We may sound like your parents, but please consider the
following to ensure a safe laboratory. When talking about
housekeeping common sense usually prevails. One of the many
contributing factors associated with accidents and fires is poor
WHAT TO LOOK IN FOR YOUR LAB:
Keep bulk chemicals stored in cabinets or designated
storage rooms. Only obtain an amount to keep your test or
research going, like a one day supply. This will free up lab
bench space and, if you do have a spill, will minimize the amount
of chemical released.
Keep the lids on chemical containers. This sounds
obvious but it will effectively reduce the possibility of a spill
and reduce any fumes released into your lab.
Maintain a good chemical inventory. Label your
chemical bottles with easily identifiable labels. Keep your
inventory up to date on MyChem. An up to date chemical
inventory will help you keep track of your chemicals. You may not
know this but the inventory may also be used by the fire
department and university personnel who are responding to an
emergency in your lab.
Cleaning Your Lab
As you tidy up your lab and get organized, don't move your
housekeeping problem into the hallway or some other undesirable
location. Recycle paper and cardboard properly where it will
be promptly removed. Unused or spare equipment should be stored
in a designated storage room. Dispose of waste properly. Consider recycling chemicals you no
How cluttered are your lab benches and hoods?
Keep lab benches and hoods as uncluttered as
possible. This may seem impossible when you're conducting
complicated tests or have numerous test samples, but continually
remind yourself to keep things organized.
Keep containers and equipment away from the edge of
benches. Are you reaching over bottles, cultures, etc. to
get to something? Chances are you're about to knock something on
the floor. In October 1998, this happened at a major university
on the East Coast. The resulting fire, as small as it was, ended
up evacuating a number of buildings surrounding the lab.
What about the shelves above your desk or lab bench? Keep
shelving as orderly as possible. A general rule is heavy items on
the lower shelves, lighter items on the upper shelves. Be
realistic about how much equipment and supplies you can store on
shelving. Overloading shelves with infrequently used equipment
and extra lab supplies will likely cause you problems with
falling items when you least suspect it. You could injure
yourself or fellow lab personnel and likely ruin the test or
research you were completing.
Are pathways in your lab unobstructed to the exit?
Keep at least a 3 ft. access path out of your lab area at
all times. It is common for equipment and materials to be
continually moved in, out, and around a laboratory. Have
designated storage spaces for portable equipment and carts that
you routinely use.
In your lab can you see the following items:
- first aid kit,
- fire extinguisher,
- fire alarm pull station,
- eye wash station/shower?
You may not have all these pieces of equipment in your lab,
but the point is: keep emergency equipment in view and
accessible. If this equipment is not in your lab, know where