The Most Common Injuries in a Chemistry Lab

Body Parts You Can Hurt in a Chem Lab

The Spill
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There are a lot of hazards in a chemistry lab. You've got chemicals, breakables, and open flames. So, accidents are bound to happen. However, an accident doesn't necessarily have to lead to an injury. Most common injuries can be prevented by minimizing accidents by being careful, wearing proper safety gear, and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency.

I'm sure OSHA has a list of reported injuries, but most of the time people get hurt, it's either not something they admit to or else not a life-threatening event.

 What are your biggest risks? Here's an informal look at common injuries.

  • Eye Injuries
    Your eyes are at risk in the chemistry lab. If you normally wear contacts, you should wear glasses to lessen chemical exposure. Everyone should wear safety goggles. They protect your eyes from chemical splashes and errant shards of glass. People get eye injuries all the time, either because they are lax about wearing protective eyewear, the agent causing the injury gets around the edge of the glasses, or they don't know how to use the eyewash properly. While cuts are more common in the lab, eye injuries are probably the most common serious wounds.
  • Cuts from Glassware
    You can cut yourself being stupid, trying to force glass tubing through a stopper with the palm of your hand. You can cut yourself breaking glassware or trying to clean up a mess. You can cut yourself on a sharp edge of a piece of chipped glassware. The best way to prevent the injury is to wear gloves, yet even so, this is the most common injury, mainly because few people wear gloves all the time. Also, when you do wear gloves, you lose dexterity, so you may be more clumsy than usual.
  • Chemical Irritation or Burns
    It's not just the skin on your hands that is at risk from chemical exposure, although this is the most common place to get hurt. You can inhale corrosive or reactive vapors. If you're extra-stupid, you can ingest harmful chemicals by swallowing liquid from a pipette or (more commonly) not cleaning up well enough after lab and contaminating your food with traces of chemicals on your hands or clothing. Goggles and gloves protect your hands and face. A lab coat protects your clothing. Don't forget to wear closed-toe shoes, because spilling acid on your foot is not a pleasant experience. It does happen.
  • Burns from Heat
    You can burn yourself on a hot plate, accidentally grab a piece of hot glassware, or burn yourself by getting too close to a burner. Don't forget to tie back long hair. I've seen people set their bangs on fire in a Bunsen burner, so don't lean over a flame, no matter how short your hair is.

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