Are you currently planning, building, or preparing to open your new chemistry lab? Are you looking for tips and reference materials for running and safe an effective lab?
There are tons of different uses for chemistry labs. You might be a teacher revamping your high school’s chemistry department. Or you might be a community organization looking to offer after-school activities to local teens.
Or, you could be in the business world, building a new lab for research and product development. Whatever the case, a chemistry lab is a chemistry lab, and it deserves respect.
There are tons of safety precautions and training involved with running a research lab. And there are important management skills you’ll need to keep it running smoothly.
So what do you need to know about opening and running your lab? Keep reading for 12 important tips before getting started.
Safety Safety Safety
Your priority is the safety of everyone who steps foot in your lab. Even if there aren’t active experiments taking place, a lab can be dangerous if unprepared.
This means outside your lab needs to be signs informing students and visitors of lab protocol. This includes letting people know that eye protection and lab coats are mandatory for entry into the lab. Make sure everyone keeps these on at all times.
When serious experimentation is taking place, provide additional safety equipment. This can be a complete face mask to protect the skin and mouth as well as the eyes.
It can also be chemical, heat, or cut-resistant gloves. Always wear slip-resistant, closed-toe footwear. And everyone should be aware of where the exits are.
Make sure your lab has an eye washing station and teach all lab users how to use it in the event of an accident, where chemicals splash into someone’s eyes.
Lots of Training
Those working in your lab, whether staff, students, or temporary visitors, should receive comprehensive training. Staying safe in a laboratory goes beyond wearing PPE. Every decision a chemist makes can have consequences.
First off, your lab should contain SOPs or standard operating procedures. These describe how different tasks related to chemistry, equipment setup, or cleaning should occur. Everyone needs to be on the same page with these procedures to prioritize safety and lab efficiency.
Everyone should also receive training on how to use equipment such as burners properly. And there should be standards on how to transport materials, glassware, tools, and anything else.
Essentially, you want your lab running like clockwork. You don’t want people coming up with their own way of doing things in an environment where one wrong move can have unintended consequences.
Have Enough Hands
Whatever your lab’s goal is, it’s essential to have enough people on board. If you are a school lab, it helps to have more than one teacher present. The best and most educational experiments are often those with an element of danger.
It helps when there are assistant teachers or older student volunteers in the room to help keep an eye on each student or group.
If you are a proper commercial research lab, it helps to have several different employees. You’ll want people who can actually perform experiments. But it’s also useful to have lab assistants or interns who can assist with some of the simpler tasks.
And for those labs who are always making messes, a dedicated chemistry clean-up team is essential. You want highly trained people cleaning your lab, not necessarily a normal janitor or inexperienced cleaning company.
Label Everything Properly
Want things to run smoothly in the lab? Want to prevent unnecessary explosions and broken equipment? Then you must develop a labeling system that works for your lab.
Label all research chemicals, solutions, and ingredients in the same way. They should be organized on the shelf, in the cabinet, or the cooler in the best way possible. This helps people find what they are looking for faster.
It can also prevent researchers from grabbing the wrong chemicals or using something expired and unsafe. It can be a burden to label everything all the time. But this extra step is important to run a professional, safe lab.
Commit to Keeping Your Chemistry Lab Organized
On top of labeling chemicals, there are many other ways to keep labs organized. Label storage shelves and closets should so everyone knows exactly what should be inside.
Organize coolers so that safer products are up high and riskier products are stored down low. In a restaurant setting, for example, this is important to keep ingredients safe. Items like raw meat are always stored down low, so in the containers dripping, it doesn’t land on or contaminate other ingredients.
Depending on what you store in your coolers, you might want to organize your coolers in the same way.
Once everything is organized, it can help draw up a map of the lab, including the cabinets, closets, and other places where things are stored. The map can show where different types of equipment and chemicals are stored.
This way, someone could quickly glance at a piece of paper and know where to find something. This beats having to scour the entire lab, wasting precious time to find a thermometer or extra test tube.
Encourage Experimentation Within Reason
A chemistry lab is a place to explore. It’s a place to ask why. It’s where students and staff should feel empowered to ask questions and test hypotheses.
This is how breakthrough comes; when someone starts asking the right questions and following up with the scientific method of developing and testing hypotheses.
Sure, this means a lot of time will be spent on discovering what doesn’t work. But that’s part of the process, and that’s what helps us learn and become better chemists, researchers, or students.
Do your best to develop a culture of exploration in your lab. Challenge your team and ask them why they are doing certain things. Help them to look at the problem or project from a different angle.
And encourage them to experiment on their own. Just make sure they are aware of basic things to avoid, such as mixing certain chemicals that might cause an explosion.
Invest In Quality Equipment
You can’t run a proper lab with poor quality equipment. Nor should you try unless you want to waste money on gear that keeps breaking and potentially causing dangerous accidents.
Instead, spend a little extra money upfront to buy high-quality, long-lasting glassware. Your collection of glassware is what you’ll use most in your lab. Make sure to get strong products that are also heat resistant. Many of your experiments will involve heating solutions in glass, so make sure it won’t shatter when heated.
It also helps to buy products, such as burners or mixers that are easy to use. Sure, there’s something novel about old-style pieces of gear. They feel nostalgic, like you are back in the 70s on the cutting edge of modern science.
But technology and science continue to advance, and there are much more efficient, easy-to-use products available for use in a chemistry lab.
Develop Your Own Products
Even if you are a school lab, it can be fun to experiment with creating unique compounds or even products as a project. You can have students create fun kids products like slime as an introductory experiment.
Or, to really get the creative juices flowing, you can experiment with making ice cream. Once you get the hang of it, you can empower students or researchers alike to develop and test their own flavors. You can have a competition and invite other school members to vote on which ice cream is the best and make it the official school flavor.
Projects like these, and other similar ones, only require basic equipment and ingredients. So even if your lab is on the budget-friendly side, you can have fun trying your hand with these.
Have a home chemistry lab and looking for new ways to put it to use? You can experiment with SARMs. Also known as Selective androgen receptor modulators, SARMs are novel compounds similar to steroids but way better.
Rather than boosting your overall muscle mass and body, SARMs target specific muscle tissues rather than everything in your body. This makes them perfect for athletes looking to boost performance without resorting to steroids or other harmful performance enhancers.
To use these, you can purchase SARMs for sale as research chemicals and put your lab to use. They don’t come ready to take, but it’s easy to use the ingredients to create your own personal product.
Get a Fume Hood
One of the most important pieces of equipment in your lab is the fume hood. Ventilation in your lab is critical for the comfort and safety of your team.
As experiments take place and chemicals are released into the air, the room can fill with contaminants. These might not be unsafe at first, but if the air isn’t being recycled, it could spell trouble.
Depending on the contaminants added to the air, individuals could start to feel light-headed, nauseous, or dizzy. Long-term exposure to toxic fumes could cause damage to the body.
Rather than take a risk, it’s important to consult with specialists. Inform them of the type of work you’ll be doing and your lab’s logistics so they can recommend the best hoods to keep your lab safe.
Visit Other Labs
Looking to find new ways of running your lab? It can help to visit other more established labs and see how things run.
See if there are local college labs that you can sit in on or commercial labs that you can volunteer in. There are many different community-based opportunities available.
Keep It Clean
Cleaning is a vital component of lab safety and efficiency. With so many different types of chemicals, solutions, and potentially toxic products, you need to have a clear cleaning procedure.
First off, ensure you have a dedicated glass trash bin. Broken glass is a basic reality in chemistry labs. And it can’t be disposed of in a normal trash bag. Not only could it rip the trash bag, but it can cut the person who is taking the trash out.
After each day or session, ensure the lab is completely disinfected. This includes work tables, tools, chairs, benches, and other surfaces used during an experiment. You don’t want leftover chemicals to contact tomorrow’s chemicals and cause a negative reaction.
Keep the floors clean and free of debris. Use bleach to mop the floors, ensuring the cleanest, safest floor. Glassware should be washed by hand and placed in designated drying stations.
There are a few types of drying boards capable of holding glassware upside down to hang dry. You can also get an electric dryer that blows warm air up into the hanging glassware.
Every day should end with a complete wipe down and disinfection of the lab. This could be your students or team members, or it can be a dedicated cleaning team trained for lab-specific cleaning.
Keep Your Lab Focused
There’s a lot that goes into running a successful chemistry lab. When it comes down to it, safety, organization, and training are the most important components of a fun, effective lab.
On top of that, clearly defining your goals for your lab will help you outfit and manage them properly. You can’t be an everything to everyone type of lab. You need to have a focus and stick to it. Other than that, you need a creative and curious spirit that always asks why. That’s the key to discoveries.
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