Contamination, Inhalation & Other Lab Hazards You Can Prevent
There is nothing like a hands-on approach for students to tackle a subject. Working cooperatively to apply new concepts is the best way to gain in-depth knowledge and further one’s career later on. That said, this practice can incur certain problems, especially when working in a lab filled with fumes, gasses and chemicals. Most laboratories face safety challenges on a daily basis. There are conditions and situations that might lead to slips, trips, falls, inhalation of dangerous substances, electrical hazards, you name it. In order to minimize any and all risks to human health and wellbeing, we are required to evaluate the entire experiment and the environment alike. Chemicals used and produced, tools, equipment, procedures and awareness all factor into this equation. Here are some of the most important points to go through in order to bring our safety levels to their max.
Know your signs
A laboratory is a place where dangerous events of any kind can occur, we have stressed this enough. Often enough, people can be unaware of some or all of them. This is where standardized signs come into play. To give us adequate warning of a possible hazard situation, hazard signs need to be placed at relevant locations. One must assume that no matter how intuitive the signs are, some people might not understand them. It is good practice to associate a sentence or two with each sign in order to give them more context. Courses in safety should always encompass sign recognition to expand on the knowledge base. The ‘Gloves required’ is the most obvious one and pretty self-explanatory. It warns us that we are dealing with dangerous substances or objects and need adequate protection in the form of plastic gloves. Plastic gloves dispensers are present in all laboratories and hospitals. Biohazards are microorganisms that are able to harm or even kill other living organisms. These include viruses, contagious bacteria, toxins and other harmful types. These warnings are usually found in biochemistry laboratories and in hospitals on hypodermic needle packages. High voltage sign is one that is much more common because even outside of a laboratory, we are always dealing with electricity. It means that voltage is at such high levels in this particular circuit that it can kill all living organisms that come into contact with it. Safety procedures and equipment required for mitigating contact risks are a whole story on their own and need to be observed. These are just some of the most common signs that we can encounter, and there are plenty more of them.
There are two primary types of burns that are relevant in this topic and those are heat and chemical burns. Tools are required for handling hot items to avoid mild discomforts and serious burns alike. Personel needs to be taught how to properly use tongs, water baths and other equipment specific to their laboratory that serves the purpose of mitigating burn risk. Hot surfaces may not be instantly apparent to an untrained eye, so caution is always advised. As far as chemical burns go, we have already covered protective plastic gloves in the previous chapter. They are essential when handling chemicals that always need to be treated with caution. Chemicals can potentially be irritating in nature and specialized and approved containers must often be used. Storage is another important factor to consider. Depending on the type of object of chemical in question, different types of storage appliances need to be present. Metals can corrode, and vaccines can expire if not stored correctly. Materials that react to the presence of moisture should be stored in dry areas and vaccines require specialized refrigerators like the ones from Thermoline Scientific Equipment, for example.
If a laboratory is poorly ventilated gases can be accidentally inhaled with unknown consequences. It might range from headaches, nausea to fainting. Personel needs to be informed on proper procedures for opening windows and operating ventilation fans. Equipment for measuring the amounts of gas emission in a room is also a must as it offers clear indicators to the danger levels in a room.
Contamination can occur in several different forms whether it be through inhalation, physical contact or consumption. The most basic procedure our personnel can follow is washing their hands. Before and after interacting with any foreign objects or substances, they should observe proper decontamination techniques. Not only is it for their own health and wellbeing, but it is also relevant for the objects that are being worked on. There is also a number of tools an apparel choices that can help with this, depending on the type of laboratory in question. Aprons, gloves, safety glasses, helmets, you name it. These all serve a common purpose, to protect the individual from unforeseen occurrences that may cause injuries.
There are many categories of hazards that could occur in a laboratory setting. The situation changes frequently and there is always a possibility that something unexpected can happen. These principles and assets will help us protect ourselves from dangers that can be encountered in the workplace as well as an educational setting.