Laboratories have always been places of creation and experimentation, pushing the limits and making new things. However, this drive often creates hazards, and human errors in laboratories create dangerous accidents. A good understanding of the most common lab accidents, and the steps required to prevent them, gives technicians and teachers the best chance to keep their workspaces productive and safe.

Whether you’re running an industrial, biomedical laboratory, or a few Bunsen burners in a classroom after lunch, precautions and well-informed reactions minimise harm and disruption.

Common Lab Accidents

The Most Common Lab Accidents

Broken Glassware

Laboratory glassware is a fundamental tool for many experiments and reactions. It’s therefore important to use the proper glassware for the job, and use it correctly. Common lab accidents often involve incorrect equipment being mishandled or dropped. Shattering glass on hard countertops or floors risks the sharp pieces cutting into exposed skin.

Cleaning up broken glass calmly and carefully proves essential to minimising risk. However, cuts often occur during the cleaning process: it’s easy to grab broken glass or cleaning materials full of shards if you’re rushing or panicking. Broken glass can be hard to spot, so thorough cleaning with brushes, dustpans, and gloves offers the best way to handle an accident.

Slips and Falls

Although laboratories can be interesting places, running around with excitement can get you hurt. Hazardous materials abound in laboratories, increasing the necessity of carefully measured movements. Spillages should also be called-out and wiped up as soon as they happen to avoid common lab accidents like slipping and falling.

Extreme Temperatures

While open flames cause the most common lab accidents, science relies on extreme temperatures for education and production alike. From scalding exothermic reactions to liquid nitrogen and supercooled conductors, these extremes can be just as dangerous as a common Bunsen.

To protect everyone in the laboratory, be sure to communicate the dangers of each reaction and each heating or cooling tool. When everyone uses protective equipment and safety procedures while maintaining a working knowledge of extreme temperatures, you give yourselves the best chance of avoiding harm.

Chemical Burns and Toxicity

Of course, chemicals find more ways to hurt scientists than heat alone. While bleach and sulphuric acid grab the headlines, all five types of toxicity pose a threat to the laboratory: behavioural, biological, chemical, physical, and occasionally radioactive toxicity cause injuries in laboratories if they’re not careful.

Regular washing and decontamination stations, as with temperature hazards, should manage toxicity and chemical burns. Good ventilation also proves an essential safety measure to stop the build-up of toxic vapours. Laboratories should never let their guards down and always use the appropriate equipment to handle toxic material.

Eye Injuries

Laboratories do well to protect those vulnerable things we need for seeing. Even if you buy shatter-proof laboratory glassware and nothing breaks, pupils or technicians might absent-mindedly rub or scratch their eyes, causing untold irritation and injury. Strict goggle policies keep eyes safe and hazards visible.

Less Common Lab Accidents: Contamination

You might not notice a lab emergency until a few minutes after you’ve bitten into a sandwich on your lunch break. While they’re slightly less common accidents than burns or slips, contaminations wreak severe consequences for their victims and beyond.

Handwashing should be second nature by now, but lab users must fully decontaminate themselves after using hazardous materials. Changing gloves and lab coats, and taking care not to cross-contaminate while doing so, should keep this risk at bay.

Conclusions: Proper Procedures and Equipment Manage Most Common Lab Accidents

Safety drills help pre-empt common lab accidents and decrease the harm they cause after they occur. However, using the correct equipment, such as robust and specialised laboratory glassware, actually prevents many accidents in the lab. Pairing both priorities keeps your lab as productive and accident-free as possible.