Whether you’re a parent with students headed to lab classes this year, a teacher of students in a laboratory setting, or a student yourself looking for the right scientific lab notebook and preparing for your first lessons, know that lab learning can be some of the most engaging and interesting learning anyone does during their formal schooling years. Much of school is sitting through lectures and similar types of instruction, meaning that a chance to get hands-on in the lab is particularly exciting. at the same time, lab classes are where students are most likely to be injured and where accidents are most likely to occur. With that in mind, here are five tips for keeping laboratory instruction as safe as possible.
Clothes and Gear
The right kinds of clothing and special protective gear, like gloves, goggles, and aprons, keep students safe when using various chemicals. Many times there will be specific clothing instructions for specific experiments, but if there are no special instructions there are still some best practices to follow. These include:
- Wear closed-toed shoes.You want your feet to be covered in case you drop something, from a bacteria to a heavy beaker. Additionally, the last thing you want is to throw the contents of an experiment everywhere after banging your toe against something.
- Remove loose clothing. Clothing that hangs too loosely, like a swinging jacket, a dangling scarf or tie, or a flapping shawl, is just waiting to cause an accident. Roll up your sleeves if they’re long and not tight against your wrist.
- Put back your long hair. If you have long hair, always tie it back at least, and put it up if possible. You don’t want it flying around for the same reasons you don’t want flapping clothes.
- Remove the dangly jewelry. You don’t want to watch your precious necklace get eaten up when it falls in a beaker, and you don’t want to know something over with it when you turn suddenly. You don’t want to catch your earrings on your neighbor’s shirt and either fall down or cause someone else to. Although it’s unlikely that your jewelry will cause a problem, it’s just a lot better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t Start Til You Understand
It’s important for students to fully understand what they’re being asked to do before they start doing it. If you try starting the recipe before you’ve completely read it, you risk the whole thing coming to a sudden and inglorious halt when you suddenly realize halfway through that you were supposed to grate something, mix it with another thing (which you don’t have), and then have chilled it for 12 hours before starting. The consequences of beginning a lab experiment before you have carefully understood the instructions and steps could be far more catastrophic.
Keep Careful Forms
It’s crucial that everyone involved in a lab experiment always fill out forms as they go along. If you wait till the experiment is over, you’ll never remember everything perfectly. A measurement will be off or an observation will be out of order. Make sure forms get filled out as the experiment goes along.
The other temptation (after failing to fill in the form along the way) is to not finish at the end with a strong report and a good cleaning of lab stations. Even if things aren’t that dirty after a given experiment, it’s a great idea for students to get into the habit of immediately cleaning up stations and filling out detailed lab reports while memories are fresh.
Know Where Everything Is
This is especially important when it comes to locating safety equipment. The first lesson in the lab should be on safety and where all equipment is located. Later lessons should occasionally include drills and review to make sure everywhere knows where the eye-washers, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and emergency showers are and when to use what.
Lab classes are some of the most fulfilling and interesting in anyone’s student career. Whether you’re taking them or taking care of those who are, make sure you keep these tips in mind for a fulfilling and safe laboratory experience.