Lesson 1:
Laboratory Safety


In this lesson we will answer the following questions:

  • What equipment should be used to promote safety in the laboratory?
  • What actions should be taken to promote safety in the laboratory?

Reading Assignment

Along with the online lecture, read chapter 1 in Simplified Procedures for Water Examination.



There are many potential hazards in a water or wastewater laboratory including toxic chemicals and fumes, fire, hot glassware, and disease organisms.  By learning good laboratory safety skills now, you will be well on your way to becoming a good water or wastewater treatment operator. 

It is no more difficult to maintain safety in the laboratory than in any other environment.  However, the results of lapses of safety can be far more serious in chemical laboratories than elsewhere.  The great majority of laboratory accidents result from carelessness or inattention to established safety guidelines.  This lesson introduces emergency and personal safety equipment and notes some general precautions for use in the laboratory. 

Emergency Equipment


Before beginning any laboratory exercise, you should note the location of the various types of safety equipment.  If a spill or fire occurs, you will not have time to read the instructions before dealing with the problem, so it is a good idea to read the instructions now and make sure that you understand how each piece of equipment is used. 

Every laboratory should contain a first aid kit, an eye wash station, an emergency shower, a fire extinguisher, and a safety blanket.  We will discuss each piece of equipment briefly below and will include a picture to help you locate the equipment in your treatment plant's laboratory.  Most safety equipment is well labelled, easily accessible, and easily recognizable. 

First Aid Kits


A few of the many types of first aid kits.


First aid kits can be used to bandage small injuries such as scratches and minor burns.  Each laboratory should keep an approved, well-stocked first aid kit on hand in a convenient location.  The components of the first aid kit should be checked and refreshed twice a year. 

Eye Wash Stations and Showers


Eye wash stations and emergency showers are used to deal with chemical spills.  If chemicals come in contact with the skin or eyes, the affected body parts should be rinsed thoroughly with large amounts of clean water.  Any contaminated articles of clothing should be removed.  After flushing the chemicals away with water, the operator should notify the supervisor immediately and contact a physician, if necessary. 

Fire Equipment

Good housekeeping, such as keeping laboratory and storage areas neat and organized, will prevent many fires.  However, if a fire does occur, then it can be dealt with using a fire extinguisher and/or a fire blanket.  Laboratories may want to contact local fire officials for fire safety tips and suggestions. 

fire extinguisher

You should already be familiar with fire extinguishers.  However, you may not be aware that there are several different types of fire extinguishers which are used to extinguish different kinds of fires.  Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher may not only fail to extinguish the fire, it may make the situation worse.  The table below summarizes the uses of the four types of fire extinguishers. 

Type of Fire Extinguisher
Type of Fire
Class A
ordinary combustible materials (paper, wood, cardboard, most plastics.)
Class B
flammable or combustible liquids (gasoline, kerosene, grease, and oil.)
Class C
electrical equipment (appliances, wiring, circuit breakers, outlets.)
Class D
combustible materials often found in chemical laboratories (magnesium, titanium, potassium, sodium)

The second type of fire safety equipment is the fire blanket, such as the ones shown below.  Fire blankets are used to smother fires on people.  To use a fire blanket, first remove the blanket from its wall holder.  Next, wrap the blanket around the flames on the person.  The fire blanket will block the flow of air to the fire and cause the flames to die. 

Fire blankets.

Part 2: Personal Safety Equipment