A principal cause of laboratory accidents is poor housekeeping.  A clean work area is much safer than a cluttered or dirty one, and all laboratory personnel must strive to maintain an orderly and safe laboratory setting as this impacts not only their safety but the potential safety of others who work/visit the lab.  As an added safety precaution, be considerate and aware of custodial staff since the custodial staff generally are not as familiar with laboratory chemicals and their hazards as most laboratory workers.

General Housekeeping Practices

  • Access to emergency equipment, showers, eyewash stations, and exits must never be blocked.
  • Keep all work areas, and especially work benches, clear of clutter and obstructions.  Properly store items when not in use.
  • Do not place chemicals within two inches of the edge of a lab bench (to avoid accidental knocking off of bench).
  • Chemicals must be stored properly (e.g., incompatibles are separated), and must not be stored in/on fume hoods, desks, or lab benches.
  • Keep all aisles, hallways, and stairs clear of all chemicals and other obstructions; never store or place chemicals on the floor.
  • Never stack chemicals in the laboratory; containers must be stored upright.
  • Coats, bags, and other personnel items must be stored in the proper area, not on the bench tops, or near chemicals or equipment that is in use.
  • All work surfaces and floors should be cleaned regularly.
  • Keep all floors and work surfaces dry.
  • Promptly clean up all spills, including water spills and ice, and properly dispose of all spilled chemicals.
  • Clean up work areas at the end of the operation or day.
  • Keep drawers and cabinets closed to avoid accidents.
  • To avoid the presence of noxious fumes arising from the sewer lines, each Laboratory Supervisor should ensure that a liter of water is poured down each laboratory drain at least monthly to ensure that the drain trap is functional.
  • Hallway doors of all laboratories must remain closed to maintain the proper negative airflow from the hallways into the labs.
  • Promptly dispose/recycle packing materials and empty cartons.
  • Inspect faucets to see that they work properly and do not drip.
  • Make sure that hose/tubing connections on faucets and other items are secure, and that hose/tubing is not brittle.  Immediately replace any old or degraded hose/tubing.

Glassware and Sharps (e.g., needles and blades)

  • Make sure that disposal containers for broken glass and sharps are well labeled and placed in low-traffic areas.
  • Properly dispose of broken glassware and sharps.  If these items are contaminated with a hazardous substance, they need to be treated as hazardous waste and disposed in the appropriate waste container.
  • Never use cracked or chipped glassware; promptly discard these items in the broken glass container.
  • Do not stack beakers, flasks, etc.
  • If glassware is stored on open shelving then use the black storage bins, or some other type of guard, to keep the glassware from falling off the shelf.
  • Wear appropriate gloves to clean glassware; do not pile up dirty or clean glassware.
  • Wash glassware carefully (dirty water can hide glass fragments).

Electrical Equipment

  • Electrical equipment should be maintained by trained individuals only.
  • Never overload circuits; use surge protection power strips and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters as needed.
  • Properly ground all electrical equipment.
  • Be sure that all cords are well placed, in good shape, and away from water. Keep cords out of aisles.
  • Immediately report any electrical failure or suspicious heating of equipment to the stockroom manager.
  • Refer to Chapter 7 of “Prudent Practices” for guidelines for handling assorted electrical laboratory equipment.