A laboratory is filled with conspicuous and inconspicuous hazards. To protect people who work or study in a lab, safety symbols are present on dangerous materials and equipment. It is critical for scientists, technicians and students who enter a laboratory to know what these safety symbols mean, so that they can easily identify the types of hazards and avoid injury and health risks.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Safety symbol key
Review a safety-symbol key before going into a laboratory. This key is a list of safety symbol images, with an explanation of the associated hazard. For instance, a safety symbol key would tell you that a skull with crossbones is the symbol for poison, and an image of a flame is the symbol for something that is flammable. The symbol for glass safety, which is specific to lab environments, contains images of broken glassware. Eye protection warning signs show images of lab goggles.
Memorise the safety symbols before going into the lab. You can quiz yourself on the safety symbols using picture cards with the symbols on them, or simply review the information until it becomes ingrained in your brain. Memorising the symbols will help you look out for them once you are in the lab.
Read bottle and container labels. Any time you are instructed to pick up a solution in a bottle or container, read the outside of the bottle or container for a safety symbol. Follow the safety guidelines for handling toxic substances, if you happen to see a safety symbol on the container. Liquid chemicals can have flammable, explosive or toxic properties. If you do not see a symbol on the container, chances are that the solution inside is not harmful.
Check for safety symbols around the laboratory. Certain equipment, tools or machines in the lab may have signs next to them that display safety symbols, such as the symbol for electrical safety, clothing safety, or hand safety. An electrical safety symbol shows a picture of an electrical plug and cord, the clothing safety symbol contains a silhouette of a person wearing a smock, and the hand safety symbol is a picture of a hand. Always check for safety symbols before you use any type of appliance in the lab.
Look up safety symbols that are unfamiliar to you. If you see a symbol in the lab that you have never seen before, ask the instructor or another colleague what it means, or turn to a reference material for the answer. You should always know what types of safety symbols are surrounding you so that you are safe in your environment.
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