Workplace safety: use your BRAAAINNS!!

I've just gotten back from a conference, and I was blaming the travel and time zones for the fact that I feel like this:


However, from the looks of things, it seems there is some kind of zombie epidemic on ScienceBlogs today. (I suppose this means I need to talk to the IT guys about internet security issues, if I got zombified through my browsing. Assuming they're still taking help tickets from zombies. I wonder if being a zombie with tenure makes a difference ...)

Anyway, in the meantime I thought it might be useful to break out the workplace safety talk for new students. While I can't find the original filmstrip* to link to it, mine skews heavily towards what chemistry students need to know. However, you should feel free to shamble into the comments with that tasty brain of yours and add additional tips for safe conduct in your own field of study.

Proper laboratory attire:

There is stuff in labs that can hurt you. If you are hurt, it interferes with your ability to shamble through the experiments and produce good results. Thus, you should dress in a way that minimizes the chances of harm. This includes:

  • Wearing closed-toe shoes.
  • Wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs.
  • Wearing a lab coat, where appropriate.
  • Wearing gloves to protect your hands.
  • Keeping long hair tied back.
  • Wearing safety goggles (especially if your eye sockets are starting to show wear and tear).
  • Not wearing contact lenses (especially if your eye sockets are starting to show wear and tear).
  • Wearing suitable brain protection. (Remember, an open mind is good, but if your brain falls into your experiment it can ruin a whole day's work.)
  • Ensuring that your gaping wounds and decaying limbs have secondary containment, so they won't contaminate your experimental system or the lab space more generally.
  • Where appropriate, using a respirator (if you're still breathing).

General safety in the lab:

Everyone is safer in a lab where workers can move freely from their experiments to safety equipment and exit doors. Thus, tripping hazards should be removed from floors. If electrical cords must be on floors, they should be taped down, sequestered in "bridges", or otherwise prevented from becoming tripping hazards.

If lab workers include a mix of zombies and warm bodies with tasty brains living humans, it may be acceptable in certain circumstances to introduce tripping hazards to the environment or to barricade exits. Consult with your lab supervisor.

While some zombified lab workers may have a preference for working at a sprint, it is safer for the whole group if everyone moves through the lab space at a shambling pace.

Avoiding harmful exposures.

Do not pipette by mouth, ever. For one thing, even if you think the material you are pipetting would be safe to accidentally ingest, the glassware it's in might have residues of something that isn't. For another thing, pipetting by mouth introduces the risk of backwash from your mouth into the reagent. That's like putting your whole zombie-contagion-having mouth in the reagent -- which puts your breath-drawing lab mates at risk, and also might introduce an uncontrolled contaminant into your experimental system. The risk of bad data alone is enough to make it a bad idea.

Don't eat in the lab, ever. Cross contamination between your food and your experiment could harm you or your experimental results.

Don't eat your coworkers' brains in the lab, ever. To be an effective part of the experimental team, they need their brains. Besides, you don't want to eat brains contaminated with harmful chemicals from your experiments.

Dispose of chemical waste properly, putting wastes that can not safely be washed down the drain in containers with secondary containment, labeled with contents (writing out the names of the compounds, not just using their formulae) and type of hazard they constitute, and arranging for pick-up. Do not eat the brains of the workers dispatched to pick up and dispose of tagged chemical wastes

Be sure you know how to use the safety shower and eye wash in case of accidental exposure to hazardous chemicals. Stay under the shower for the full duration of its flow, even if this means you lose some of your decaying flesh in the process. Be sure to tag any such flesh for proper disposal. Even if you no longer have eyeballs in your eye sockets, it's a good idea to use the eyewash in the aftermath of chemical exposure of your eye sockets (since the chemical residues in your eye sockets can make their way to your zombie brain).

Safety in the library:

Be careful when locating journals stored in the compact shelving. Before turning the crank to move the shelves, be sure there is no one in the aisle currently opened up. Do not browse in the open aisle while someone else is moving the compact shelving, or you may have to go back to the lab looking like this:


It's hard to do a good literature search without a head.

*If you don't know what a filmstrip is, go find an old person to ask.

Zombie images by the awesome Joseph Hewitt of Ataraxia Theatre.

More like this

When using machinery with moving parts, don't wear jewelery. It can cut through decaying flesh with incredible ease!

Don't lift beyond your comfortable capabilities (especially if you need to shamble down stairs) - it's embarrassing if your arms fall off, and assorted zombie fluids may damage valuable books and equipment, resulting in delays getting results.

By stripey_cat (not verified) on 01 Jul 2010 #permalink

If an instrument can't be turned off for repairs/maintenance, use a GFI plug to prevent shocks.


(If you never saw "Return of the Living Dead" you may not think that's funny.)

Two pipette references in one day for this non-chemist!
From the AHC History Project at UMN's Twitter feed (@ahcarchives)
Hey, don't be a sucker.