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ZingPath: Introduction to Earth and Space Science

Laboratory Safety

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Lesson Focus

Laboratory Safety

Earth & Space Science

Learning Made Easy

Students learn about laboratory safety rules in this interactive activity.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Demonstrate safe practices during laboratory investigations.
  • Demonstrate conservation of resources and the proper disposal or recycling of materials.

Everything You'll Have Covered

While all laboratories are different and may require different safety protocols, everyone must follow a few basic rules when using a laboratory. For one, food and drink should never be brought into the laboratory. Food may become contaminated with chemical or biological agents or may cause damage to lab equipment. For example, a drink spilled on electrical equipment may cause a short circuit, and food residue might attract vermin.

Proper attire is always required in the lab. Proper attire includes closed-toe shoes that cover the foot, appropriate gloves, and a lab coat, preferably long enough to cover the knees. Eyeglasses, rather than contact lenses, should be worn in the lab, and safety goggles should be worn over eyeglasses.

Scalpels and other cutting instruments used in biology experiments, as well as broken glass, may cause cuts. To prevent injury, all cutting tools should be used correctly and carefully and put away when no longer in use. In addition, students should report broken glass to the teacher immediately and avoid handling the glass themselves. Extremely hot or cold objects, such as a heated flask or liquid nitrogen, should be handled with proper gear, such as an insulating glove or a pair of tongs. In physics labs, any electrical equipment used should be turned off immediately after use, and wires should not be exposed. Students should avoid placing equipment and appliances close to the edges of a lab bench because equipment that falls may sustain damage or injure a student.

The solutions used in chemistry require extreme caution. Students should never taste, touch, or smell a chemical reagent. Instead, students should waft the vapors by waving a hand over the mouth of the bottle. Some chemicals emit noxious fumes or vapors, and must be used inside a fume hood, a partially enclosed ventilation system. All reagent jars should be closed immediately after use, and excess chemicals should be disposed of properly. Regulations may vary state by state and district by district, but the proper procedure for disposal, and the locations to dispose of different types of waste, should be explained to students.

Labs may be equipped with Bunsen burners, which produce an open gas flame fed by a gas line. Students should use caution around the open flame, including tying back long hair and avoiding loose clothing. A burner flame left on too long may cause a fire, or a liquid heating on the burner can boil over and extinguish the flame. This is still a dangerous situation even though there is no flame because the burner will still emit a flammable gas into the lab, which can cause a fire or an explosion. For this reason, the gas line valve must be turned off immediately.

In case of a fire or chemical spill, students should be able to locate and use emergency equipment. This may include the fire extinguisher, safety shower, eyewash station, fire blanket, and first-aid kit. In case of a small chemical burn, students should immediately go to the eyewash station or sink and then tell a teacher. Larger spills may require the use of a safety shower. Students should be able to locate Material Safety Data Sheets and use the information in them. In addition, procedures should be in place for exiting the lab during school fire drills. For example, students should turn off all gas lines and electrical equipment, and close jars of chemical reagents.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 20 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Learners should know how to use the apparatus and equipment relevant to their science course.
Course Earth & Space Science
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary biology, chemistry, disposal