Teaching a laboratory class poses additional risk as compared to conventional instruction in a classroom.  The following guidelines are reviewed during orientation for all new graduate student teaching assistants but should also be read by any other individuals who may be called upon to give laboratory instruction to undergraduates.

1. Primary safety responsibilities of laboratory instructors

2. Common accidents in the teaching laboratory and how to deal with them

3. Enforcement of safety regulations in chemistry teaching laboratories


Primary Safety Responsibilities of Laboratory Instructors

1. Eye Protection

You must wear accepted eye protection yourself and it is your responsibility to make sure that the students do too.  "Acceptable eye protection" are goggles with indirect venting (Chem Stores, Gilbert 154).  Wearing of contact lenses is not encouraged in the laboratory.  However, if no alternative exists, goggles must be marked with colored dots of paint on each side and a form acknowledging cautions when wearing contacts must be filed with supervisor.

2. Clothing

The entire body must be covered continuously from the shoulders to below the knees.  Shoes must cover the toes.  No sandals.

3. Accidents

Attend to injuries immediately.  Summon help if necessary: instructor in charge of course; Kristi Edwards (GBAD 006); or Dr. Chris Pastorek (Gilb 247). 
Student Health Services - instructor or staff member must accompany victim - not another student. 
Telephones are in issue rooms (GBAD 010, 210, 410, or 311). 
Student Health Services: 7-9355.  Corvallis emergency medical team, ambulance and fire: 9-911.

4. Accident reports

Both you and the victim must file a report on any accident requiring medical attention within 24 hours.  Don't let the victim disappear without filing the report.  Accident report forms are available here.

5. Safety Equipment

Make sure that you and your students know the location of the nearest: safety shower, eyewash, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, fire blanket, evacuation route, fire alarm and telephone.

6. Supervision

Make sure that at least one instructor is in the laboratory at all times.  Never work alone in the laboratory and never leave your students unattended.

7. Maintenance

Make sure that the laboratory is cleaned up at the end of each period and all gas and water valves are turned off.  Report all utility problems, such as gas leaks, hoods off, or plumbing leaks, etc to Kristi Edwards.

8. Safety Consciousness

Give your safety orientation talk to your students before they do any lab work.  Warn them of particular hazards before each experiment.  Do not allow any unscheduled experiments (these often have unexpected hazards).  Be firm on safety from the very first day.  Inform the professor in charge if you consider any procedures unsafe.  Your feedback is very important.

9. Chemicals

In advance, check the chemicals for your course and make sure they are correct for the current experiment.  Follow specific directions for waste disposal that are given at the weekly staff meetings.  Log in waste amounts when required to do so.  When your lab is over, make sure that all the bottle caps are back on reagent bottles, the bottles are back on the reagent shelf and check that the caps and tops of waste bottles for your section are on and are closed before you leave.  All eco-funnel lids must be in the down position (closed).

Common Accidents in the Teaching Laboratory

What are the most common accidents and how can they be avoided?

1. Corrosive chemicals (strong acids and bases) are spilled on hands from common-use reagent bottles and dispensers, or on clothes from the stainless steel flange in front of the hood or lab bench

  • Flush with copious amounts of water from the sink or eye wash. 
  • Keep the reagent and solutions shelf clean and tidy during your lab. 
  • Make sure that students clean-up spills immediately. 
  • Keep chemical bottles on trays and on the back of the shelf or bench.

2. Fume hoods turn off inadvertently, due to bad fan belts or for repairs, etc

  • Be alert and report problems with the hoods immediately to Kristi Edwards (7-6769, GBAD 010) or Dan Keppinger (7-6722, Gilb 143) and also notify the professor in charge of the course.

3. Natural gas stopcocks not completely turned off; sinks dripping. 

  • Check all water and gas valves very thoroughly at the end of your class. 
  • Be alert for the smell of natural gas and notify Kristi Edwards or Todd Stuhr if there is a continuing problem.

4. Skin is cut by working with chipped glassware or during breakage of cracked glassware. 

  • Replace chipped or cracked glassware immediately; don't allow students to continue to use it.

5. Mercury thermometers break and spill mercury on the bench or floor. 

  • Keep all people away from the spill. 
  • If it is a large spill, immediately call Kristi Edwards (7-6769) for help. 
  • If it is a small spill, use the mercury cleanup kit found on each floor on the center reagent shelf (wall) or call for help from the issue room staff. 
  • Place broken thermometers in labeled collection jar on center reagent.

6. Hot plates not turned off

  • Check to see that all hot plates and other electrical devices that are not in use are unplugged before leaving the lab.

7. Flammable liquids ingnite when using in the vacinity of hot plates or heating mantles, even when working in the fume hood

  • Never use flammable liquids with Bunsen burners.

8. Hot metal or glass objects don't appear hot! 

  • Use caution when handling hot objects, for example, hot iron rings, heated metal clamps and hot glassware. 
  • In the case of a burn, bunmerge affected area under water for at least 30 minutes. 
  • If severe burn, seek medical advice, send or escort student to Student Health Services.

What to do if an accident occurs in the laboratory under your supervision?

  • chemical splashed in the eye: begin flushing with water from the eyewash immediately.  Even a few seconds delay may resuls in permanent damage.  Flush for at least 15 minutes
  • call for help from another instructor or staff member for all but the most minor mishap
  • render first-aid within your competence
  • you, or another chemistry staff member should take the injured student to get immediate medical attention or call 9-911 if necessary.  Be prepared to tell the medical personnel what happened, giving explicit details in the case of chemical inhalation or ingestion
  • inform the faculty member in charge of the course in a reasonable amount of time, that an incident has occurred.  If medical treatment is refused by the student, or not offered by medical personnel, inform the faculty member of this as well.  For example, chemical inhalation may result in pulmonary edema that may not manifest itself for several hours, but it must be treated right away
  • fill out an accident report and give one copy to Paula Christie (Gilbert 153)


Enforcement of Safety Regulations in Chemistry Teaching Laboratories

As a laboratory Teaching Assistant your first objective should be to see that no student of yours suffers an accident.  If an accident does occur, it is not a question of who is sorry, but who is responsible.  The State of Oregon, the faculty member in charge and the teaching assistant may be liable in any legal action that arises from an accident.  If you meet these requirements in a manner that could reasonably be expected from a group of persons in your capacity, you are doing what is legally required.  Your professional position requires that you:

  • observe the OSU and Department safety regulations
  • fully inform each of your students of the safety rules in effect, and
  • enforce these rules with your students at all times in the laboratory

Specific OSU safety regulations that apply to your position as a laboratory teaching assitant include:

Assume that your student have no experience in recognizing hazards in a chemical laboratory.  Understand that it is your job to inform them of any and all hazards in the lab and how to take the appropriate precautions in order to avoid personal injury to themselves and to others.  Prior to your laboratory class meeting, meet with the faculty member in charge, who will explain and demonstrate as appropriate, the safety procedures to be followed in the laboratory.

Fully explain the safety procedures to all of your students.  Go over the written rules provided for them in full detail and allow adequate time for explanations and answers to their questions.

Require that each student sign and date the last page of Safety Regulations and that you initial it.  Ask each student in each of your sections to sign the Safety Rule Verification form.  You initial and date this form and return it to the issue room on your lab floor.  The students should fasten the Safety Regulations into their manuals, if not already printed in the manual and instruct them to refer to these throughout the term.  Enforce these rules at all times.  If a student will not comply, tell him/her to leave the laboratory and report this to the faculty member in charge of the course.

As the term proceeds, explain all potential hazards and safety procedures that may arise in the course of the experiment.  These should be mentioned in writing in the manual and duscussed at the weekly course staff meeting.

Whenever a situation arises in the laboratory that you believe to be unsafe, report it at once to the faculty member in charge.  Stop work if, in your judgement, such action is necessary.  Overcrowding of space can be hazardous and it is recommended that no more than six students per bench side, and no more than twenty-five students per instructor be permitted in a laboratory.