Damage Control in laboratory accidents involving glassware

Laboratory glassware comes in different sizes and shapes depending on usage requirements. Common glassware items that you normally come across in laboratories are beakers, flasks, tubes, and vials, measuring cylinders, condensers reagent bottles, Petri dishes, burettes, pipettes, weighing bottles, etc. All such items are delicate and require safe handling practices.

Accidents can, however, occur most unexpectedly leading to the slowdown of laboratory operations, injuries to one or more persons and contamination of laboratory with harmful chemicals or vapors. The present article offers some useful tips for minimizing damage resulting from glassware accidents.

Damage Control in laboratory accidents involving glassware

Laboratory Glassware

The lifting of Broken glassware pieces                                    

The glass is a brittle material and physical or thermal shocks can result in sharp-edged pieces which can lead to cuts and injuries.

  • A heating vessel should always be securely clamped when heating and never held in unprotected hands. If a vessel being heated drops accidentally never put out your hand or foot to break its fall. This can result in serious burns or spills of hot contents on your hands or feet.
  • Do not splash a water stream or pour water over the spill on the floor. It can further aggravate the damage or even spread the spill over a larger area.
  • Flammable liquids should be covered with sand or with foam from fire extinguishers.
  • Lift bigger pieces of broken glass with the help of tongs or forceps and before mopping smaller bits should be lifted using the wet paper towel or absorbent cloth. Cut resistant gloves should be worn for removal of small shards. Neoprene or latex gloves should be avoided as they are not cut resistant.
  • Embedded sharp glass pieces should not be forcibly pulled out from wounds. The wound should be tied with a bandage lightly before expert medical treatment is made available.

Disposal

Broken laboratory glassware in addition to cuts and bruises also can pose chemical or biological contamination and therefore needs sensible disposal.

  • Use puncture-resistant bags for collection and disposal
  • Do not dispose of used or broken reagent bottles in open dumps outside laboratories as these can pose the serious contamination hazard to the unsuspecting public.
  • Chemically contaminated glassware should be labeled Chemical waste and disposed of in drums bearing similar marking before final disposal.
  • Glassware waste from microbiology testing laboratories should be autoclaved before final disposal for the destruction of bacterial contamination. Similarly, the disposal containers should be labeled Biological waste and handed over to specialized biological waste collection agencies.

In all cases, it is necessary to use thick puncture resistant disposal bags which should be placed in tough plastic drums before final disposal.

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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