ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Electricity will only be a hazard in a laboratory if safety measures are not adhered to. These include the following:

  • have all new electrical equipment checked before being placed into service
  • replace worn or frayed cords
  • fit flame-proof switches to refrigerators and fume hoods
  • keep liquids and solvents away from electrical contacts as much as possible
  • do not remove an appliance from power sockets by pulling the cord
  • do not touch electrical equipment with wet hands
  • do not attempt to repair electrical equipment unless it is turned off and the plug removed from the socket
  • call an electrician if a short circuit occurs in any electrical equipment
  • call an electrician if unsure about any electrical aspect of equipment in your laboratory
  • use earth leakage detectors especially with equipment which contains water (power points are now available with in-built earth leakage detectors so that major power breaks can be avoided when a short circuit occurs)

Essential electrical equipment should be connected to an automatic emergency source of power in case of a general power failure.14 Check all electrical equipment at least once per year for safety of performance and document each check. Fit all electrical heating equipment with a thermostatic control and an automatic overheating cut out device. Remove heating equipment from the storage area of combustible substances.

Electrical equipment which has not been certified as safe for use in hazardous locations should not be used in a laboratory where flammable liquids are used (unless more than 300 mm above benches and 300 mm above the floor) and should not be used below benches.69

Static Electricity

Liquids, gases and solids can acquire static charges which can lead to explosions upon discharge. Peroxides and flammable solvents in drums are particularly hazardous. Clothing manufactured from synthetic fibres increases the risk of a spark discharge of static electricity.

The hazard can be reduced by:70

  • earthing all equipment which could accumulate static electricity (static electricity can be caused by friction)
  • humidifying or ionising the atmosphere where problems exist
  • the use of liquids with a low resistance



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