Guide to First Aid in a Chemical Laboratory

18th March 2020

Chemicals

There are certain hazards you can encounter when working in a lab that are unique to the chemical industry, so it’s important to have a guide to first aid in a chemical laboratory.

It’s possible that injuries can occur that require immediate on-site attention and treatment, so chemical manufacturers should have safety precautions in place. This is a guide to what every chemical company should have in their first aid box, as well as some other health and safety features in a chemical factory.

Bear in mind that not all cases can be treated using a basic first aid box – emergency services may need to be called and you should be aware of when to take this action.

Items in a Chemical First Aid Box

At ReAgent, we ensure that first aid kits are distributed evenly throughout the company and are available to everyone. We have both male and female first aiders on-site.

Companies have to be careful with what they put in a first aid box, as there are strict rules concerning what you can and can’t include. Every company should have people trained in first aid in case of any dangerous exposure to chemicals.

What you can have in a first aid box:

  • Triangle bandages
  • Bandages
  • Pins for bandages
  • Sterile dressings
  • Plasters
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Eye pad dressings
  • Gloves

What you can’t have in a first aid box:

  • Gels, creams or tablets. These items cannot be distributed as people may have an allergic reaction which could worsen the situation

As well as a comprehensive first aid box, we have a number of other safety features throughout the factory. Our basic first aid facilities are more than sufficient and we have a high number of qualified first aiders. We also have staff members that are trained in using a defibrillator – a device that delivers a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart.

Around the factory are stations that provide an eyewash bottle for immediately addressing any chemical exposure to the eyes, as well as full safety showers.

Laboratory First Aid Chart

It’s a good idea to have a laboratory first aid chart on the wall, or a laboratory first aid guide to hand so you if there is an accident, you have easily accessible first aid information. These charts and guides provide examples of the most common type of injury sustained in a chemical laboratory. Remember this may not be to do with the chemicals themselves, but perhaps cuts from broken glass or burns from steam.

A laboratory first aid chart

Image courtesy of Lab Connections

Chemical First Aid

First aid for chemical burns chart

There are hazards out there that are quite specific to the chemical industry. Chemical companies put strict measures in place to prevent exposure to toxic substances. Here is a simple guide to toxic substances and their dangers:

  • Corrosive substances: Corrosives can cause burns. For specialised acid burns caused by chemicals such as hexafluorine and diphoterine, we have special creams in the form of spray for ease of application without too much contact
  • Irritants: Irritants can affect the skin, eyes and even aspiratory system if they’re inhaled or ingested
  • Toxics: Toxics are poisonous and often fatal. They should only be handled by those that are fully-trained and who understand the precautions to take
  • Sensitisers: These can cause sensitisation. If your body is overly exposed to a certain material through handling it regularly, your body becomes conditioned so it’s more sensitive to that material. Once you’re sensitised to something, allergic reactions can be triggered by even small levels of exposure
  • Carcinogens: Can cause cancer. There is equipment in our factory (and should be in all chemical environments) to prevent exposure to carcinogens. When dealing with carcinogens, avoid generating mists or vapours and immediately report leaks or failures of safety equipment
  • Mutagens: Can lead to mutagenic effects. For example by affecting fertility or causing mutation in the unborn child. Mutagens can cause internal harm to the body and may damage the organs, liver, kidneys or blood
  • Flammables: Flammables have the ability to readily ignite and burn. If they are explosive compounds, they can also blow up and so should be kept away from vacuum pumps and ignition sources

Of course, hazards in the workplace are not limited to chemical environments. There are other hazards which must be controlled in both a chemical laboratory and other general workplaces. Examples of measures in place at all workplaces include attempting to reduce trips and falls, safe lifting, and the safe use of workplace transport by qualified operators.

When to Call Emergency Services

Injuries obtained through working with chemicals can be treated on-site depending on the extent of the incident.

For minor exposure (where the chemical has not done much damage or has only caused small irritation) the exposed area can be washed and the patient may be ok. In the event of inhalation, the patient should go outside for fresh air and, providing they recover suitably, further treatment may not be required.

For more serious incidents such as burns or serious ingestion, seek medical assistance. If you’re in any doubt about the patient’s health, do seek medical assistanc. Some effects are delayed and symptoms may not show up until 24 hours after exposure, so monitor the patient carefully.

It helps to know as much as you can about the chemical you’re handling, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with the Material Safety Data Sheet.

Disclaimer

All content published on the ReAgent.co.uk blog is for information only. The blog, its authors, and affiliates cannot be held responsible for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from using the information provided. Additionally, we do not recommend using any chemical without reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can be obtained from the manufacturer. You should also follow any safety advice and precautions listed on the product label. If you have health and safety related questions, visit HSE.gov.uk.

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