Essential considerations for working alone in laboratories

 Lone worker in a laboratory

Lone worker in a laboratory

It is an established fact that your efficiency and concentration are at their peak levels when there is no one around to distract you. This belief holds true when you are studying for your examinations or working in office but it holds true only to an extent when working alone in the laboratory. Laboratories are places which pose hazards due to presence of corrosive liquids, toxic chemicals, harmful bacteria, radioactive sources, flammable materials, compressed gases and electrical equipments. Laboratory safety covers procedures and practices for conducting safe laboratory operations and practices.

A word of advice for everyone is to work in laboratories in groups or at least when another co-worker is around. However, you may be forced to work alone due to work schedule urgencies or nature of the experiment in hand. In such situations it is advisable to follow the suggested guidelines to ensure safety and avoid laboratory accidents.

  • It is a good practice to review the procedure or nature of your work in advance with your research guide or laboratory in- charge whose approval should be taken before proceeding to work. Further you should adopt only validated and documented procedures. It is certainly not the right time to try the out new and unauthorized experimental methods. Follow the prescribed procedures only and do not take short cuts to save time.
  • Make sure in advance that the equipment you are required to use is available and in working order. You will save yourself a lot of undue stress if all glassware, standards and reagents are kept ready in advance.
  • Handle all glassware with extra caution and do not make use of any chipped or cracked glass items
  • Most laboratories have a check-in and check-out procedure. Make the mandatory entries in laboratory registers or use electronic entry cards wherever available and do inform the security personnel especially when working in night or during laboratory holidays. It becomes the responsibility of security to keep a check on you from time to time to make sure everything is fine in the lab.
  • Make sure that emergency contact numbers are available in the laboratory. These numbers should include contact details of laboratory in- charge, security staff, nearest hospital, fire and police stations.
  • Keep your research co-workers or your colleagues informed of your intent to work in the lab. You should have their contact numbers and make sure that someone or the other makes a call in between to check on you to ensure if all is going well.
  • Check on first aid box in advance to ensure that emergency remedies are available and are within their expiry dates. It is also equally important that you are aware of location of Master safety data sheets in the laboratory.
  • Make yourself aware of emergency exit routes especially in multi-storeyed laboratory buildings
  • Do not get tempted to prepare coffee or tea in laboratory glassware thinking that you are alone and it will go unnoticed. This can lead to serious consequences as laboratory glassware cannot be guaranteed to be contamination free.
  • Lastly avoid the temptation to chat with your girlfriend, boyfriend or other close contacts. This can only add to distractions which may introduce errors in your observations or even lead to mishaps.

In the end it can be concluded that you should work alone in laboratories only if it becomes absolutely essential because you have to shoulder the entire responsibility for your own safety as well as accidental damages to the premises.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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