Safety in Organic Chemistry Laboratory

Safety in Organic Chemistry Laboratory


Explanatory comments may be found below under Standard Operating Procedures

  3. SHOES MUST BE WORN. No bare feet or thong sandals are allowed.
  4. WORK IS PERMITTED ONLY DURING SCHEDULED LABORATORY PERIODS. Work is not permitted in other laboratory periods unless space is available and written permission is obtained from your instructor.
  5. NO OPEN FLAMES ARE ALLOWED except as directed by the instructor.
  8. DO NOT USE BROKEN OR CRACKED GLASSWARE. Check glassware before using it.
  10. AVOID CONTACT OF CHEMICALS WITH SKIN. The use of rubber gloves is recommended.
  12. CLEAN YOUR WORK AREA AND PUT AWAY ALL EQUIPMENT AND GLASSWARE BEFORE LEAVING. Make sure equipment is put away in the correct locker – your personal locker or the common locker.



Any student working in an unsafe manner may be dismissed from the laboratory by an

  1. Attitudes and Preparation
    1. Come to laboratory periods on time and mentally prepared by studying the
      experiment and planning your activities.

    2. Be prepared physically; for example, don’t try to do lab work on an empty
      stomach, or without sleep.
    3. Write everything you do and see in your notebook so that you can trace your
      actions and make corrections if necessary.
    4. Wear sensible clothing, including shoes that are comfortable and permit rapid
      movement in case of emergency, and hair or hat that does not obstruct your view
      or dangle into the experiment.
    5. If you wear contact lenses, try to avoid wearing them in the lab. If you must
      wear contact lenses, your goggles must seal particularly well to your face.
    6. If you injure yourself, even slightly, report it to your instructor, who will direct
      you to first aid. If you experience eye irritation, flush your eyes at the nearest
      emergency eyewash station for 15 minutes (remove contacts) and seek medical
      attention immediately.
    7. If you have any existing physical conditions that might affect your performance,
      your health, or other peoples’ health in the lab, please inform your instructor.
      This information will be kept confidential; examples might include pregnancy,
      medications, allergies, epilepsy, AIDS. Special arrangements may be possible.

  2. Your Working Environment
    1. GOGGLES meeting ANSI standard Z87.1-1979 for chemical splash protection are
      required at all times in labs or instrument rooms, i.e. all parts of the lab, even
      when your are not handling chemicals. The goggles will protect your eyes from
      most splashes and impacts. The goggles do not meet the standard if the air
      baffles are removed. Some people have trouble with their goggles fogging up.
      The best solution is to take a short break outside the lab to clean them.
    2. Rubber gloves are strongly recommended to protect you from absorption of
      chemicals through the skin. We also recommend a lab coat to protect your
      clothes and skin from your and your neighbor’s spills.
    3. Keeping your bench space tidy will minimize breakage and spills of your valuable
    4. You are expected to clean up your own mess in community areas such as the IR
    5. Keep your glassware and other equipment cleaned up as you work. Having clean,
      dry glassware available at all times will save you much time in the long run.
    6. Be careful not to contaminate reagents with your spatulas or droppers. If you
      take too much of a reagent, give it to a needy neighbor – do no return it to the
    7. Do not wander off with the only bottle of a reagent that everyone needs; keep it
      in its assigned location.
    8. Be sure the aisles are passable.

  3. Glassware
    1. The most common laboratory injury is a cut occurring upon breakage of glass or
      porcelain. Most cuts can be prevented by careful work which prevents breakage.
    2. The safe procedure for inserting a glass tube or thermometer into a stopper with a
      hole is as follows:

      1. Be sure the tip of the tube is fire-polished.
      2. Lubricate the glass with glycerol or water.
      3. Be sure the hole in the stopper is large enough.
      4. Grasp the glass about 1″ (no farther) from the end and push and twist to insert it into the stopper.
      5. Be sure that the hand holding the stopper is not in line with the entering
      6. As the glass begins to slide into the rubber, move the hand holding the
        glass back a little, always keeping it no more than 1″ from the rubber.
      7. Most accidents occur because the glass snaps above the stopper from a
        force sideways (torque). Keeping your hand close to the stopper will
        help prevent your exerting a force sideways on the glass.
      8. The above considerations apply also to attaching rubber hoses to
        . The condenser should be in your hand (not clamped to an
        apparatus) and gripped close to the lubricated connector being inserted
        into the hose.
    3. Never use a thermometer as a stirrer! Always support a thermometer in a beaker
      or flask with a clamp. If a mercury thermometer breaks, immediately contact the
      laboratory instructor and restrict access to the area of contamination until cleanup
      can be arranged.
    4. Round-bottomed flasks will not stand upright by themselves and if rested on the
      counter will roll. They must be supported on a cork ring, in (not on) a beaker, or
      in a clamp.
    5. When glassware is assembled, care should be taken to use the minimum number
      of clamps needed for support, making sure:

      1. The clamp is attached to a vertical support bar.
      2. No torque is applied by the clamp.
      3. Top-heavy apparatus is prevented from rotating and tipping.
      4. Hanging pieces are clamped – grease will not hold them against the force of
    6. Do not use a glass stopper to seal a hot container or you may never get it out
      again. Cork is recommended for organic solvents since rubber dissolves in
      organic solvents and viceversa.
    7. Graduated cylinders are metastable and tip easily with the touch of a sleeve.
    8. Report breakage of glassware to your instructor for disposal instructions.
    9. Think before cleaning equipment – it makes little sense to scrub a graduated
      cylinder that contained ether or a water-insoluble material with soap and water.

  4. Safety Equipment
      Your instructor will show you where it is; remind yourself from time to time during the

    1. Fire Extinguishers for smothering fires. TSU policy regarding response to fires
      restricts the use of fire extinguishers to persons who are properly trained. Small
      fires may be extinguished by covering with a book or larger container.
    2. Fire Blanket for smothering fires.
    3. Safety Shower for rinsing chemicals off the body.
    4. Eye Wash Fountain for rinsing chemicals from the eyes.
    5. First Aid Kit – Note: even minor injuries must be reported to your instructor.
    6. At least two exits.
    7. Dustpan and broom for removing broken glass.

  5. Toxic Hazards
    1. The materials used in the organic lab are the safest we can find consistent with
      your need to develop skills in working with hazardous materials in your career in
    2. Since you are wearing eye protection, the opportunity for liquids or solids to
      enter the eye is small. Chemicals in the eye should be immediately flushed with
      copious amounts of water using the eyewash fountain.
    3. To prevent inhalation of organic and inorganic vapors, do your experiments in the
      fume hood or under the minihoods on the bench.
    4. If your need to determine the odor of any material, waft it gently toward your
      nose with your hand – don’t stick your nose in the container and inhale.
    5. Organic compounds can be absorbed through the skin, so be careful about
      spilling things. Wear rubber gloves to prevent contact with your skin, but treat
      the gloves as if they were bare skin, keeping them scrupulously clean. You might
      set aside a pen for laboratory work to minimize the possibility of contamination
      from your gloves via your pen to your hands and face. Obviously, chewing a pen
      or pencil that has been used in the lab would unwise.
    6. Organic vapors also can be absorbed into food or tobacco which you may ingest later. Moreover, any drinks brought into the lab could have things spilled into them. No food or drinks in the laboratory, not even stuffed in your backpack. If you do not have a locker to keep food in, please remove the food, drink and cigarettes to the hallway, or ask your instructor for a safe place to keep it. Smoking is not allowed in State buildings, as the nicotine and other contents of the smoke are well-known health hazards (look up the LD50 of nicotine if you are skeptical).
    7. If you spill a liquid on the bench, immediately soak it up with paper towels and, if
      it is volatile, transfer the towels to the hood. Inform your instructor as to the
      nature of the spill in case further action is warranted.
    8. If concentrated acid is spilled, add sodium carbonate or bicarbonate, solution or
      solid. If concentrated base is spilled, add dilute and/or weak acid (e.g. acetic). Indicator
      solution or paper will be available in the lab. If your skin (or clothing) comes in
      contact with the spill, immediately flush the skin or clothing with water for 15
    9. Should you spill bromine solution anywhere, treat the spill immediately with
      sodium thiosulfate solution.
    10. Bottles of the reagents mentioned in g) and h) are available on the small counter
      above your bench.

  6. Heat Hazards
    1. Most organic compounds are flammable and may catch fire even in the absence
      of flame at high temperatures.
    2. Flames are rarely allowed in the organic laboratory. If flames are permitted by
      your instructor, plan your experiments so that you never leave your flame
    3. If you light a flame, you are responsible for the consequences, so check with
      your instructor for a safe location.
    4. If you use a bunsen burner, be sure to tie back your hair and be careful that hair
      or clothing are kept clear of the flame.
    5. If there is a flame in the neighborhood, do not pour flammables; organic vapors
      are usually denser than air and will flow along the bench without alerting you by
      their odors.
    6. Make sure you know the location of the nearest fire extinguisher and the nearest
    7. Reactions that are exothermic or are being heated must be monitored; do not
      leave them without having someone watch.
    8. Never, never, never heat a closed system! Pressure will build up and cause the
      glass to fail, sending projectiles of glass in all directions. Do not depend on small
      leaks – a substantial air exit must be provided.

  7. If There is a Fire
    1. In the lab where you are working.
      1. Shout “fire” to alert your neighbors and instructor if you discover it.
      2. A small fire in a test tube or other container can usually be extinguished by
        covering the container with a watch glass or book. If the fire cannot be
        extinguished by one extinguisher or by sand or water, you will be instructed
        to evacuate, following the procedure in b).
      3. One terrible possibility is that someone’s clothing is set on fire. If the person
        runs, the flame will be increased by increasing the supply of oxygen. It must
        be smothered. Wrap the person in a lab coat, fire blanket, or whatever is
        handy to exclude oxygen.
    2. Elsewhere in the building (fire alarm sounds):
      1. Extinguish any flames and turn off electrical equipment.
      2. Close any open windows and internal doors near you.
      3. Walk quickly through the nearest exit to the hallway and leave the building by the nearest stairwell.
      4. The last person leaving the room, usually your instructor, will close the hall

  8. Laboratory Electrical Equipment
    1. During the semester you will use a variety of instruments to analyze your
      samples. As with all electrical equipment, a certain amount of care is needed to
      prevent fire, shock and damage to the equipment. Be careful not to bring water,
      especially on your hands, into contact with connected electrical equipment.
    2. The hot plates you are provided are powerful and seldom need to be set higher
      than 3.
    3. Much of the heating in organic chemistry is done with electrical heating mantles;
      these must be plugged into a variable transformer, not directly into the outlet or
      they will overheat and may cause a fire.
    4. Never transfer anything into a flask that is sitting in a heating mantle; use a cork
      ring, beaker or clamp to hold the flask during transfers. Organics spilled in a
      mantle will catch on fire when the electricity is connected, acids or bases will
      corrode the wires, and water will cause a short circuit.
    5. Never pour into a container on an electronic balance – they often have the wiring
      and knife edge under the pan are thus easily damaged.
    6. Turn off electrical equipment immediately after you have finished unless your
      instructor has stated otherwise (e.g. the gas chromatographs must be left on for
      an hour to stabilize).
    7. Report frayed cords, or non-functional equipment to your instructor. Do not put
      it back in the cupboard or you will be stuck with it again next time.
    8. No samples are allowed on top of any instruments.

  9. Pressure Hazards
    1. Never heat a closed system.
    2. When using a separatory funnel, vent frequently and remove the stopper
      immediately upon setting it upright for separation.
    3. Compressed gas cylinders must be strapped to the bench above their center of
      gravity when the protective caps are off. Pressure regulators are generally not
      interchangeable between gases for safety reasons. Gas cylinders should be free
      of regulators and protected by their cap before moving.

  10. Waste Disposal
    1. In order to minimize damage to the environment, and in compliance with State
      and Federal law, chemical wastes must be separated into categories and carefully
      labelled as to their contents. Please read and follow the labels on the waste
      bottles to ensure that your chemical wastes are treated safely and appropriately. You will find containers for:

      1. General Organic Waste (flammable)
      2. Halogenated Hydrocarbons (non-flammable)
      3. Chromic Acid Solutions (these have been phased out)
      4. Lead
      5. Silver
      6. Other Heavy Metals
      7. Waste from specific experiments in some cases.
      8. Acids
      9. Bases
      10. In some experiments, acids and bases will be
        neutralized to a pH of 6 – 10 (State law) as part of the experiment and flushed down
        the drain with lots of water. Your instructor will give you instructions in
        particular cases. Indicator solution or paper will be available in the lab.
      11. Broken thermometers create the special problem of spilled mercury (a toxic heavy
        metal). Report such accidents immediately to your instructor; usually any
        mercury which cannot be collected is reacted with sulfur or absorbed with a
        special kit before disposal as heavy metal waste.
      12. Broken glass or porcelain is swept up into a dust pan and disposed of in a special
        container for broken glass. Please don’t use your fingers.

    Drafted by L. M. Sweeting 1989

    Adopted by the Organic Group 1989

    Revised and Readopted 1994, 1997

    Web adaptation January 1999


View more information:

See more articles in category: Grammar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button