A laboratory poses potential hazards due to presence of dangerous chemicals, corrosive liquids, poisonous chemicals and toxic gases. However, this should not scare anyone as the dangers can be minimized by adopting laboratory safety measures.
First aid as the name implies is a set of guidelines which can mitigate the damage caused by exposure to chemicals or injury before expert medical help can be provided. All those in the laboratory should be familiar with first-aid practices as these save valuable time and reduce the extent of damage in case of laboratory accidents. Each laboratory should have individuals who have received the first aid training and have certification from local bodies.
Fire hazards were covered earlier and measures were suggested for dealing with different types of laboratory fires. In the present article emergency steps and measures that should be taken in case of other laboratory accidents are discussed.
SOP on First Aid
Each laboratory should have an SOP on first aid which should be prominently displayed in the laboratory. It should contain instructions to be followed in case of laboratory accidents and emergencies.
First Aid Kit
First aid kit should be a dedicated cabinet or box and should contain essential medicines, antiseptic lotions, creams, bandages and sterilised cotton. A person should be made responsible for maintaining a list of the contents and discarding the expired medicines and replacement with fresh stocks.
- Names and contact details of employees holding first aid training certificates
- List of blood groups of all laboratory employees
- Names of employees with any specific allergies
- Telephone numbers of neighbourhood doctors and hospitals
- Emergency contact numbers such as fire brigade service and police
Guidelines for First Aid Providers
- Maintain calm and evacuate the area in case there is impending danger
- Start remedial action to save time before expert medical help can be provided Do not attempt to move around the victim unless he / she is exposed to smoke, fire, hazardous chemicals or vapours. Take proper care in moving to a safe location
- Ensure that the victim is breathing. If breathing stops try artificial mouth- to- mouth or mouth- to- nose respiration
- Do not try to remove deeply embedded metal or glass shreds. Bandage the wounds to control bleeding till medical help arrives.
- Intense bleeding can be stopped by pressing the wound with your thumb
- In case the victim has fainted turn him/her on the side with the face tilted towards the floor to prevent choking by the tounge.
Specific First Aid Tips
Burns – hold the affected skin under a stream of running water for at least 10 – 15 min. Keep the wound open and do not apply any ointment till expert medical help can be provided. In case of strong acid burns after washing with water rinse with dilute ammonia (1 – 2%) or sodium bicarbonate solution.
Caution ! never apply acid or alkali to neutralise the corrosive liquid on the skin. Due to heat of reaction matters can get even more complicated.
Eyes – if corrosive liquid gets splashed into the eyes wash the eyes thoroughly with fresh water using an eye fountain or eye wash bottle
Poisons – dilute the stomach contents by making the casualty drink 1 – 2 glasses of water and try to induce vomiting before poison specific expert medical help can be provided.
It is a good practice that all employees should be provided first aid training and all should be familiarized with use of available safety gear. Senior members of the laboratory should hold periodic safety audits on proper functioning of safety gadgets such as fire extinguishers, safety fountains, eye wash stations and inspect log on replenishment of safety kit contents.