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Lab Safety for Students

For the safety of students and instructors, the following general rules are to be followed for all laboratories, machine shop and studio courses. A written policy specific to each type of lab, such as chemistry, human physiology, dental hygiene, phlebotomy photography, machine processes, etc., must be given to students on the first day of each lab course. Each specific policy should be at least as restrictive as this general policy and may be more stringent depending on each department's needs.


Safety instructions and procedures for each experiment are given at the beginning of the lab period. For your protection and that of others, you must be present to hear this information. If you are not, you may not be allowed to do the experiment and will receive no credit for the lab. Never perform unauthorized or unsupervised experiments. Never enter the lab unless an instructor or a paraprofessional is present.


Chemical splash goggles meeting OSHA requirements ANSI Z87-1-1979 are sold in the campus bookstores. These goggles must be worn in chemistry laboratories at all times and in other laboratories using extremely hazardous substances even if you yourself are not engaged in an experiment at the moment. If you wear eyeglasses, most goggles will fit over them. Goggles are to be put on as soon as you enter the lab. Do not remove them until you are ready to leave the lab. If you do not follow the rules for wearing safety goggles, you will be asked to leave the lab and will receive a zero for the day's experiment. In certain biology and Allied and Rehabilitative Health laboratories, other suitable eyewear may be used at the discretion of the instructor and department chair.

It is unsafe to wear contact lenses in the lab. A chemical splashed into the eye will be trapped against the cornea by the contact lens, increasing the likelihood of eye damage. Vapors such as hydrogen chloride or ammonia are absorbed by some lenses and can cause severe irritation or injury. You are strongly advised not to wear contacts in the lab. If possible, you should wear ordinary glasses under your goggles or other suitable eyewear.

Chemical eye injuries are best treated by prompt and prolonged flushing with water. Your instructor will demonstrate the use of the eye wash fountain. If you get something in your eye, have someone lead you the eyewash immediately. If you see someone else in trouble, bring that person to the eyewash. Hold the eye open in the stream of water to get complete flushing of the eye and flush for 15 minutes or more. Report any eye injury or irritation to your lab instructor immediately.


Wear only appropriate clothing in the lab. Not allowed are loose flowing sleeves or blouses, bulky jewelry, scarves, shorts, miniskirts, bare feet, sandals and open toe shoes. Required are tight long sleeves or short sleeves, slacks or mid-length skirts and regular shoes or sneakers. Wear a plastic apron over your clothing to protect you from corrosive or hot liquids. Keep purses and book bags out of the way. Hang outerwear on the coat rack; do not leave it on the benches.


No food or drink of any kind are allowed in the lab. Even wrapped candy, gum or cigarettes may not be put on benchtops because they may become contaminated. Smoking is banned throughout the College and it is never allowed in any laboratories due to the obvious hazard presented by flammable liquids and gases. Do not put anything that has been in the lab, such as a pen, in your mouth. Wash your hands before leaving lab to avoid carrying toxic materials out with you.


Your instructor will show you how to light a Bunsen burner and how to avoid strike back, or burning of gas at the base of the burner. Do not leave the burner on when it is not needed and be careful that it does not ignite your hair or clothing. Turn off the main gas valve when the burner is off. Any object you heat remains a burn hazard for some time, so treat all glassware, iron rings and clamps as if they are hot. The Bunsen burner, especially if there has been strike back, can also become very hot.


When dispensing chemicals, read the label carefully before you start and measure the appropriate amount as indicated by the experiment directions. Do not take an excess. To avoid contamination and a possible violent reaction, never return unwanted chemicals to their containers. Do not put your dropper into a supply bottle. Do not lay stoppers on the benchtop. When heating chemicals in a test tube, do not point the test tube at anyone or look down into it. Always dispense and dilute concentrated acids in a fume hood. To avoid overheating and spurting, never add water to an acid; always add acid to water slowly with stirring. Always give a warning when carrying a container of a hot or reactive chemical past anyone in the lab.


Learn the location of each fire extinguisher. Your instructor will demonstrate the use of a fire extinguisher as well as other techniques for putting out minor fires. If a fire does occur in the lab, notify your instructor and move away from it carefully to avoid causing an accident. Know the locations of all laboratory exits before a fire occurs.

In case of a fire alarm, whether planned or unexpected, shut off any burner, hotplate or running water you are using and leave the lab as quickly as possible in an orderly manner. Your instructor will tell you beforehand which emergency route to take out of the building. Once out of the building, walk clear of the exits so you will not hinder anyone else's escape.

Long hair must be tied back behind your head. Long bangs must be secured with a hairnet. Hair can easily ignite from a burner flame and cause serious face and scalp burns. Flammable liquids such as acetone, hexane, and ethanol must be stored and dispensed in the hood. Even if there are no flames in the lab, do not take supply bottles of flammables out of the hood.


Extinguish burning clothing by using the drop-and-roll technique or by dousing with cold water or using the emergency shower if it is immediately available. If your clothing catches fire, do not run or take other action that will fan the flames. Immediately drop down and roll on the floor to extinguish the flames. Laboratories are also equipped with fire blankets for extinguishing clothing fires. Your instructor will use one if necessary to smother the flames completely. After a clothing fire is extinguished, remove contaminated clothing carefully to avoid further damage to the burned area. Remove heat with cool water or ice packs until tissue around burn feels normal to the touch. The injured person should be covered to prevent shock. Get medical attention immediately by calling 911 and the security office for your campus.


Safety Data Sheets (SDS's) which list the properties and hazards of chemicals are available for all materials used in the lab if you have concerns or questions about any substance you use. Your instructor will teach you to read and interpret SDS's and will provide SDS's for selected substances. The instructor can also supply you with the SDS of any substance on request.


A solution spilled on your clothing or skin, especially a concentrated acid or alkali, can be dangerous. Wear a plastic apron to protect against this type of accident. If a spill gets on your body, wash it off immediately under the safety shower and remove any contaminated clothing. A spill on your hand or arm should be washed off in the sink without delay. Inform your instructor of any accident. Large spills on a benchtop or floor require your instructor's help for proper cleanup.


Keep water away from electrical devices. Never touch an electrical appliance, switch or plug with wet hands. Never touch an electrical device and a water pipe or other ground at the same time. To pull out a plug, grasp the plug firmly; do not yank the wire. Report any defective or malfunctioning equipment to your instructor at once.


Compressed air may be used only for purposes specified by the instructor and only when the user is wearing eye protection. Compressed air must never be used to clean clothing. Never point the air nozzle toward anyone's face or body.


Never deliberately taste anything in the lab. Acids and alkalis can cause severe mouth burns. Substances such as lead salts are very toxic even though they may taste sweet. Supposedly safe substances such as glucose may be contaminated. Never pipet solutions by mouth. It is easy to ingest a solution accidentally. Use a rubber pipet bulb to provide suction. Never touch any chemical with your bare hands. Use appropriate containers to dispense liquids and a spatula for solids. Use rubber gloves to clean up spills or contamination. Keep hands away from your face, especially from eyes and lips. Reactions that generate poisonous gases or fumes must be done in a hood. The lab manual and your instructor will advise you about this. Never inhale large amounts of any gas. Some are very irritating or toxic. Do not smell chemicals indiscriminately. To smell something, first ask your instructor’s permission; then waft a small amount of vapor toward your nose with your hand and sniff cautiously.



While the College’s insurance policy covers costs associated with a patient injured by a student in the course of the student’s clinical training, it no longer covers the cost of treatment for student injuries or bloodborne pathogen exposures. Students are therefore solely responsible for their medical expenses and will be expected to pay the facility that renders treatment. Students who are injured or exposed are advised to follow the protocol at their clinical site or at their own health care provider. If a student has no regular health care provider, Miriam Hospital can provide treatment. The cost of treatment at Miriam Hospital will be the student’s responsibility.

The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard was enacted to reduce the occupational transmission of infections caused by microorganisms that may be found in blood and other potentially infectious materials. All laboratory classes that involve the handling of potentially infectious materials must adopt the standard and enforce it stringently. Students will be trained in the following: Explanation of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard; explanation of the epidemiology, modes of transmission and symptoms of bloodborne diseases; explanation and implementation of the exposure control plan; procedures which may expose persons to blood and other potentially infectious materials. The following infection control procedures will be in effect:

  • Lab coats worn in labs at all times and removed before leaving the lab. Lab coats not worn outside labs.
  • No food or drink allowed in labs.
  • Benchtops disinfected before starting any lab and disinfected after labs are completed.
  • Gloves worn whenever blood or any potentially infectious material is handled.
  • Hands washed with antimicrobial agent before donning gloves and after their removal.
  • Gloves rinsed, removed and discarded in trash container, or if necessary, in biohazard container before leaving lab.
  • Face shields worn when indicated by risk involved.
  • Universal precautions followed whenever biohazard specimens are handled.
  • No mouth pipetting.
  • Long hair tied back.
  • All potentially biohazardous material disposed of in marked biohazard containers.
  • No bending of used needles.
  • No recapping of used needles except by OSHA-approved recapping device.
  • Sharps discarded in special puncture-proof containers.
  • Infectious spills cleaned up with the appropriate disinfectant.
  • Instructor always notified in case of mucous membrane exposure or needlestick or cut injury involving infectious material.
  • Wounds and exposure sites cleansed thoroughly with soap and water.

Incidents to be reported are as follows: In case of obvious injury, Incident Report filed with Security Department with a copy sent to the Chemical Safety Coordinator. If incident involves exposure of skin or mucous membranes to potentially infectious material without breaking the skin, exposure recipient's confidentiality will be maintained by filing an internal report with the department and the Safety Coordinator only.


Programs such as Phlebotomy, Nursing, dental Hygiene and Medical Laboratory Technology require students to have proof of immunity or immunization to certain diseases, including hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rubella, measles and mumps. Students must provide proof of immunity or be vaccinated in order to enroll in these programs. The cost of vaccination is the students’ responsibility. The hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all health care workers and others whose jobs involve exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials. Hepatitis B vaccine is offered free of charge to College employees in that category.


The lab experiments in this course have been designed to minimize unnecessary exposure to hazardous substances. However, it is not advisable for pregnant women to be exposed to any chemicals. If you are pregnant, suspect you are pregnant or become pregnant during the semester, ask the instructor for a list of the chemicals used in the experiments. Show the list to your physician and follow his or her recommendation.


Few chemicals can be poured down the drain without interfering with the action of a sewage plant or harming the environment when residues of the chemical reach the water table or ocean. For this reason, never to pour any chemical into a sink drain unless told to do so by your instructor. Never put any chemical into the trash where it might start a fire or contaminate a landfill. Specific instructions will be given for chemical disposal before each experiment. Labeled containers will be placed in the hoods for collecting each toxic waste. These wastes will later be removed from the College premises by a certified disposal company. Ask your instructor if you are in doubt about any procedure. Paper towels, litmus paper, matches and wooden splints must be thrown in trash receptacles, not the sinks.


All injuries, no matter how slight, must be reported to the instructor for evaluation and referral to the school nurse and Security. If there is any doubt about the severity of an injury, call Security instead of moving the victim. When helping an injured person, College employees and students must make every effort to avoid contact with blood and other body fluids which may carry the viruses that cause AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Just as in a clinical setting, Universal Precautions must be observed. That is, assume all body fluids are potentially infectious. First aid kits and disposable gloves are available in all areas where injuries are likely. Mucous membrane or broken skin contact with body fluids must be reported to the school nurse and to Security at once. The College has a protocol for testing and counseling anyone who has been exposed to bloodborne pathogens.


Visitors, especially children, are not allowed to visit laboratories, studios and machine shops at any time, even if no work is being conducted at the time. Adult visitors are allowed during special demonstrations and only with the expressed permission of the instructor. Children are also not allowed in the laboratory prep rooms or, at the Warwick Campus, in the corridor outside the labs.