Laboratory hazards and accidents

Laboratory hazards and accidents

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Chemical hazards

These apply to all who use chemicals in their work. It is wise to regard all chemicals as toxic unless you know otherwise. The main dangers to the person are associated with toxicity, chemical burns and dermatitis. Chemical related risk of explosion and fire are also possible.

Toxic symptoms may follow ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption. If eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited in the laboratory, the risk is usually low. Benzene vapors are fire risk and inhalation may lead to chronic poisoning.

Swallowing of strong acid or alkali causes corrosive poisoning. Strong acids or alkalis can also cause acid burns or alkali burns. Some chemicals are carcinogenic and are regarded as the potential causes of tumors of the urinary tract. Example, 0rtotoludine. Oxidizing agents, when they come in contact with organic matter or other readily oxidizable compounds frequently causes explosions.

The followings are examples for highly poisonous substances.


  • Antimony
  • Berilium
  • Iodine
  • Cyanide
  • Phenol
  • Oxalic acids


  • Nesselers reagent.
  • Benzine
  • Bromine
  • Fluorine compound


  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Carbon-mono oxide

Physical hazards

Hazards of glass are the biggest cause of lab, accidents. More than 30% of all laboratory casualties are cuts from broken glass. If one is not careful enough, profuse bleeding might result following a deep cut. The glass may also be contaminated with stool, pus, and bacteriological cultures resulting in severe infections.

Always inspect glass apparatus from defects before use. Don’t use damaged, cracked, badly scratched or chipped glasswares. Broken glasswares should be discarded in to a container reserved for this purposes.

Always replace reagent bottles on the shelves and never leave bottles of acid or alkali where they may be over turned. Always label all bottles clearly to show their contents. Moreover, mechanical hazards are common in laboratories.

Laboratory personnel should be aware of the mechanical hazards of equipment like centrifuges, shakers and autoclaves. Accidents occur in the lab, mainly through ignorance, lack of foresight, and lack of care. A careless worker endangers not only himself / herself but also his / her colleagues as well.

The main hazards and accidents associated with laboratory work are as follows:

· Infection. · Burns. · Cuts. · Harmful effects of toxic chemicals. · Injury from explosions. · Electric shock. · Fire.

Factors contributing to laboratory accidents

A poorly designed laboratory and overcrowding can increase the risk of accident occurrence. Most lab, accidents are the result of bad lab. Practices like: ·       

  • Poor training;
  • Lack of concentration;
  • Noisy environment;
  • Untidy working and not using racks to hold sample containers;       
  • Allow the working bench to become cluttered;
  • Carelessness and negligence;
  • Over work and fatigue;
  • Hot and humid climatic conditions;
  • Hurrying to finish work.

N.B. Accidents are also more likely to occur when working under emergency conditions, especially during night hours.

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