The chemistry lab is the most dangerous among the different labs present in schools and colleges. In chemistry labs, we deal with different types of chemicals; some are highly flammable, some may explode, some are highly toxic, etc. We use several lab chemicals that are fatal to humans, even in small quantities. So extra precautions should be taken while using these chemicals. Ensure you follow the lab's safety requirements and wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. When working in a new lab, look around and identify the safety equipment so you can react quickly in an emergency. Besides human lives, these chemicals also affect our ecosystem because most students dispose of the waste material directly into the sink, affecting aquatic life, plants, and other animals.
Lab waste may also contain carcinogenic metals, so the disposal of these chemicals directly to the sink affects the people outside the lab in many ways. Like when they eat the plants cultivated by the lab-contaminated water or eat the meat of the animals that drink the contaminated water. So the use and disposal of chemicals need proper procedures. After you're done with an experiment, clean all used glassware, return reagents to the correct storage area, and dispose of waste in the appropriate containers.
Why do students not follow the chemistry safety procedures
1. To clean the glassware and dispose of the waste through a shortcut
Some of the students don't take the chemicals seriously. They use the chemicals without safety precautions and dispose of the chemical waste directly in the sink. It seems easy for them to put everything in the sink and open the water. So strict actions must be taken when students dispose of the chemical waste in the sink. By doing this, they put themselves in danger because many chemicals react with water like sodium metal catches fire when coming in contact with water. Some substances, like acids, react with metal parts of the sink so that they may affect the function of the sink. When this water goes outside, it affects aquatic life as well. So make sure that there must be appropriately labeled containers for the chemical wastes. Don't allow the students to dispose of any type of chemical into the sink except the eco-friendly ones.
2. Lack of knowledge about what they are working with
The lack of knowledge about the severity of chemicals and disposable waste is one of the significant factors due to which students do not take it seriously. So before starting any experiment, the students must know about the chemicals and the possible disposable waste produced by the experiment. The students must learn about general safety precautions and understand the hazard symbols. Dispose of chemicals in the same container is also very dangerous because they can react with each other and may produce any toxic gas or any exploding material. So the knowledge about where and to dispose of the chemicals is vital.
3. Lack of proper chemical handling procedures and places to dispose of chemical waste
The lack of procedures about how to handle a chemical creates problems for students. So there must be a procedure for each type of chemical, pasted on walls where the chemicals are. For example, the students must use the fume hood while using gas-producing chemicals like hydrochloric acid and ammonia. Low boiling point chemicals should be placed in the refrigerator after use. Another hurdle is the availability of containers to dispose of chemical waste. Provide a properly labeled container to dispose of the chemical waste. These containers must be labeled about which type of chemicals students can dispose of in every container. Place these containers near the sink, so students do the cleaning process quickly.
5 ways to make the chemistry safety procedures easy for students
1. Make a list of general lab safety rules
Before going to the lab, teach the general safety rules of the chemistry lab. The three essential things to enter a chemistry lab are the lab coat, gloves, and safety goggles. Make sure every student has all these, and do not allow any student to work in the lab without wearing a lab coat, gloves, and goggles.
Make sure that the students tie back long hair because it might obstruct the student while working in a fumehood or around a flame.
Don't allow the students to eat or drink anything in the lab.
Don't allow students to bring unnecessary stuff into the lab, like backpacks, purses, jewelry, watches, etc., so they don't become contaminated.
The use of safety equipment and all emergency exits should be clear to the students.
Before leaving the lab, the students must wash their hands.
2. Write down the chemicals in use along with their precautions.
Before going for any experiment, keep track of all the steps that you are performing and write down the chemicals you are using. Make sure you label all the samples with the content, potential hazards, the date, and your initials. Tell the students what type of chemical they are using and what are the possible products.
If the experiment involves a gas at any phase, the experiment should be done in a fume hood.
If they are working with a fire-catching material, the system should be placed away from flame or any heat-producing machine.
If there is any low boiling point chemical, the experiment should be done in an ice-containing jar.
3. Dispose of chemical waste
The environmental protection agency (EPA) regulates chemical waste through the resource conservation and recovery act (RCRA). According to RCRA, chemical waste disposal without following the EHS hazardous program is a chrome. So after you're done with an experiment, clean all used glassware, return reagents to the correct storage area, and dispose of waste in the appropriate containers. The lab supervisor must ensure a labeled container for the chemical waste. There are three main types of chemical waste produced in a lab.
Hazardous waste consists of the chemical having characteristics following; ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.
Non-hazardous waste mainly includes the salts produced by simple reactions
Waste organic solvents are separated into two separate waste containers:
Halogenated solvent waste is used for organic solvents that contain a halogen atom, such as Cl, F, Br, and I. These compounds must be burned at very high temperatures to minimize the formation of toxic dioxins.
Non-halogenated solvent waste can be burned for energy recovery under standard conditions; hence it is much cheaper to process non-halogenated solvent waste.
4. Use Hazard symbols
Before going to an experiment, ensure that the students are well aware of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Check the bottle of any chemicals you work with for a GHS hazard symbol. Hazard symbols are a globally recognized way of classifying and labeling chemicals, with eight pictograms that enable you to quickly identify any dangerous properties of what you’re working with:
If you see this, you know the chemical ignites easily. Therefore, you should keep the chemical away from oxidizing substances (see below), such as flames or sparks.
These substances are known to cause oxidation reactions. They should be stored separately from flammable chemicals because even though they don’t burn themselves, they can speed up the development of a fire and make it more intense.
These chemicals can wear away materials like skin or clothing and potentially cause burns. All the more reason to wear a lab coat and eye protection! Be sure to wash these chemicals off your skin instantly if you spill.
If a chemical is toxic, avoid getting it on your skin and handle it with care in the fume cupboard (see next section for more information on what the fume cupboard is).
Chemicals with this symbol aren’t necessarily poisonous, but they can still cause harm to your body.
Explosive chemicals have energy stored in them, meaning they could explode if not treated correctly. It is illegal to carry out unauthorized experiments with flammable chemicals.
Compressed gases should be handled with caution to prevent them from blasting. You should, for example, not heat them.
Exposure to this chemical could damage your health. For example, it might be carcinogenic.
5. Use virtual lab simulations
With technological advances, it is much easier to explain complex and challenging processes with the help of simulations. Now, you can simulate experiments without the need for any valuable equipment. In this regard, you can take help from Labster’s virtual lab simulations. These simulations engage students through interactive learning scenarios. Students dive into a 3D world, where they visually learn and apply their concepts to solving real-life problems.
In Labster’s interactive Chemistry Safety Virtual Lab, students will learn how to work safely with organic solvents. Experiment with dangerous chemicals and make mistakes without putting yourself in danger.
In Labster’s interactive Dispose of chemical waste, Virtual Lab students will learn if explosions are possible if we don’t dispose of chemical waste the right way. The answer is yes. In this simulation, students will learn how to apply their knowledge of the chemicals used in a laboratory experiment to decide on the correct waste bins to use without mixing chemicals that can cause harmful and unexpected reactions.
In Labster’s interactive Hazard symbols Virtual Lab, students will learn the hazard symbols of hazardous chemicals. Learn the meaning of the hazard symbols and apply this knowledge in the lab with example chemicals.