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Learning Objectives
After completion of this chapter, the student will be able to:
Identify the different medical laboratory accidents.
Explain the possible factors contributing to medical
laboratory accidents.
Describe safe use and storage of chemicals and
Explain the importance of planning for safety and
general precautions to avoid medical laboratory
Types of laboratory hazardous and accidents
Chemical and reagent hazards
Mechanical hazardous
Microbial hazards
Fire safety
Factors contributing to laboratory accidents
First aid measures
Safe use and storage of chemicals and reagents
Planning for safety

Accident : is unintended and unexpected event ,
usually resulting in personal injury or property
The basic causes of accidents are:

unsafe conditions of machinery



the unsafe actions of persons that are caused

by ignorance or neglect of safety principles.
Hazardous: is potentially very dangerous to living
beings or the environment.
Types of Laboratory hazards and
The major causes of hazards in the laboratory are:
A. Chemical hazards
B. Physical hazards
C. Microbial hazards

Chemical hazards
Hazardous chemicals are used in the laboratory
either directly or incorporated into reagents and
These dangerous chemicals include:
highly flammable ones like alcohol.

highly corrosive ones like phenol

sulphuric acid and toxic ones like formaldehyde

carcinogenic ones like benzidines.

explosive ones like picric acid.

Chemical hazard
Hazards caused by chemicals are:
i) Harmful effects of toxic chemicals can be caused by:


Skin contact

ii) Burns can be caused by:

Flammable chemicals and stains.

Fires from spirit lamps, faulty electric usage.

Corrosive chemicals being spilit on the skin.

Chemical hazard

iii) Injury from explosions caused by:

Incompatible chemicals exploding

Leaking gas exploding

Physical / mechanical hazards
Hazards of glass are the biggest cause of
mechanical hazard.
More than 30% of all laboratory causalities are cuts
from broken glass.
The glass may also be contaminated with stool, pus,
and bacteriological cultures resulting in severe

Physical hazard
Always inspect glass apparatus from defects before
Dont use damaged, cracked, badly scratched or
chipped glasswares.
Broken glasswares should be discarded in to a
container reserved for this purposes
Label all bottles clearly to show their contents.
Laboratory personnel should be aware of the
mechanical hazards of equipment like centrifuges,
shakers and autoclaves.

Physical hazards/ ..
Accidents occur in the lab. mainly through:

lack of foresight

lack of care.

A careless worker endangers not only himself /

herself but also his / her colleagues as well.

Microbial hazards
Is caused by:
Pathogens being inhaled in aerosols when there is:
snap closing specimen container.

vigorously dispensing or pouring infectious fluids.

sucking up and blowing out fluid from pipettes.

specimen centrifuged in open containers.

Pathogens being ingested:

Contaminated finger

When hands are not washed after handling of

specimens or cultures.

Microbial hazards

Pathogens are accidentally inoculated through:

open uncovered skin wounds.
injury from broken contaminated glass wears.
needle stick injures caused by re cupping
needles after collecting blood or careless
handling of needles and lancets.

Laboratory hazards
Generally the main hazards and accidents associated
with laboratory work are as follows:
1. Infection.
2. Burns.
3. Cuts.
4. Harmful effects of toxic chemicals.
5. Injury from explosions.
6. Electric shock.
7. Fire.

Laboratory hazards

1. Infection
This can be caused by:
A. Pathogens being inhaled in aerosols when snap
closing specimen containers, dispensing or pipetting
infectious fluids.
B. Pathogens being ingested from contaminated
fingers, or in food that has been contaminated.
C. Mouth- pipetting of specimens and cultures.
D. Pathogens entering the skin through needle
puncture, cuts, scratches insect bites or other open
skin lesions.
Laboratory hazards
2. Burns
Can be caused by:
A. Flammable chemicals and stains, or by reagents
catching fire easily.
B. Fire from sprit lamps, Bunsen burners, lighted
tapers (e.g. when heating Ziehl Nelsen stain, or
from faulty electrical equipment or over loaded
C. Corrosive chemicals being spilt on the skin or
ingested when mouth pipette.

Laboratory hazards
3. Cuts
May be caused by:
A. Breakage.
B. Using glassware that is cracked or has damaged
C. Walking on glass chipping.
4. Harmful effects of toxic chemicals
Can be caused by:
A. Inhaling fumes from toxic chemicals.
B. Ingesting toxic chemicals by mouth pipetting.
C. Skin contact with toxic chemicals.

Laboratory hazards

5. Injury from Explosions

These can be caused by:
A. Explosion of leaking gas.
B. Leaking chemical exploding.
6. Electric shock
Can be caused by:
A. Faulty electrical circuit
B. In correct installation of equipment
C. Touching exposed live wires.

Laboratory hazards
7. Fire
Common cause of fire in the laboratory include:
Electric over loading.

Poor electrical maintenance.

Equipment switched on unnecessarily.

Naked flame, Bunsen burner.


Misses of matches.

Laboratory hazards

Injury from fire caused by lighted
Bunsen burners, spirit burners, tapers
matches, alcohol swabs,

Fire safety
Itis essential for laboratory personnel to receive
adequate instruction and training in fire safety and
appropriate fire fighting.
Injury, damage and loss by fire can be minimized when
laboratory staff:
Understand how fires are caused and spread

Reduce the risk of fire by following fire safety

regulation all times.
Know what to do if there is a fire in their
Know how to use fire fighting equipment

Know how to apply emergency first aid for burns.

Fire Fighting Equipment
Fire fighting equipment for laboratories should include:
I. Buckets of water: to extinguish paper and wood
fire. Water; however, must never be used to
extinguish an electrical fire or one caused by a
flammable chemical.
II. Buckets of sand or dry soil: to smother flames
and contain and extinguish a free flowing liquid fire.
III. Fire blankets made from heavy cotton: chemical
or preferably a manufactured fire blanket

Fire fighting

IV. Dry powder chemical fire extinguisher: to

extinguish electrical fires caused by flammable
N.B: When ever possible, the laboratory should be
fitted with a battery operated smoke detector

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A simple method to remember

how to use a fire extinguisher
includes the use of the acronym
P Pull the pin
A Aim at the bottom
S Squeeze the handle
S Spray back and forth 24
Factors contributing to laboratory
A poorly designed laboratory and overcrowding.
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

Allow the working bench to become cluttered.

Carelessness and negligence;

Factors contributing

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.

Storage and safe use and of chemicals
and reagents
correct handling and storage of hazardous chemicals
is essential to prevent injury and damage.
In addition to this to reduce accidents caused by
chemicals, labeling is very important.

Flammable chemicals

includes: Ether ,Xylene ,Toluene , Methanol ,

Ethanol or other alcohols ,Acetic acid, acetone and
acetic anhydride
extremely Storage:
Flammable chemicals should be stored in a fire
proof metal box at ground level, preferably in
and out side cool and locked store.
If a metal box is not available, at least a
highly container well lined with tin foil should be used.
flammable N.B: Only small quantities of flammable
solvents should be kept on lab, benches and

Flammable chemicals

Before opening a bottle containing a flammable
solvent, check that there is no open flame such
as that from a Bunsen burner.
Do not light match near flammable
N.B: Never heat a flammable liquid over
a Bunsen burner or lighted gas.

Corrosive chemicals
Corrosive chemicals include strong acids such as
concentrated sulfuric acid, nitric acid, glacial acetic
acid, and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and
potassium hydroxide (caustic potash).
Corrosive chemicals should be stored at low
level to avoid any serious injury, which could be
caused if they are accidentally knocked off a

Safe use:
Never mouth pipette corrosive chemicals instead
use automatic pipettes.
The accidental swallowing of corrosive chemicals
can cause sever injury because such chemicals
destroy living tissues.
Always pour corrosive chemicals at below eye
level, slowly and with great care to avoid
When opening a container of corrosive chemicals and
when pouring it wear protective materials.

N.B: When diluting concentrated acids in general and
sulfuric acid in particular, ALWAYS add the acids to
the water.
This is because adding of a small amount of water to
concentrated acids produces sufficient amount of
heat that can break a glass container, which can
cause damage and even chemical burn.

Toxic, harmful and irritating chemicals

Toxic chemicals are those chemicals which can

cause death or serious ill-health if swallowed or
inhaled, or if the chemical is allowed to come into
contact with the skin.
Examples of toxic chemicals include potassium
cyanide, sodium nitroprusside, formaldehyde
solution, chloroform, barium chloride and

Harmful chemicals can cause ill- heath if swallowed and
inhaled, or by skin contact.
- Example, iodine and sulphanilic acid chemicals can
cause inflammation and irritation of the skin, mucous
membranes, and respiratory tract.
Highly toxic chemicals such as potassium cyanide
must be kept in a locked cupboard. Stock solutions
or solids of harmful and irritating chemicals should
be stored safely in cap board, not on an open


Handle toxic, harmful and irritating chemicals with
great care by wearing protective gloves.
Always lock away highly toxic chemicals
immediately after use. Keep the lab, well ventilated
while the chemicals are being used.

Toxic ..

N.B: Never mouth pipette any chemicals, instead

use automatic pipette or dispenser or pipette filler.

Highly toxic Toxic Irritant harmful

Oxidizing chemicals
These chemicals include
chlorates, perchlorates, strong peroxides,
potassium dichromate, and chromic acid.
Oxidizing chemicals must be stored away from
organic materials and reducing agents. They can
produce much heat when in contact with other
chemical, especially flammable chemicals.
Safe use:
Handle oxidizing chemicals with great care. Most are
dangerous to skin and eyes and when in contact with
reducing agents.

A chemical that can cause cancer by ingestion,
inhalation, or by skin contact is known as a
Chemicals with proven carcinogenic properties
include benzene, ortho -tolidine, alpha and beta-
naphthylamine, nitrosamines and selenite.
The risk in handling of these chemicals is
proportional to the length and frequency of the
exposure and the concentration of the chemical.


Carcinogens should be kept in closed containers
and labeled as carcinogenic, handle with special
Safe use:
Always wear protective plastic or rubber gloves,
and face mask when handling carcinogenic
Carcinogens must not be allowed to come in
contact with the skin because some carcinogens
can be absorbed through the skin such as beta -
Summary of universal hazardous symbols

Summary of

Explosive (E) corrosive (C) Dangerous for irritant Harmful


Very toxic (T+) Toxic extremely flammable highly flammable oxidizing agent(O)

Planning for safety
A laboratory should be planned not only for efficient
work but also designed with a view to eliminate
The following are among the features of a safety
designed or planned and organized laboratory.
Adequate floor, bench and storage space for staff
to work safely.
Sufficient light is essential, especially in the
examination areas of the laboratory.
A sufficient supply of wall electric points to avoid
the use of adapters.
Overcrowding must be avoided.

Planning for
Good ventilation is essential with adequate
provision of fume cupboards.
There should be a system for marking high risk
Discard containers that contain infectious
microorganisms after each use.
The floor should be well constructed with a surface
that is non-slippery. impermeable to liquids and
resistant to those chemicals used in the laboratory.
Walls should be smooth, free from cracks,
impermeable to liquids and easily washable.

Planning for

Doors of the of the lab, should be opened to the

out side direction.
Sectioning of the lab, into separate rooms or
working areas with definite places (for patients,
visitors, and reception of specimens).
Bench surfaces should be without cracks,
washable and resistant to the disinfectants and
chemicals used in the laboratory.
An adequate number of hand basins with running
water is essential.

Planning for
Provision of protective clothing.
Example: gown & fire extinguishers should be placed at
accessible points
If extinguishers are not available several buckets of sand must
be provided.
Ensure that all work in the laboratory is done with a safety
conscious attitude.
All staff must ensure that the conditions of their work do not
create any hazard for those working near by.

Planning for ...
The chances of an accident occurring in the laboratory
are much reduced if:
Every one works in a tidy fashion.

Every one works with out rush.

Benches are clean.

Reagents returned to the shelves after each use.

No eating, drinking or smoking in the laboratory.

N.B: Laboratory coats should be fully buttoned up while

working and removed before leaving the laboratory.

General precautions for avoidance of
laboratory accidents
1. Handle acids and alkalis firmly up right with a dry
Never pour water in to strong acids because of the
danger of reaction and splashing.
2. Do not keep acids and alkalis in bottles with ground
glass stoppers. This is because they may get stuck.
3. Use small measuring cylinders for measuring acids
and alkalis where possible.

General precautions

4. Use pipettes that are plugged with non- absorbent

cotton wool or with a rubber tube attachment.
5. Never heat the bottom of a test tube. The liquid inside
might sputter. Always heat the middle portion of the
test tube, shaking gently.
6. Only boro - silicate glass wares can be heated over a
Bunsen flame.

General precaution ..
7. Only small quantities of inflammable liquids should be
kept in the lab.
Caution: Ether ignites at a distance of several
meters from a flame. Hence, never place a bottle
of ether on a workbench where there is an open
flame (Bunsen burner, sprite lamp, etc.)
8. When lighting a butane gas (gas burner) always light
the match and hold it to the burner before turning on
the gas tap. Turn off the main valves of all bottles of
butane gas every evening.

General precaution..
9. Students and junior staff must be aware of the
dangers of unauthorized experiments.
10. Safe disposal of specimens and contaminated
materials is
highly essential.
11.Safe use and storage of different lab chemicals is
12.Safe use of electrical equipment is of paramount

General precaution..

13.Adequately equipped first aid box should be

available in the laboratory
14.Dangerous laboratory chemicals and specimens
should be labeled clearly.
15. Laboratory equipments should be sterilized as
16. Using of Biological Safety Cabinets when

Personal protective equipments (PPE)

- PPE is available to protect you from exposure to

infectious agents in the healthcare workplace
- Know what type of PPE is necessary for the duties you
perform and use it correctly.
PPE for Standard Precautions:
Gloves Use when touching blood, body fluids,
secretions, excretions, contaminated items; for touching
mucus membranes and non intact skin.


Gowns Use during procedures and patient care

activities when contact of clothing/ exposed skin with
blood/body fluids, secretions or excretions is anticipated
Mask and goggles or a face shield Use during
patient care activities likely to generate splashes or
sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, or excretions.

Safety eye wash
Saftey showers

Safety equipment

safety hood

Hand washing

Hand contact is the primary method of infection

Laboratory personnel must always wash hands after
gloves are removed, prior to leaving the work area, at
any time when hands have been knowingly

Hand washing

Steps in correct hand washing technique:

1. Wet hands with warm water.
2. Apply antimicrobial soap.
3. Rub to form a lather, create friction, and loosen debris.
4. Thoroughly clean between fingers, including thumbs,
under fingernails and rings, and up to the wrist, for at
least 15 seconds.
5. Rinse hands in a downward position.
6. Dry with a paper towel.
7. Turn off faucets with a clean paper towel to prevent
Safe laboratory design & organization

The following should be taken into consideration while

designing, constructing & organizing a laboratory.

1. Floor should be:

well constructed

non-slip surface

impermeable to liquids

washable with drainage

Safe laboratory design

2. Wall should be:


free from cracks

easily washable

With adequate socket

Safe laboratory design

3. Windows should have:

adequate ventilation

adequate illumination

mosquito proof screen

4. Bench Should be:

with no cracks


resistant to chemical

free of pests

With adequate sinks

Safe laboratory design

5. Cupboard & shelves

well constructed

free of pests

6. Door

opened in two ways i.e. inside and out side

NB. the room should not overcrowded

Laboratory premises

1. Do the premises meet national and local building

requirements, including those relating to flood and
earthquake precautions if necessary?
2. Are the premises generally uncluttered and free from
3. Are the premises clean?
4. Are there any structural defects in floors, stairways, walls
and roofs?
5. Are floors and stairs uniform?
6. Is the working space adequate for safe operation?
7. Are the circulation spaces and corridors adequate for the
movement of people and large equipment?
8. Are the benches, furniture and fittings in good condition
Lab. premises.
9. Are bench surfaces resistant to solvents and
corrosive chemicals?
10. Is there a hand-wash basin in each laboratory
11. Are the premises constructed and maintained to
prevent entry and harborage of rodents and
12. Are all exposed steam and hot water pipes protect
13. Is an independent power support unit provided in
case of power breakdown?

Thank you!