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Chemistry LibreTexts

General Safety Considerations for the Uninitiated

New to this game? Depending on where you work/study, you may end up with a boss who throws you in the deep end and hopes for the best, or someone who likes to micro-manage every aspect of your lab work, or perhaps someone who falls in between. The safety requirements and policies in each institution will differ but regardless of where you are, it is always good practice to follow these guidelines (at a minimum):

  1. Ready to cook up some molecules? Find out what chemicals you need, and locate an MSDS for each and every one.
  2. READ THE MSDS. Pay particular attention to the class, the toxicity, what kind of hazard it poses, disposal considerations, incompatible substances, conditions which may lead to instability, what to do if you end up with the chemical on yourself and any special notes included by the manufacturer.
  3. If the chemical is particularly deadly/dangerous, search for alternatives. Remember that the safety of you (and your co-workers) is more important than any chemical reaction or experiment.
  4. Some reactions will produce hazardous compounds, if you are following a lit procedure the authors may mention this, otherwise it is a good idea to check safety procedures for compounds containing certain functional groups e.g. azides, perchlorates.
  5. Control the risk. Ask people who have experience with the chemicals. Get the right safety gear, think ahead and prepare for any accidents. Think about how you will dispose of the waste. Above all, if you are unsure, seek instruction.
  6. Put on safety gear.
  7. Cook up molecule. Depending on such factors as your technique, the shape and position of the moon and whether the world likes you on that particular day, your reaction may or may not work.