Safe Working Practices for Laboratory Work

Safe Working Practices for Laboratory Work

The most common injuries in labs are animal bites, needle sticks, strains because of improper lifting techniques and cuts from broken glassware. The following safe working practices will reduce the possibility of laboratory accidents.

  • Appropriate attire shall be worn in all laboratories. Closed-toed shoes with leather uppers will be worn. Shorts will not be worn, not even if worn under lab coats. Appropriate, personal protection apparel including lab coats, safety glasses/goggles, filter masks and/or gloves will be made available and shall be worn. Laboratory supervisors and course directors are responsible for implementation of proper laboratory attire and personal protection apparel. UNTHSC personnel who are inappropriately dressed will be denied access to all laboratories and animal care facilities.
  • Hands shall be washed after an operation is completed, after removal of gloves and before leaving the laboratory area. Gloves used in the laboratory shall be removed before leaving the laboratory.
  • Protective equipment provided shall be used when performing any task that may result in injury, illness or exposure to biohazards. Any defects in this protective equipment must be reported immediately to management. Use of this defective equipment must be suspended until repairs or replacements are made.
  • Work areas shall be kept clean and free from clutter.
  • Laboratory passageways and aisles must remain unobstructed and must be wide enough for free movement while handling standard materials and supplies.
  • Work areas must be adequately ventilated. The air ducts of the laboratory shall not be blocked or diverted. Likewise, the air flow of flow hoods must be adequate for the work performed in them and they must be vented properly.
  • Laboratory doors shall be kept closed. Laboratories are designed to contain a fire thereby giving the occupants of the building time to escape. Open doors defeat this design and allow the rapid spread of flames and smoke in the building. Open doors also disturb the ventilation balance throughout the building allowing possible buildup of airborne toxins in other areas.
  • All human body fluids, tissue and contaminated articles will be handled as potential sources of HIV, HBV and HCV infection. Specific procedures are referenced in Part 3, Chapter 1 of the UNTHSC Safety Manual.
  • Mechanical pipetting devices shall be used.  Never pipette by mouth.
  • All laboratory personnel that are required to come in contact with animals shall be trained in the proper handling techniques and shall be immunized for diseases as required by the health science center occupational health program for animal handlers.
  • Hazardous materials, including flammable liquids, chemicals, biohazardous materials and radioactive materials, must be stored, handled and disposed of properly. Specific procedures are listed in the health science center Radiation Safety Manual, the Chemical Hygiene Program and to bloodborne pathogens referenced in Part 3, Chapter 1 of the UNTHSC Safety Manual.
  • Accidental spills or exposure of radioactive, hazardous or biohazardous materials must be reported immediately to management. Spill residues must be disposed of properly.
  • Non-hazardous chemicals spills (including water), and broken glassware must be cleaned up immediately and disposed of properly.
  • “Sharps” including syringe needles, scalpel blades, glass transfer pipettes and broken glass shall be handled carefully and disposed of in puncture-proof containers NOT in the regular trash.
  • Syringes shall not be placed in the common wastebasket with their needle tips still intact. Current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines recommend that syringes not be recapped, rather a disposal unit should be used that will accept the entire syringe unit. The one exception to this guideline is that syringes contaminated with radioactive materials from in vitro research should be carefully recapped and disposed of as radioactive waste.
  • Necessary emergency equipment will be readily available within the laboratory or just outside the room. The emergency equipment will be readily accessible and easily identifiable.
  • All gas cylinders must be individually secured to a wall or table using approved brackets or floor mounts. Cylinders not in use or cylinders being transported shall have their regulators removed and safety cap in place.
  • The safety recommendations section of the Chemical Hygiene Program, found in Part 3, Chapter 2 of the UNTHSC Safety manual, includes additional safety procedures for handling corrosive substances, flammable substances, electrical equipment and compressed gases. Also included are safety guidelines for low temperature, pressurized and vacuum operations.

This page was last modified on February 10, 2017