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When working in a fume hood, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. After all, you’re using one of the most important items for lab safety, so what could go wrong?
The answer is plenty, if you don’t follow chemical fume hood safety guidelines. A fume hood is designed to protect you from chemical fumes that are potentially toxic, but if you don’t follow fume hood safety precautions, you run the risk of exposure and other ill effects. Below are three items that should be at the top of your fume hood safety checklist.
1. Make Sure the Hood is Functioning Properly
Before you do anything involving a fume hood, it is important to follow one of the cardinal rules of chemical fume hood safety: look to make sure that the fume hood has been certified in the past 12 months. Hoods must be regularly certified to prove that they are in goof working order, and if you use one that has not been inspected in over 12 months, you run the risk of an adverse event. Regular care and maintenance is important for all lab equipment to ensure the safety of those working in the lab, and this is particularly true when it comes to maintaining fume hoods.
You also will need to make sure the fume hood is running. This is also one of the major fume hood safety precautions. You will need to affix a piece of tape or paper to the hood to verify that air is flowing upward and out of the lab, since a fume hood can only protect you if it’s running.
2. Wear Physical Protection
While it is true that a hood will protect you from potentially dangerous chemical fumes, any fume hood safety video will explain the importance of wearing additional protection. In the event of a spill, explosion, or other sudden event, you will need to ensure that your eyes, hands, and the rest of your body is protected. The exact type of safety gear you need will depend on the chemicals you are working with. But generally speaking, you will need safety glasses or goggles, gloves, and a lab coat.
While it is true that a hood will protect you from potentially dangerous chemical fumes, any fume hood safety video will explain the importance of wearing additional protection.
You might feel safe and protected with the sash between you and your experiment, but as with any work in a lab, it is vitally important to be prepared for the unexpected.
3. Keep the Sash as Low as Possible
As noted above, the sash is a central part of chemical fume hood safety, as it provides a barrier between a lab worker and the chemicals being used inside the hood. All people new to the lab should be given fume hood safety training that includes the right way to operate the sash. For maximum protection, keep the sash as low as possible at all times. You may need to open it wider to set up an experiment, but be sure to keep this period brief. As soon as your experiment is set up, you will need to lower the sash again.
A related item on the fume hood safety checklist is to avoid putting your head inside the sash. It may be tempting to do so to get a better view of your experiment, but doing this negates the purpose of the sash and places you in harm’s way.
It goes without saying that fume hood safety training is vitally important for all lab personnel. Whether you ask everyone to watch a fume hood safety video or prefer to do a walkthrough on your own, be sure that all students or employees understand why it’s important to follow fume hood safety guidelines and what could go wrong if they don’t. Taking a few simple precautions will keep your lab productive, safe, and happy.
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