What follows is a list of the necessary safety equipment in your properly ventilated, properly floored lab. Also included are spill-control procedures and chemical disposal protocols. All equipment mentioned or pictured in the "Fire Control" and "Spill Control" sections should also be considered necessary.Equipment:Gloves:
Your gloves should be rated to stand up to high pH, low pH, and several different hydrocarbon solvents.Goggles:
Your goggles must
be splash resistant goggles. If they do not create a tight seal around your eyes, they are not rated for use with liquid chemicals. Simple eyeglass-type safety goggles are not
suitable for the chemistry lab. If they don't leave a mark around your eyes that makes you look like a dweeb they are not good enough!
wear gloves and goggles at the very least! Shit, I wear splash-resistant goggles for making coffee in a French Press. Yeah, it makes me look like a dork, but there are 2 coffee-related incidents I can think of in the past 5 years where my dork-goggles saved me from serious eyeball burn. If I can almost blind myself making coffee, it can happen to anyone, especially if they're doing something more dangerous than making coffee.Eyewash Bottles:
In the event that something gets around your goggles (It happens, even to the best Chemists) it would be good to keep an eyewash bottle around. Real eyewash bottles as pictured above come to you filled with sterile saline solution and need to be replaced each time they are used. Some clandestine extractors keep an eye wash bottle filled with a weak baking soda solution, to neutralize acid spills and another with a weak boric acid solution to neutralize alkaline spills.Apron:
A rubber apron might not be a bad idea either; it isn't totally necessary, but would provide a lot of peace of mind.Respirator:
For further peace of mind, a respirator rated to remove hydrocarbon vapor from the airstream is an excellent thing to have.
Expect to pay big $$$ for a laboratory quality respirator, but a painter's respirator from a hardware store should
be enough protection for most home chemists, unless they're using more exotic solvents. If you plan to do any sort of "gassing" to salt alkaloids, spend the money on a good respirator and save your lungs.MSDS Documents:
Material Safety Data Sheets provide a wealth of information about chemicals including pertinent chemical data, (chemical composition of the product, boiling point, flash point, etc) first-aid data, and spill-cleanup data. Most of them are available online by googling the product name + "msds." Legitimate businesses are required to have a "readily accessible" binder which contains the MSDS data sheets for all hazardous chemicals stored or used on the premises. I recommend that you do the same for all chemicals stored in your lab.
It would suck to have a huge spill and need to spend 10 minutes googling what to do instead of just pulling down your MSDS binder and knowing what to do in 30 seconds flat!
Gather up MSDS documents for everything in your lab and READ THEM! They don't do you any good if you don't READ THEM!Fire Control:Fire extinguisher:
DERP! This almost goes without saying, but make sure you know how to use your fire extinguisher before you ever begin a work-up. I recommend buying two, and "wasting" one of them by familiarizing yourself with the firing procedure. The general firing procedure for fire extinguishers is as follows:
- Position oneself 6-8 feet from the source of flame (If you can't get this close it is a matter for professionals!)
- Pull pin (In the heat of the moment, many people forget this!)
- Aim at base of flame
- Pull trigger, sweeping back and forth across the base of the flame.
A fire extinguisher is great for most disasters, but there may be a time when a quantity of flammable liquid ignites. If one were to blast a pressurized fire extinguisher at this burning puddle it could blow the flaming liquid all over the lab, turning a lab accident into a catastrophe. For fire control in this situation, a "fire bucket" is probably a better choice.
This bucket is full of sand that, when dumped on a flame, removes the oxygen from the fire triangleSpill Control:
Spills. They happen. In an infinite universe anything is possible so the chemist needs to be ready for anything. There are several different kinds of spills, but all are cleaned up using the same basic protocol.1. Non-flammable floor spills
These can be mopped up with a clean mop or cloth while wearing proper safety gear, as described above. Once the liquid has been contained in an HDPE bucket it can be neutralized to pH 7 and poured down a drain. This is only for aqueous solutions such as NaOH, HCl, vinegar, etc.2. Non-flammable flesh spills
These are the scary ones. Small spills on flesh should be neutralized by running them under a baking soda solution. This works for acids and bases (please don't argue, NaHCO3 is amphoteric
, so we use it for both
acidic and alkaline spills) and is standard procedure in the Lab. If you spill NaOH on yourself and neutralize it with vinegar you're going to be in a world of hurt. Neutralize with sodium bicarb and you'll still be in a world of hurt, but it will end much sooner.
For large spills on flesh or clothing, get your ass into the shower. Right like you are, fully dressed, and get completely wet. An emergency shower in a real lab will dump 10-20 gallons on you in the space of 2 minutes. Once your clothing is completely soaked (and the spilled liquid diluted considerably) you can carefully remove it but don't take off your goggles until its gone. Transfer your ruined clothing to a plastic garbage bag and dispose of it properly. Since you're already in the shower and probably shat yourself after a spill that big, go ahead and clean up completely before going back to the lab.3. Flammable Floor Spills which do not Ignite
You're one lucky SOB. Be even more careful next time, but for now spread an absorbent on the spill. If 1 gallon or more of flammable solvent spills, the fire department and possibly the EPA (depending on location) should be called for ultimate safety.
You can buy "Solvent Spill" kits, some of them are zeolite, some are montmorillonite, some are activated carbon. The safest thing to do is buy a legitimate spill kit, but good old-fashioned kitty litter is good enough for small spills.
It absorbs all the liquid, locking it away where it cannot burn. When the patch of absorbent is completely dry, sweep it up into a plastic bag, and dispose of in the regular trash. Sounds bad, right? It's not. This is what the fire department does when someone spills a bunch of gasoline at a petrol station. They zoom up in their big truck, throw absorbent all over the place from 25 gallon drums, and zoom away saying, "When that's dry just sweep it up and throw it away."
Do not, under any
circumstances attempt to wash used absorbent down any drain. It should be safe in the standard trash, but taking a bag of it to a HazMat center certainly wouldn't raise any flags and would be ecologically responsible.3. Flammable flesh spills which do not ignite
Rinse the affected area with water. Feel bad about the minuscule amount of solvent that goes down the drain. Follow previous absorbent protocol for any liquid that dripped off your flesh and onto the bench or floor.4. Flammable spills (floor or flesh) which do ignite
These aren't spills anymore. Once a spill ignites it ceases to be a spill and becomes a FIRE. G-d forbid anybody ever has a fire in their lab, but being prepared could keep it from getting out of hand. Remember, if you can't get within 6-8 feet of the flames it is too big for you to deal with. Start heading for the Border, because the Fire Marshall is not going to be happy with you. Chemical Disposal
Most of the main chemicals used by clandestine chemists can be neutralized to pH 7, diluted, and poured down a standard drain. NaOH is sold as drain cleaner anyway, right? The General
Rule: If it's aqueous and not a hydrocarbon
, neutralize to pH 7, dilute and pour down a drain.
It's the solvents that require attention to detail. Evaporating them or pouring them down a drain is horribly ecologically irresponsible. Most of the extraction protocols we use now allow us to reuse solvent (through freeze-precip or salting out alkaloids) and that's a good thing; good for the environment, good for the wallet.
When a solvent becomes too "used" to remain useful, there are a couple options. The first would be to distill the solvent off the impurities. I cannot recommend this because it's dangerous as hell, even with proper equipment. The best option in my opinion is to put the solvent in its original can, add a dob or two of paint (whichever type of paint is "supposed to be" thinned by the particular solvent) and take it to your local hazardous waste disposal center. They'll do some paperwork, take your can of liquid environmental death, and you can go whistling on your merry way, knowing that you just did a good thing for the planet.
Edited by Phineas_Carmichael, 27 March 2011 - 09:38 PM.