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Oklahoma State University

General Laboratory Safety Rules

A standard list of basic laboratory safety rules are given below, and must be followed in every laboratory that uses hazardous materials or processes. These basic rules provide behavior, hygiene, and safety information to avoid accidents in the laboratory.  Laboratory specific safety rules may be required for specific processes, equipment, and materials, which should be addressed by laboratory specific SOPs.

Basic Safety Rules

Basic safety rules for laboratory conduct should be observed whenever working in a laboratory. Many of the most common safety rules are listed below.

  • Know locations of laboratory safety showers, eyewashstations, and fire extinguishers. The safety equipment may be located in the hallway near the laboratory entrance.
  • Know emergency exit routes.
  • Avoid skin and eye contact with all chemicals.
  • Minimize all chemical exposures.
  • No horseplay will be tolerated.
  • Assume that all chemicals of unknown toxicity are highly toxic.
  • Post warning signs when unusual hazards, hazardous materials, hazardous equipment, or other special conditions are present.
  • Avoid distracting or startling persons working in the laboratory.
  • Use equipment only for its designated purpose.
  • Combine reagents in their appropriate order, such as adding acid to water.
  • Avoid adding solids to hot liquids.
  • All laboratory personnel should place emphasis on safety and chemical hygiene at all times.
  • Never leave containersof chemicals open.
  • All containersmust have appropriate labels. Unlabeled chemicals should never be used.
  • Do not taste or intentionally sniff chemicals.
  • Never consume and/or store food or beverages or apply cosmetics in areas where hazardous chemicalsare used or stored.
  • Do not use mouth suction for pipetting or starting a siphon.
  • Wash exposed areas of the skin prior to leaving the laboratory.
  • Long hair and loose clothing must be pulled back and secured from entanglement or potential capture.
  • No contact lenses should be worn around hazardous chemicals – even when wearing safety glasses.
  • Laboratory safety glasses or goggles should be worn in any area where chemicals are used or stored. They should also be worn any time there is a chance of splashes or particulates to enter the eye. Closed toe shoes will be worn at all times in the laboratory. Perforated shoes or sandals are not appropriate.
  • Determine the potential hazards and appropriate safety precautions before beginning any work.
  • Procedures should be developed that minimize the formation and dispersion of aerosols.
  • If an unknown chemical is produced in the laboratory, the material should be considered hazardous.
  • Do not pour chemicals down drains. Do NOT utilize the sewer for chemical waste disposal.
  • Keep all sink traps (including cup sink traps and floor drains) filled with water by running water down the drain at least monthly.
  • Do not utilize fume hoods for evaporations and disposal of volatile solvents.
  • Perform work with hazardous chemicalsin a properly working fume hoodto reduce potential exposures.
  • Avoid working alone in a building. Do not work alone in a laboratory if the procedures being conducted are hazardous.
  • The PEL and the Threshold Limit Values (TLV) will be observed in all areas. If exposure above a PEL/TLV is suspected for an ongoing process, please contact EHS immediately.
  • Laboratory employees should have access to a chemical inventory list, applicable SDSs, Department Laboratory Safety Manual, and relevant SOPs.
  • Access to laboratories and support areas such as stockrooms, specialized laboratories, etc. should be limited to approved personnel only.
  • All equipment should be regularly inspected for wear or deterioration.
  • Equipment should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s requirements and records of certification, maintenance, or repairs should be maintained for the life of the equipment.
  • Designated and well-marked waste storage locations are necessary.
  • No cell phone or ear phone usage in the active portion of the laboratories, or during experimental operations.
  • Clothing made of synthetic fibers should not be worn while working with flammable liquids or when a fire hazard is present as these materials tend to melt and stick to exposed skin.
  • Laboratory coats should not be stored in offices or break rooms as this spreads contaminates to other areas.
  • Computers and instrumentation should be labeled to indicate whether gloves should be worn or not. Inconsistent glove use around keyboards/keypads is a source of potential contamination.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry in the lab as this can pose multiple safety hazards.

Laboratory Specific Safety Rules

Safety rules for laboratory specific operations will be provided in appropriate laboratory SOPs.