Essential measures for prevention of harm from laboratory chemicals

Well protected laboratory worker

Well protected laboratory worker

Laboratory chemicals offer a diverse range of hazards to laboratory workers and need to be handled with extreme care. Exposure to such hazardous materials becomes inevitable but adherence to safety guidelines can prevent such exposure and minimize the resulting harm.

The earlier article How laboratory chemicals gain entry into your body discusses the four common groups of entry taken by laboratory chemicals to enter the human body. Such knowledge though essential requires knowledge of steps that should be taken to prevent such exposure. First and foremost you should familiarize with the hazard potential of materials that you are about to handle by reviewing their material safety data sheets .

The article provides some useful tips that will reduce contact, or even eliminate it altogether, with hazardous laboratory materials.

Skin or eye contact

Skin contact can result from exposure to hands, face, eyes or feet.

Hands

Your hands are the most vulnerable to contact with dangerous chemicals not only while working but also during cleanup of laboratory spills.

Use gloves when handling hazardous materials as they provide the required protection in addition to contamination of samples which could affect accuracy of test results. Make the right choice of the glove material to meet the requirement in hand.

Latex gloves offer protection from chlorinated solvents but provide poor protection against acids, bases and common organic solvents. Some individuals can also show allergic reactions to latex gloves

Butadiene rubber gloves show good resistance to most chemicals

Neoprene rubber exhibits good chemical and wear resistance

Nitrile gloves show good resistance to general chemicals

Gloves tend to degrade over a period of time and need to be inspected for holes, tears and cracks before use. Always remove gloves before leaving the laboratory otherwise they can contaminate door handles or other surfaces which are touched by unprotected and unsuspecting individuals.

Feet

Laboratory footwear should offer complete protection. Sandals, perforated shoes, open toe or open heal or high heel footwear should be removed outside and laboratory and laboratory footwear should be worn on entering laboratories. Laboratory footwear should not have slippery soles as these can cause falls on wet or slippery floors.

Eyes

Eyes can suffer temporary or permanent damage due to splashes of hazardous and corrosive chemicals. Safety goggles are recommended routinely but additional protection is provided by chemical splash goggles and face shields. In addition such devices also afford face protection against flying projectiles like broken glass or other solid objects.

Inhalation

It is not advisable to sniff chemicals for their chemical characteristics especially if they are unknown materials. Whenever digestions and corrosive acids or refluxing is required it is advisable to use fume hoods with working exhaust systems. It is advisable to make use of respirators and face masks whenever handling volatile solvents and highly toxic chemicals.

Oral Ingestion

Like sniffing it is not advisable to taste any substance for identification. Mouth pipetting is a dangerous practice as it can lead to accidental intake of hazardous materials. Consumption of foods and beverages is strictly prohibited inside laboratories. Similarly laboratory glassware should never be used for preparing tea or coffee or consumption of juices or cold drinks. Storage of food items in laboratory refrigerators can prove dangerous and similarly food items should never be heated in laboratory ovens.

Injection

Injection of chemicals is generally not deliberate but can occur accidentally when handling contaminated syringe needles or shreds of broken glass. Such materials require to be handled carefully and that too never with bare hands.

It is strongly recommended that hands should be washed with soap and water before leaving the laboratory even if you have made use of gloves. This practice will ensure freedom from laboratory contamination for yourself and those with whom you are likely to come in contact.

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.

Comments

  1. Farahnaz Hobbi Alidash says:

    hi i do my first exam for hplc i want to lnow when i can receve my score in exam
    thank you

    • Hope you are referring to exam or evaluation sessions in certificate course on HPLC. After attempting the session and on submission you should get instantaneous display of your score on your screen.In case you are still not getting the result please do let us know.

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