Classroom and Laboratory Safety

Author: Dr. Saphida Migabo (Biology)

As the TA responsible for a class or laboratory, it is your responsibility to know all safety rules and regulations. This is true even if you are not the formal authority (i.e. Course Instructor(s) are normally present).

The following tips will help you ensure classroom and lab safety:

  • Attend the Mandatory TA Laboratory Safety course. This course is offered several times during the year.  Check the Laboratory Safety website for details (http://www.unbc.ca/safety/lab-safety).  You must take this course before your first day of teaching/assisting.
  • Depending on the nature of your course, familiarize yourself with UNBC’s Chemical, Biosafety, Laser, Radiation and Field procedures. Manuals are located on the Laboratory Safety website.
  • Each lab is equipped with a telephone. In case of an emergency, call campus security at 23333 (within Campus) or 250-960-3333 (outside campus). The number for non- emergency calls is 27058 (internally) or 250-960-7058 (externally). Know the location of the telephone in your respective room.
  • Know the locations of fire/emergency exits, fire alarms, and the best evacuation routes from your room. Evacuation plans for each building are posted in the lab and hallways. Know the Evacuation Assembly point for your building.
  • Know the location of fire extinguishers, emergency fire blankets, emergency showers, and eye wash stations.  You also need to know how to use them.
  • If you are using any chemicals in the lab, familiarize yourself with the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). They are available online at http://ccinfoweb.ccohs.ca. In addition, you need to familiarize yourself with Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS) symbols posted on the bulletin board in your room.
  • Familiarize yourself with fumehood operations.
  • Know how to deal with minor and major spills.  Contain only small unhazardous spills in the laboratories. In the event of hazardous chemical spills, or major spills (several litres), follow the Chemical and Biological Spills procedures outlined at  http://www.unbc.ca/sites/default/files/assets/safety/lab_safety/spill_procedures.pdf.  Remember to complete an emergency and spill form after the clean-up.
  • In case of gas leak, if you can safely do so, try to confine the leak by shutting off the source of gas, closing the door, etc.  Report gas leaks or suspicious odours to Campus security immediately.
  • In the event of fire, call 23333 to report the details and pull the fire alarm. Ensure the safety of students and other occupants of the building.
  • In the event of fire alarm or fire drill, direct your students to evacuate the building by the fire exit or shortest route. Do not use elevators. Give assistance to handicapped persons and close the door but do not lock it. Do not return to the building until authorized.
  • In the event of serious injury or illness, do not move the injured person unless it is a life threatening situation. If possible, do not leave an injured person unattended. Call Campus Security at 23333 and give as much information as you can. Security will arrange for medical help and an ambulance, if required.

The following Laboratory safety regulations must be adhered to at all times:

  • No smoking or food or drinks are allowed in the labs. Lockers are available outside each lab for storage of these items.
  • Appropriate footwear must be worn (open toed shoes, sandals, bare or stockinged feet present an accident risk).
  • Shorts or short clothing (skirts/skorts/etc.) cannot be worn under the lab coats.
  • Lab coats must be worn in all wet labs.
  • Contacts lens should not be worn while in the lab.
  • When required, wear appropriate protective equipment such as safety eye glasses, shields and gloves.
  • No horseplay and pranks: they are potentially dangerous.
  • Long hair should be tied back to minimize fire hazards and contamination of experiments.
  • Develop a healthy respect for chemicals, know safety procedures (e.g. use of fume hood, gloves, eye protection and how chemicals should be stored), and be alert for unsafe practices and techniques.
  • Encourage students to wash their hands before leaving the lab and not to put anything in their mouths including pencils, fingers etc.
  • No tasting of any substance or solution is allowed.
  • Treat all live animals gently and with respect.
  • Use lab equipment properly. If you are unfamiliar with any equipment, check with your supervisor first or use the equipment manual if available.
  • Keep lab benches clean and clear of clutter. Student’s bags should be placed under their benches or at the front.
  • Discard lab waste in the appropriate buckets and bottles. Instructions on disposal of laboratory waste are outlined in the Chemical Laboratory and Safety and Methodology Manual.
  • In cases when you take students outside even for brief periods, make sure you are aware of possible dangers and ways to minimize them. Ask students to familiarize themselves with the safety and risks clause which is found on the first page of the Undergraduate/Graduate University Calendars.
  • At the end of each lab, return all equipment and supplies to their original locations.