrated alkaline, or base, solutions may be more damaging than acids.
Initial contact may not be painful but alkalis gelatinize tissue forming soluble
compounds that cause deep, painful, penetrating burns. Relatively dilute solutions
dissolve skin fats, soften the epidermis and sensitize the skin. Splash or vapor
exposure to the eyes is highly destructive and more difficult to remove than acids.
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First Aid Guidelines:
Lab emergencies may include: thermal and corrosive burns, vapor inhalation, cuts,
fainting, poisoning and electrical shock. A prepared instructor will know the first
aid guidelines and the location of emergency response materials. Do not move an
accident victim unless there is danger of further injury. If a victim must be moved,
immobilize the injured area, protect the head from injury, and hold the feet to drag
the victim away from danger. Prepare to treat for shock. Shock symptoms include:
pallor, a cool "clammy" forehead and dizziness. To treat for shock:
● Place the victim on the floor and cover with a coat or blanket.
● Elevate the victim's legs.
● If a limb is bleeding, bandage it securely and elevate it above the level of
the heart until medical assistance arrives.
● Reassure the victim and remain calm.
If someone's clothing ignites, make the victim STOP, DROP AND
ROLL! Cover the flames with a jacket or fire blanket and "pat" or
"roll" the person to smother the fire. Do not let an ignited person
stand in a fire blanket because it may funnel hot gases to the eyes
and respiratory tract. Remove loose, smoldering, clothing. Do not remove clothing
that is adhered to the skin. Cover severe burns with a sterile dressing and wait for
medical aid. Minor burns may be treated in the lab. Immerse the burned area in
cool water until the pain is relieved. Do not apply ointment. Minor burns may be
left uncovered. Refer the student to the Health Center for additional care.
Read the MSDS sheets and product labels to learn the first aid
procedures, health hazards and physical hazards for the chemicals
used in each exercise. It is more important to treat a chemical burn
immediately than it is to move the victim to a medical facility.
Prepare for a chemical contact emergency by locating and knowing
how to operate emergency eyewash units and showers. In most cases
an eyewash unit or sink will provide adequate flushing of affected areas.
Chemical splashes and vapors may cause permanent eye damage.
Damage may be minimized by immediately rinsing the eyes for at
least 15 minutes with cold water. Hold the victim's eyelids open to
completely flush the eyes.
Chemicals may cause severe burns. Immediately flush skin with
cold water. Remove contaminated clothing (including socks and
shoes) and rinse at least 10x as long as the chemical was in contact
with the skin. Since water-reactive chemicals may react with skin
moisture, brush off solid pieces before rinsing with water.
Assume blood or body fluids are infected with bloodborne
pathogens. Students with open wounds should not participate in
class unless bandages are applied. Wear disposable gloves if
contact with body fluids is anticipated. For minor cuts, provide
materials and let the person provide self-care. Otherwise:
● Remove glass or debris. Wash the cut with soap and water. Apply antiseptic,
cover with a sterile bandage and refer the student to the Health Center.
● For severe bleeding: Use sterile bandage, direct pressure, elevate injury and
apply ice. Use a tourniquet only if bleeding cannot be halted by other
methods and medical aid is available. Stay calm, be reassuring and prepare
to treat for shock.
● Wash all skin surfaces that contact blood or body fluids with soap and
● Place disposable items that have contacted blood or body fluids in a
biohazard bag and label it infectious waste for proper disposal. Wash
surfaces and materials that contact blood with a 10% bleach solution.
Review the MSDS before using a chemical. Poisoning may occur by
ingestion, inhalation, skin absorption or injection. Limit chemical
exposure by promptly irrigating contact areas with large amounts of
water. Wear protective clothing when handling chemicals.
POISONING BY SKIN CONTACT - Chemicals may irritate skin
and mucous membranes. Many easily absorbed chemicals have
systemic effects. Toxicants are rapidly spread by the circulatory and
lymphatic systems once they enter via hair follicles, sweat glands or
open wounds. Clothing contamination increases chemical exposure
by concentrating the chemical in localized areas. Most chemicals cause irritation,
pain or vision loss if they contact the eyes. Always flush exposed areas with cold
water for at least 15 minutes.
POISONING BY INGESTION - Since only trace amounts can be
ingested by swallowing contaminated air, the primary route of
entry is purposeful or accidental ingestion. This is often treated
with liquids (never give liquids to an unconscious person). Get
medical aid if toxic or corrosive chemicals are ingested.
● Dilute acids with large amounts of water. With medical
approval, a sodium bicarbonate solution may be used to neutralize the acid. Do
not induce vomiting!
● Dilute alkalies with large amounts of water. With medical approval, a
vinegar solution may be used to neutralize the base. Do not induce
POISONING BY INHALING VAPORS - The lung's surface
area is greater than 100 square meters and inhaled toxicants are
rapidly absorbed by the bloodstream. The chemical absorption rate
increases with the respiration rate. Some toxicants give sensory
warnings (pain or odor) that allow immediate action to be taken.
However, significant damage may occur before the danger is
detected and since olfactory fatigue may prevent detection, sensory warning
should not be used as the primary defense for inhalation hazards.
● Move the victim to fresh air and provide respiratory aid if needed. Get
● Open windows to ventilate the room.
POISONING BY INJECTION - It is possible to inject toxins
without a hyperdermic syringe. The equivalent of a deliberate
injection may occur from a cut caused by chemically contaminated
glass or metal.
Electrical shock may occur if students misuse equipment, put
implements into electric outlets, damage power cords, etc. Be
prepared for an electrical shock accident. Do not touch anyone in
contact with "live" wires!
● Turn off the power at the lab circuit breaker box.
● Remove the source of the shock.
● Provide artificial respiration if needed.
● Summon medical assistance.
Fainting episodes occur during "flu" outbreaks and exams. Some students may
faint after "sniffing" a chemical and others may have a medical condition that
causes fainting or seizures. Summon medical assistance whenever
anyone is rendered unconscious.
Do not restrain a seizure victim. Pad nearby furniture to reduce
the chances of the person being injured during the event. Do not place anything in
a the victim's mouth. Check respiration after the episode. The victim may be
disoriented or embarrassed afterwards so remain calm and reassuring. Most
individuals who faint do not experience seizures. Remain calm and evaluate the
situation. Summon medical assistance.
● Limit head, neck or spinal cord injury by keeping the victim still. Do not
unnecessarily move the individual.
● If needed, clear the airway and assist respiration.
● Treat for shock if needed.
● Inform medics of any unusual symptoms or possible injuries.
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Lab Safety Equipment Checklist:
An adequately equipped laboratory will have these emergency response materials
Chemical Spill Response Center which includes:
● Inert solvent absorbent (vermiculite)
● Acid neutralizer
● Alkali neutralizer
● Rubber apron
● Rubber gloves
● Chemical cartridge respirator and dust masks
● Rubber shoe covers
● Plastic scoop
● Waste disposal bag and labels
An adequately equipped lab will also have:
● Material Safety Data Sheet File
● Well stocked first aid kit
● Eyewash unit
● Emergency shower available
● Fire extinguisher
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