General Laboratory Safety Practices

Laboratory spaces are often dense with hazards. For this reason, general safety practices should be adopted whenever entering a laboratory, no matter the type of work being performed.

  1. Consult the signage at the entrance of a lab before entering for the first time. A Lab Sign should be present on the outside of the laboratory door indicating the types of hazards present and the recommended PPE.
  2. Wear appropriate attire. The minimum required attire when entering a laboratory is closed toe shoes and long pants. To perform work in a laboratory, the additional attire of a lab coat, gloves, and safety glasses is required. This level of attire may be adjusted to more or less protective clothing after performing a Hazard Assessment .
  3. Remove PPE prior to leaving laboratory.
  4. Always wash hands after removing gloves and before leaving laboratory.
  5. Do not work alone in the laboratory unless procedures are in place for doing so and appropriate supervisors have been informed. Never perform hazardous tasks while alone in the laboratory.
  6. Never eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, apply cosmetics, or manipulate contact lenses in the laboratory. Contact lenses may be prohibited in certain chemical laboratories, as indicated in laboratory-specific SOPs.
  7. Be sure that you have met all training requirements prior to work in a laboratory.
  8. Consult any relevant safety documentation prior to performing a new task or handling a new material (chemical labels, SDS, manufacturer operating manual, Standard Operating Procedures, signage near hazardous equipment, Chemical Hygiene Plan, Laboratory Biosafety Manual, etc.).
  9. Clearly label all storage containers.
  10. Keep all chemical containers closed unless actively in use.
  11. All equipment should be inspected for defects prior to use.
  12. A log may be required for the inspection, and/or operations and maintenance of certain equipment.
  13. Be alert for unsafe conditions and correct them when detected.

These practices serve as the baseline for laboratory safety. Certain situations require move advanced protective measures. The following subsections will walk through how to identify these hazardous situations, select controls for those hazards, and guidance for safe operation of a laboratory.