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A Guide to Basic Chemistry Lab Safety: 12 Important Guidelines

Posted by Kris Richards on Dec 14, 2023 12:55:57 PM

A Guide to Basic Chemistry Lab Safety: 12 Important Guidelines

A laboratory worker was three months into her job. She used a syringe to extract a pyrophoric chemical, which ignites in air, from a container. As she used the syringe, it disassembled, and the chemical ignited her clothes on fire. After a few weeks, she succumbed to her burns and died. What makes this even more tragic was that the accident was completely preventable if there was proper training, supervision and methodology. Chemistry labs can be deadly if proper safety precautions are not taken. It's essential to identify hazards and establish methods to perform work safely, especially when handling extremely hazardous chemicals.                                              

Why is safety important in a chemistry lab?

Safety in a chemistry lab is critical for several reasons. Chemical laboratories include a variety of hazards that require a multi-layered approach of controls to prevent injuries and illnesses. The presence of chemicals could result in exposure to hazardous substances, chemical burns, and fire/explosions. Equipment with physical hazards could result in slips, trips, falls, pinch points, and exposure to extreme temperatures, radiation, noise, electricity, and pressure. Injuries and illnesses can result in lawsuits, medical expenses, and lost productivity. Effective health and safety controls help with preventing these types of losses.

12 Lab Safety Guidelines to Follow

To ensure a safe working environment in labs, adhere to these fundamental safety guidelines:

  1. Wear safety glasses in the lab. Always wear eye protection even if you’re not conducting an experiment.
  2. Always wear appropriate clothing when working in a lab. Protect your skin, avoid open-toed shoes and long/dangling jewelry, and keep sleeves at an appropriate length.
  3. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or vape inside the lab.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the emergency procedures and the locations of emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, safety showers, and eye wash stations.
  5. Conduct work inside the fume hood especially when working with hazardous chemicals.
  6. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after working in the laboratory. By practicing good hand hygiene in the lab, you’re protecting yourself and your colleagues from any cross-contamination.
  7. Never use mouth suction to fill a pipette. It’s a dangerous and outdated technique of filling a pipette due to the risk of contamination and ingestion of hazardous materials.
  8. Don't force glass tubing through cork or rubber stoppers. The glass can shatter and cause lacerations. Use proper lubrication to avoid breakage.
  9. Never pour water into acid which can cause a violent reaction. Always add acid to water slowly and carefully.
  10. Use appropriately designated waste containers to dispose of liquid and solid waste.
  11. Securely replace all caps, lids, and stoppers after removing chemicals from containers. This prevents leakage of liquids, gases, or vapors.
  12. Report any accidents or injuries to your supervisor immediately.

Chemical Hygiene Plan

Ensure a Chemical Hygiene Plan is implemented prior to commencing work in the lab. A Chemical Hygiene Plan is a documented program that outlines procedures and safe work practices to protect employees from hazards in a laboratory environment with dangerous chemicals. The plan should address topics such as personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard identification, spill response, and waste disposal.


It’s critical to prioritize safety when working in a lab. Injuries and illnesses should be used as learning lessons, illustrating how the deficiencies in safety measures are used as opportunities to correct the issue and prevent it from occurring again. By enforcing these 12 guidelines and implementing a Chemical Hygiene Plan, you can minimize the risk of injuries and illnesses.

Learn more about Scishield’s Chemical Inventory and Report software to improve lab safety.