Currently, I can only think of five good pieces of advice for general laboratory safety:

  • Wear safety goggles. Duh.
  • Wear a lab coat of some sort. Better the coat get stained than your own clothes. And if you spill something nasty like acid on yourself, a coat is a lot easier to take off quickly than whatever you're wearing underneath.
  • Assume that anything that can get hot is currently so hot it will burn your flesh immediately if you touch it. This includes equipment, mixed chemicals, and stuff you just heated up.
  • Restrain long hair. Especially if you work around acids, bases, or any sort of rotating machinery like a centrifuge.
  • If you absolutely must poke something, lick your finger before you do so. The thin film of saliva will prevent it from heat, cold, and current for the time it takes you to realize you shouldn't be touching the thing.

Moreover:

  • Be careful about what you drink in the lab. Mixups do happen.
  • Remember that very hot glass looks exactly the same as room temperature glass.
  • If you don't know, ask (e.g. "What does pyrophoric mean ?" is a very good question). If you cannot ask, get out of the lab.
  • Fear invisible entities that can kill you, like electricity, carbon monoxide and nitrogen.
  • If it is plugged in, it can start working.
  • If it is not plugged in, it can still kill you (big capacitors are installed in the oddest places).

And most importantly: Believe in Murphy's Law.

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