Knowing where safety equipment is located and checking safety supplies regularly can prevent or minimize accidents. Researchers and safety experts offer other tips:

  • Know Chemical Characteristics: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides information on material safety data sheets for all chemicals that list associated hazards and instructions on how to handle exposures. For radioisotopes, researchers should know the type of emitted particles, the half-life, and annual exposure limits. It is also important to know the solubility characteristics of chemicals, according to Tom Klingner, principal chemist at Colormetric Laboratories Inc. in Des Plaines, Ill. "If you are dealing with a fat-soluble material, under no circumstances should you wash," he says. "This can increase exposure fivefold. Washing with soap and water wets the skin and drives the material into the body."

    "Mixing incompatible chemicals is a potential issue in labs," reports Peter Ashbrook, head of hazardous waste management at the...

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