In the last blog I said we are going to discuss the issue of safety in the laboratory. But I hope that many of you reading this will be doing your own experimenting at home. That makes the title of this blog cover not only how you think about safety in a laboratory environment, but in your not-so strict world of home experiments.
The rules mentioned here are used in almost every school you go to, and most of them you need to take home with you when you are doing your own experiments. It only takes one violation of the rules to drastically affect your entire life. Pause to think how many adults have ignored common sense safety rules when handling fireworks, and what they now have to live with.
- If you have long hair, tie it back, put it in a bun, or do whatever you need to so it will not catch fire. This is especially true if you put chemicals on your hair, such as hair spray.
- Clothing that can come into contact with chemicals or an open flame need to be secured. This includes long sleeves and scarves.
- As was noted in the last blog, get a quality set of goggles to protect your eyes. The question of when you should have them on is best answered by saying that whenever you are conducting any part of an experiment, they should be on.
- If you wear acrylic nails you are not to be near any open flame. This is one of those rules that is strictly enforced at the school level, but is easy to ignore when you are performing experiments at home.
- Keep all your experimental equipment – beakers, flasks, test tubes, etc. – in front of you and below eye level at all times. Turning your back on any experiment is inviting disaster.
There are many others, and when you go into a class they will be reviewed and discussed with you at school. These are the most important rules.
One of the problems with doing experiments at home is that you don’t have the proper sink and drain to safely conduct experiments and discard your used materials down a sink or drain. In fact, there are many states that have regulations that prohibit duping certain chemicals into residential drains and sewage systems. From a safety viewpoint, you never know what might happen when what was safe to do at school with a laboratory sink, is done at home in a stainless steel or non-lab certified sink.
If you plan on doing chemistry experiments at home regularly, you will quickly learn what is and isn’t safe for your particular environment. Ask your Chemistry teacher to answer any questions you might have about doing experiments at home. Or send me a note!
These first 5 blogs have covered the basics of what Chemistry is about, some of the formal methods to use that you will learn in class, and how to have fun while being safe during experiments. I hope I have shown you there is a nice balance that can be achieved through learning and doing, while being able to take seriously the challenges of choosing Chemistry as a profession – either as a Chemist or a teacher.
Next blog we are going to start moving forward with more challenges. Until next time, have fun and stay safe!