While dealing with laboratory instruments, hazardous chemicals, or specimens in a laboratory, you need to be very careful. Failing to contain them can spread hazards and contaminate you, your coworkers, and things around you.
Having to handle hazardous substances every day in the laboratory, you might think you are dealing with them well and can protect yourself. But even the smallest amount of negligence with chemicals can lead to contamination. How, you ask?
Let’s understand it with the help of an example. For instance, imagine you are in between an experiment, and you spilled a few drops of the chemical on your gloved hands. Meanwhile, if you use your hands to set your hair, take a call, write something down, or touch any other substance after the experiment, these unconscious actions will contaminate all the things you touched and will later spread contamination to others and to you even outside the laboratory.
However, while getting contaminated seems easy we need to do everything in our power to effectively shield ourselves. Here are the tips you should follow to avoid contamination in the laboratory.
Things You Need to Stay Contamination Free
The four major routes through which materials can enter our body are – eyes absorption, skin contact absorption, injection, and ingestion. To guard yourself and the entry routes of the body, you need a combination of personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering control, which include –
- Gloves – Wearing gloves protect your hands from direct contact with chemicals, infection, and contamination.
- Eye Wear – While minor burns or cuts on the skin can heal, the slightest splash in the eyes can permanently damage them. Thus, wearing eye protection is necessary in the lab.
- Lab Coat – Lab coats shield your clothes and skin from direct chemical exposure. In case of chemical spills or burns, the coat protects you from them.
- Face Shield – If there are any anticipated chances of chemicals bubbling or splashing to the face, or neck area, it is best to stay protected with a face shield to avoid contamination.
- Splash Guards and Blast Shields – While working on hazardous experiments, wearing splash guards and blast shields will protect you from inadvertent chemical contact exhaust hoods.
Important General Tips
- In case any item of your PPE gear is ripped, broken, or has wear, change them immediately.
- Change your gloves at least every two hours or when they are wet or damaged.
- Before leaving the lab, make sure you sterilize the laboratory instruments you used in the experiment.
If you fail to follow the safe work practices and keep the area around you clean, even the proper PPE and engineering controls cannot save you and other coworkers in the laboratory from contamination. To control contamination, pay attention to these safe practices.
- Keep your working area orderly and clean to experiment in a no-hassle environment.
- Do not keep unnecessary clutter and laboratory instruments around, as they can also become contaminated.
- Clean any spill as quickly as possible, taking safety measures. Take the proper disposal procedures to clean and decontaminate the spill area.
- Do not keep chemicals around that are not in use. Put them back where they belong.
- After completing an experiment, clean the container and make it safe and contamination-free for the next use.
- If you cannot clean the glass wear immediately, soak it in water and soap to cut the contamination and clean it easily later.
According to the written policy on handling hazardous waste, you must plan for disposal even before beginning the procedure. As improper waste disposal can spread contamination in the laboratory itself, the environment, and affect the health of people working there.
- Sewer drains are not built to handle the laboratory chemicals. So, be careful of what you pour down them. Disposing of chemicals in the drain can contaminate the local supply of the water.
- Do not dispose of even a small thing like gloves in the normal trash, as they contain contaminants too.
- Using air guns to blow away powder can spread contaminants quite quickly. So, sweep the powder with a dry paper towel and dispose of it properly.
Stay Safe from Contamination When You Are Out of The Lab
The problem with contamination is that it can spread through personal transportation when you take a notebook, pencil, or other supplies from the lab with you when you are going out.
- Treat everything in the lab as contaminated. And thus, when you touch anything, wash your hands before going out of the lab.
- Dispose of or leave your personal safety gear, including gloves, lab coats, eyewear, and more, in the lab before leaving. Taking them out will contaminate your car, food, family, and every place you take them.
- Try not to touch the doorknobs, other chemical containers, or laboratory instruments when you are experimenting. As it can contaminate those areas and later can transmit it to you or others touching them with naked hands.
- Do not mix contaminated objects with uncontaminated ones to avoid contaminating everything.
- Avoid eating, drinking, scratching your nose, or setting your hair in the lab, as it can contaminate you and lead to skin absorption or ingestion.
We understand cleaning and keeping the lab uncontaminated is difficult, but if you organize workflow and inventory, sterilize laboratory instruments, and imply these tips, you will be able to avoid contamination in a laboratory quite well.
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