ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Powerful oxidising agents are liable to promote fire and/or explosion and should not be transported or stored with flammable liquids or poisonous substances. Keep oxidising and reducing agents separate, for example acids should never be stored close to ammonia.9

If a spill does occur, protective clothing, including rubber gloves, face shield and laboratory coat should be worn. A respirator is also required for such agents as chlorine and bromine. For the more active oxidising agents a body shield may be necessary.

If the oxidising agent is a liquid or solid cover with a reducing agent such as thiosulphate, bisulphite or a ferrous salt but not carbon, sulphur or strong reducing agents. A sulphite or ferrous salt will require the addition of 3mol/l sulphuric acid to promote rapid reduction. In either case mix well and spray with water. Scoop the slurry which forms into a container of water and neutralise with soda ash. The resultant mix can be discharged safely into the sewerage system with a large excess of water if local regulations allow. The site of the spill should be washed with a soap solution containing some reducing agent.

If the oxidising agent is gaseous, it can be bubbled through the reducing agent (sodium sulphite) and a saturated solution of sodium bicarbonate. Be sure to include a trap in the line to prevent the solution being drawn back into the cylinder or pipeline. If the gas is from a leaking cylinder and the above procedure cannot be used the gas can be vented into or next to a fume hood.


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