Numerous texts have been written on laboratory safety .You are likely to come across several safety devices and wall posters in almost every laboratory irrespective of its size or scope of activities. It goes without saying that laboratory safety is of paramount importance but an aspect which often gets overlooked is laboratory discipline which does impact safety as well.
Discipline is a personal quality and is difficult to enforce. In the laboratory environment disciplined conduct assumes a much greater significance because of presence of materials that expose you and others to potential health risks
- Corrosive chemicals and fumes
- Poisonous substances
- Fire and Explosion hazards
- Electrical and mechanical hazards
- Biological material hazards
- Radioactive materials
It is mandatory to follow recommended safety instructions to handle such materials but it is equally important that one carries out all laboratory activities with responsibility. It is generally observed that indiscipline in the laboratory arises mainly due to attitudinal issues:
Overconfidence – I cannot be wrong and nothing can happen to me. Even if I make a mistake none will come to know about it.
Arrogance – I do not care attitude
Irresponsible behaviour – I’m not the only one working in the laboratory. Others are also liable to make mistakes so why should I alone be bothered.
Lack of sense of belonging – In case there is any material loss or injury to others how does it matter to me.
It is criminal to harbour such negative thoughts. You need to have a positive attitude and feel responsible for self and others around you before you decide on a career in a laboratory.
Some common guidelines are provided which are not difficult to adopt. All you need is a flexible attitude and concern for yourself as well as those around you:
- Do not consume drinks or snacks inside the laboratory. You cannot be sure if these have been contaminated. Even otherwise spillages can damage test instruments or laboratory records
- Do not engage others in conversation, jokes, arguments or even physical conflicts. Such actions can slow down the laboratory activities and can result in accidents leading to instrument breakdowns or dangerous spills
- Smoking is strictly prohibited as naked flames can result in fires in presence of flammable vapours
- Do not use mobiles inside laboratory as these can distract others
- Wear protective clothing, safety glasses and gloves when performing hazardous operations. A laboratory is not the right place to show off your designer wear and style.
- Make use of fume hoods and safety cabinets while performing acid digestions or handling poisonous substances
- Do not pour corrosive and poisonous chemicals or organic waste into the wash basin. Use only assigned receptacles.
- After use keep the reagents and chemicals in their designated places so that others do not waste their time trying to locate them and your work bench does not give a messy appearance
- Wear shoe covers or use special slippers as street shoes can contaminate sensitive areas of the lab.
Discipline is a two-way process. If you set an example others will also feel concerned and are likely to follow. In the process your lab will become a safe place and its productivity will also improve.
Please do share your opinion and leave your valuable comments on the article.