Tips to Make Lab Safety Training a Success

Every lab has its own unique set of safety guidelines and operating procedures. As high schools, universities, and other academic institutions get back into session, thousands of science labs will be filled with students and staff who may need some time to internalize all of these new rules. In addition, they are getting the hang of their roles, responsibilities, and research assignments.

Having all of your staff take a look at your lab safety manual, even if they have already seen it before, keeps the concept of safety at the forefront. Adding a step where they sign a rules agreement can confirm that they understand acceptable and prohibited behavior while in the lab.

Research shows that writing things down boosts memory. And, using checklists for systematic processes vastly improves their effectiveness. Below are some common guidelines and procedures lab professionals and lab students need to be aware of. Use them as inspiration for your own training program, then download our free worksheet for staff and students to take notes during orientation.

Four Lab Safety Process Reminders

Common practices banned in laboratories are: storing or consuming food and beverages, smoking, and excessive phone use. Keep these rules and other notifications top of mind by placing warning signs in high visibility areas around the lab.

The beginning of the school year is also a great time to let everyone know that their workspaces should be kept clean and clear since safety drills or unannounced inspections can occur at any time.
Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) needs to be available at all times to cover the maximum number of people who might use the lab at once. Always reserve a portion of the operating budget for new emergency response equipment or maintenance to existing equipment in case of a spill or expiration.
Proper spacing is important when it comes to chemical storage since dangerous situations can arise when different substances come into contact with each other. If you have not already, make sure there is enough clearance between containers and that they are secured both on the shelves and that there is proper ventilation in the storage room. Follow all safety data sheet instructions for proper storage of chemicals.
Keeping your chemical inventory database up to date can prevent you from over-ordering things you already have, or alert you when you are starting to run low on certain items. It also ensures proper storage is available for all items.
When orders do come in, properly label all chemicals to ensure that two substances are unknowingly mixed that might react badly with each other. Check against the invoice to make sure the order is correct.
Simple Spill Clean-up
All lab workers should know the lab’s spill response procedure so that all required steps are taken in reporting, containing, neutralizing, and cleaning up a spill. Doing so keeps personal health and safety at its highest, and prevents further potential damage to the lab.
Being able to clean up a simple spill relatively quickly is important when it comes to lab safety, especially if you do not know exactly what was spilled. Amphomag® is a universal spill neutralizer with a rapid response chemistry that safely adsorbs and treats spills. It contains an innovative multi-range pH indicator that turns red when applied to an acid and blue when applied to a base. Once the mixture turns yellow/green, it is neutralized and ready for disposal. Download our free spill cleanup infographic here.
Care and Maintenance
One of the most critical rules of lab safety is to use extreme care during an experiment. Students and staff should never leave an experiment unattended. It only takes a few seconds for a controllable error to turn into a major crisis in the lab. If workers are not paying attention to their experiments, there may not be a chance to use emergency response equipment before a small fire or minor spill turns into something much worse.
Another aspect of care and maintenance is the adoption of an everyday routine that systematically keeps the lab clean, safe, and organized. Develop a checklist for those opening the lab in the morning and another one for those leaving the lab for the night.

For example, before leaving the lab for the night: ensure all freezer and refrigerator doors are fully closed and unplug all hot plates, dry baths, water baths, and burners.
You can never be too safe in a lab environment. Download our worksheet to get your new staff and students on board with your policies and procedures.