Recently, a researcher in MD Hall purchased two inexpensive “pointing lasers” over the Internet to use in an experiment. Fortunately, before starting work with the lasers, the researcher consulted with the Laser Safety Advocate—who determined that the lasers were actually dangerous 1-watt infrared Class 4 lasers, and a serious threat to anyone in the room if they were used without controls. With a little 3-D printer magic, the LSA re-engineered the experimental apparatus so that the system was a safer Class 1, not even needing protective laser goggles. Read about the case in Class 4 pointing lasers.
Chemical fume hoods help prevent exposure to volatile hazardous chemicals in the lab. The hood works best, though, when it is empty. Everything in the hood disturbs the airflow, so keep extra equipment, chemicals, and other materials to a minimum.
Learn more about using fume hoods for storage in Fume hoods are not storage cabinets.
Something I see all too frequently in labs is sharp objects like syringe needles and razor blades left out on lab benches without shielding. Proper sharps handling is extremely important–besides the usually-painful cuts and punctures that result, any materials on the sharp (pathogens, chemicals, the lead solder you were scraping) now has direct access to your bloodstream. Yuck!
Please note these basic facts about sharps handling:
- Anything that can cause a cut, puncture, or other skin penetration is a sharp. This includes needles/syringes, knife blades, Pasteur pipets, broken glass, etc.
- Discard disposable sharps such as needles and Pasteur pipets immediately into sharps containers when not in use. Generally, recapping is not recommended for disposables, although if they are required for more than one use a “one-handed scoop” method is allowed to place the shield on the sharp.
- Never leave non-disposable sharps such as X-Acto blades unshielded on the bench when not in use. Place them in containers for cleaning or placed in holders not on the bench. It is typical in my experience for students to place the sharps in Petri dishes on the shelf above the bench. In this location they are easily accessible without being potential cut injury sources when someone tries to pick them up off the bench. There is also less chance of the sharp being knocked on the floor or covered by other lab detritus and becoming a hidden hazard.
- Dispose sharps only in approved sharps containers such as those sold in Mudd Store. Things should not stick out the top of the container—they should be fully enclosed. Never place sharps directly in a biohazard box or other trash container.
- When a sharps container is 3/4 full, replace it immediately—the containers are sharp-resistant, not sharp-proof, and forcing the lid on can sometimes cause a needle or blade to puncture the container. Place the sharps container in a biohazard box for disposal. (If the sharps are radioactive, contact Mina Razavi, the Homewood Radiation Safety Officer, for additional instructions.)
- If glass becomes broken, use tongs or a brush and dustpan to collect the shards for disposal in the sharps box—using hands is a frequent source of injury and hazardous materials injection.