ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




These general safety rules are not necessarily in order of importance, nor is the list complete. Specific rules are covered under specific headings:

  • When inscribing any glassware wear protective glasses to prevent possible eye damage from slivers of glass.
  • Correct methods should be used for lifting and carrying reagents, especially corrosives and flammables.
  • Always carry large containers of acid in an acid carrier.
  • Store reactive agents such as acetic acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid in separate areas of the laboratory.
  • Keep acetone and other flammable liquids in quantities necessary only for current work.
  • Dilute concentrated acids by pouring the concentrated acid into water. Pour slowly to prevent splashing.
  • When working with chemicals dangerous to the eyes, wear goggles that have shields. If wearing contact lenses be especially cautious.
  • Contact lenses should not be worn in any preparation area where there is the likelihood that a splash to the eye could occur. Serious damage to the eye can occur if chemicals get under contact lenses or react with contact lenses.
  • When working with carcinogens wear gloves, mask, coat and work beneath a ventilation hood suitable for handling carcinogens.
  • Do not pipette anything by mouth.
  • Avoid inhaling vapours of volatile liquids as many of them are toxic. Always handle volatile liquids in a ventilation hood.
  • Do not reach above eye level for any container of concentrated chemical.
  • Know where your eyewash is and how to use it.
  • Know where your nearest safety shower is and how to use it.
  • Protect your hands when cleaning or sharpening sharp objects or instruments.
  • Use the proper means for disposing of the various substances used.
  • Use both hands when handling large bottles and never lift them by the top alone.
  • Wear disposable gloves and mask when handling infectious material.
  • Identify infectious agents with a label on the container.
  • Handle all tissue samples as though they are infectious.
  • Wash hands often with disinfectant soap and always wash your hands before leaving the work area.
  • Walk carefully in and near to the histology laboratory. Paraffin wax makes floors very slippery.
  • When lighting a bunsen burner ignite the match before turning on the gas.
  • Confine long hair.
  • Perform staining and coverslipping in a well ventilated area.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after any procedure.
  • Do NOT SMOKE, EAT or DRINK in the laboratory.
  • Wear sensible shoes that offer the foot some protection from chemical spills and dropped heavy items.
  • Do not work alone while doing laboratory that may be hazardous or cause loss of body functions.
  • Never store food in refrigerators used for the storage of chemicals or biological material.
  • Never store chemicals or biological material in a refrigerator used for the storage of food.
  • Be familiar with the hazardous properties of the chemicals you use. Read the MSDS.
  • Wear protective clothing and gloves that are not permeable to any chemicals you use.
  • Do not operate equipment unless you have received instruction on its use.
  • Keep the laboratory free of clutter.
  • Never store chemicals on the floor.
  • Dispose of chemical waste properly, even small quantities. Consult local authorities.
  • Now where ALL safety equipment is stored.
  • Secure all compressed gas cylinders to walls or benches.
Do not sniff at the neck of a bottle to determine the contents

Do not reach across benches to high shelves

Australian Standards 2243 (1982)
Safety in Laboratories, Part 1 ­ General
North Sydney, Australia.

Department of Health and Social Security (1980)
Code of Practice for Prevention of Infection in Clinical Laboratories and P.M. Rooms.
H.M. Stationery Office, London, England.

Department of Health, N.S.W. (1986)
Code of Safe Practice in Clinical Laboratories.
N.S.W. Government Printer, Australia.

University of Adelaide (1987)
University of Adelaide Safety Handbook.
University of Adelaide Printing Section, South Australia.

Miller, B.M. et al. (1986)
Laboratory Safety: Principles and Practices.
American Society for Microbiology, Washington DC, U.S.A.

Bretherick, L. (1986)
Hazards in the Chemical Laboratory, 4th Edition.
Royal Chemical Society, London.


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