Biosciences Laboratory Safety and Conduct
With some exceptions the potential hazards in a biology or biochemistry laboratory are no different than hazards you face in your own kitchen or garage. For the most part, simply exercising common sense in the laboratory is sufficient. The guidelines below spell out the 'common sense' of behavior in the laboratory, and safety guidelines that apply to specific procedures are listed with those procedures. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your own behavior. So be careful.
Basic safety rules
- The teaching laboratory is a classroom and your full attention is required. For both safety reasons and to avoid disrupting classroom activities you must silence all cell phones and pagers;
their use is prohibited.
- All persons in laboratories, including students, staff,
and visitors, shall wear safety glasses, goggles, or face
shields at all times where potential eye hazards exist. Goggles
are recommended where chemical splashes are possible. If
contact lenses are to be worn, the eyes should be protected
by goggles when potential eye hazards exist.
NOTE: prescription eyeglasses do not provide adequate protection.
- Eating, drinking, chewing gum, and applying cosmetics are prohibited in the BCB teaching laboratories (ABL 141, B04, and B06). Food and drink are permitted in the classroom (ABL B03), which is safely separated from laboratory work areas, or at the picnic tables outside the lab.
- Do not store food or beverages in the same refrigerators or freezers with chemicals, biohazards, or radioactive materials.
- Appropriate gloves are essential when working with hazardous substances. All glove materials are not equally effective in protection from hazardous substances; consult a chemical resistance chart, a glove manufacturer, or EH&S for appropriate selection.
- Never conduct unauthorized experiments or engage in horseplay
in a laboratory. Please immediately report any unsafe behavior
to the instructor.
- Wear appropriate clothing. In particular, you must wear
(i.e., NO sandals or flip-flops!) in the
laboratory. Long pants are highly recommended. Avoid wearing your best clothes, and if you have
long hair tie it back. Avoid wearing dangling jewelry.
- Wearing an iPod, Bluetooth, or any other device that inteferes with hearing is not allowed.
- Never pipet anything by mouth.
- The work area must be kept clean and uncluttered. All chemicals should be labeled and stored properly.
- Never work alone in the laboratory.
- The hazards of chemicals used should be known (e.g., corrosiveness, flammability, reactivity, stability, and toxicity). Material Safety Dat Sheets (MSDSs) should be available for all non-routine or acutely toxic chemicals used and stored in the laboratory.
- Always pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of what others are doing. Always be courteous.
- Remove contaminated gloves before touching common use devices (door knobs, faucets, equipment); discard gloves before leaving the laboratory.
- Always wash hands and arms with soap and water before leaving the laboratory.
- No smoking!
- Know where to find the nearest exit in case of fire or other emergency.
- Know the whereabouts of the nearest fire extinguisher, fire blanket, first aid kit, eye wash equipment, shower and telephone.
- For on-campus emergencies call RUPD (713-348-6000).
- In case of fire, clear out of the laboratory first, then call an emergency number.
- Both liquid and dry chemicals can be flammable, poisonous, carcinogenic, etc. Pay attention to special instructions, such as to work with a substance only in a fume hood.
- Biological hazards include bacteria and body fluids, such as blood. Handle with appropriate care, and dispose of biological hazards as instructed.
- Dispose of hazardous materials as instructed. Never put anything down the sink without checking with an instructor.
- Clean up spills and broken glass. Don't handle broken glass
with your bare hands. Use a broom and dustpan, and throw away
all broken glass and disposable glass pipets, coverslips, and
other sharp or easily breakable glass in a container for glass
disposal only. Notify the instructor immediately of
- If appropriate, turn off equipment that isn't being used.
- Do not use a Bunsen burner unless instructed to do so.
- Keep liquids and chemicals, especially flammable materials, well away from any heat source or electrical equipment.
- If any electrical equipment is malfunctioning, making strange noises, sparking, smoking, or smells "funny," do not attempt to shut it off or unplug it. Get an instructor immediately. It is imperative that the instructor know of any equipment problems.
- Clean spilled chemicals from equipment such as balances - they can corrode and ruin equipment.
- Mop any liquid spills - they are a slip hazard.
- Be especially careful around the ice machine - spilled ice quickly melts, creating a slip hazard.
- Clean up your bench area at the end of the day, or during your session in the lab if things are too messy.
- Always wash your hands before leaving the laboratory.
- Keep coats, purses, backpacks, books, and similar materials
away from your work area and out of the way of your colleagues.
Please stash such items in an appropriate, perhaps designated
location. We mustn't force people to step over a backpack placed
in an aisle between benches, for example. Also, consider what
will happen to such items if someone
spills chemicals or biohazardous materials on them.
- Any computers in the classroom or lab are NOT for personal use. Do
not surf the net or attempt to check e-mail.
- On occasion, special equipment, e.g., stir plates and vortexers, will be used from the storeroom and this equipment should be returned complete, clean,
and dry at the end of the experiment.
- When using equipment, be certain that you understand how
to operate the device safely. Any equipment or areas you use must
be cleaned after use. For example, the centrifuges should
be wiped out and the rotors rinsed and allowed to drain.
- Do not waste materials, including disposable items and reagents. This practice is economically and ecologically important.
Calculate how much you will need and take only a slightly greater amount (about 10% excess).
- Do not return excess reagent to the stock bottles. Discard properly at the end of lab period.
Pay attention to the discussions prior to the experiment for special disposal instructions.
- Do not pipet directly from bottles or jugs containing buffers
Exception: you may use an automatic pipetor to obtain stock solutions of small volumes (less than 2 ml);
be careful to use a clean pipet tip and do not contaminate these solutions.
- Put the lids on stock solutions and reagents after using them.
Otherwise solutions can become contaminated or just evaporate. Many solid reagents are hygroscopic and pull water out of the air.
- Do NOT write on plastic/glass labware; use lab TAPE.
- If you don't find some of the required equipment or reagents, ask the instructor or a TA for help.
- On the last day of lab, your drawer must contain ALL the items on the list; REMOVE all labels and EMPTY all containers.
and Intended Use
Created by B. Beason (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rice University, 9 June 1999.
Updated 22 June 2015