Chemistry is an experimental science, an exploration of the unknown. Chemists work with a wide assortment of materials, combining them in a multitude of ways. Experimental outcomes are often unpredictable, making lab work both exciting and potentially dangerous.
The dangers posed by hazardous reagents are easily identified. However, most compounds have not been investigated for potential hazards. Therefore, a precautionary approach is recommended. The chemist’s personal safety, and the safety of the world “downstream,” depends on his or her willingness and ability to anticipate, and deal with, potential hazards.
Anticipating a hazardous situation means thinking about safety before you even enter a lab. In planning an experiment, even an experiment that has been performed many times, you should always take time to identify potential hazards, procedures for dealing with these hazards, and safe, legal procedures for disposing of all materials after the experiment.
Training in emergency procedures is also required, and this training must occur before actual lab work begins. Accidents are inevitable, and when they do occur, the chemist must be ready to respond.
Reed College chemistry students encounter the same safety problems faced by professional chemists. Students are expected to learn about possible hazard and disposal problems before each experiment. In the lab, students are expected to follow safe procedures, safely deal with hazardous materials remaining after an experiment, and be ready to handle accidents. This manual has been written to acquaint you with safety problems that you might face and your responsibilities for dealing with them.
The first few chapters of this manual describe hazards that are commonly encountered in Reed laboratories. They tell you how to protect yourself from hazards, how to deal with accidents, and how to dispose of leftover materials.
The initial chapters are organized by lab course. Students enrolled in different courses are to read different chapters, but all students must complete their required reading before beginning work in any new laboratory course.
To underline the seriousness of this requirement, all students must sign the legally binding statement that appears at the end of this manual . This states that the signer has completed the required reading and understands its contents. The statement must be signed and the original copy must be returned to the chemistry department secretary before starting lab work in any new lab course. Failure to do this can lead to dismissal from the course.
The remaining chapters contain reference material. This information is intended for students and faculty engaged in research and/or planning new experiments. Students enrolled in lab courses do not need to read the reference material before signing the safety statement, but they should scan the chapter and subchapter headings to learn what kind of information is provided.
1.3 Course-specific safety information
Naturally this manual cannot anticipate every hazard that might be found in a Reed laboratory. Therefore, your lab instructor will provide additional safety information about particular experiments. This information supplements the information provided here: your lab instructor will assume that you have read this manual and are familiar with its contents. Make it a habit to consult both this manual and your course manual whenever you plan a new experiment.
If your instructor’s safety instructions conflict with those provided here, please follow your instructor’s instructions. Do us a favor, though, and let your instructor and the environmental safety and health office know about these conflicts. The same goes for missing information.