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Lab safety

by K. Jewett and S. Sontum (with edits by R. Sandwick)

Emergency Procedures

Accidents: In case of an accident in the laboratory, notify your laboratory instructor immediately and have someone accompany injured persons to the infirmary. All accidents must be reported to the laboratory instructor.

Acid/Bases:  The best treatment for acid or base in your eyes or on your skin is immediate washing with copious amounts of water. Eye washes, sinks and showers are provided for this purpose.

Emergency:  In case of an emergency call extension 5911 for Campus Security.

Safety Data Sheets

A major part of participating in chemistry is learning how to safely use, handle, and dispose of chemicals.  By law, manufacturers of chemicals provide two important information sources for the safe use of their chemicals – Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) contain detailed hazard and disposal information and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) chemical hazard labels on each chemical summaries hazard information.

MSDS sheets prescribe disposal and handling techniques for the various chemicals. Some chemicals can be washed down the drains, however many must not. MSDS sheets are stored in the lab, but they can also be accessed online here.

The NFPA label consists of four colored diamonds with numbers or symbols summarizing the level of hazard.

This is what the NFPA label looks like:

NFPA label.

Hazard levels range from 0 (no or minimal hazard) to 4 (extreme hazard). The white symbols tell you specific information. For example, OX (oxidizer), ACID, ALK (alkali), COR (corrosive), and W (water reactive).

Chem 103 lab layout

Chem 103 lab layout. Outside of the classroom, there are fire alarm pulls in the hallway and an AED in the great hall.

Here in the CHEM 103 lab, specific disposal procedures will be discussed before each laboratory.  Gloves will occasionally be needed when working with hazardous chemicals. Be aware that not all gloves are the same: Some are good for hazardous aqueous solutions, others are better for organic solutions, while in some cases compounds can permeate all types of gloves. You will be guided in your “glove experience” this semester by your lab instructor.

The figure shown depicts the safety equipment in our CHEM 103 laboratory.  You should familiarize yourself with the position and use of this safety equipment.  You should also learn the following rules, which are designed for your safety in the laboratory.

Safety Procedures


  • wear your safety glasses in the laboratory.
  • wear shirts that cover your torso, long pants, and shoes in a laboratory.
  • know the hazards associated with the experiment before you begin.
  • know where the showers, eyewashes, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits are in the laboratory.
  • aim test tube and flask openings away from yourself and others while they are being heated.
  • clean up mercury spills with tin foil, sulfur powder or zinc.
  • lubricate glass tubing and use towels to protect you hand when pushing or pulling tubing through stoppers.
  • fire polish all glass tubing ends.
  • extinguish Bunsen burners that are not being used.
  • dispose of wastes into properly labeled waste containers.
  • use hoods for irritating, poisonous and corrosive fumes.
  • add acid to water or to a base, never the opposite.


  • eat, drink, or smoke in the laboratory.
  • bring tobacco, gum, food or beverages into the laboratory.
  • taste chemicals.
  • remove chemicals from the laboratory.
  • use mouth suction to fill pipets. Always use a bulb to fill pipets.
  • wear highly flammable clothing in the laboratory such as fluffy sweaters.
  • put pens/pencils in your mouth.
  • wear scarves or ties.
  • attempt unauthorized experiments.
  • use a flame in a laboratory around solvent fumes.
  • put anything back into a reagent bottle.
  • work alone in the laboratory.

This is a chemistry lab safety video from the 90s. Despite obviously being dated, it is worth watching, especially if you have never worked in a chemistry lab.

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