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Chemistry Laboratory Closeout

By Bruce Wilson

It’s time to clean up, organize, and secure the lab for summer vacation. We created a checklist of suggested tasks (see below) to help make this project less time-consuming. However, this list cannot cover all aspects of every different lab. So start from this list and document the steps you perform to create your own comprehensive, customized checklist for next year.

Begin with the chemical inventory in order to maximize the time available for organizing waste chemicals and arranging for their disposal. Then perform the remaining tasks in any order you choose. As you work through the list, make the next year-end process easier by identifying which jobs are appropriate for completing during the school year. Some tasks (e.g., cleaning glassware) are so quick and easy to do that students can complete them immediately after a lab, whereas other tasks (e.g., repairing equipment) require more time, attention, and skill.

Perform a chemical inventory

  1. Return all chemicals to the chemical storage area. Remember to check fume hoods for any chemicals.
  2. Ensure that all containers are labeled appropriately with full substance name, concentration (for solutions), and pertinent hazard information (e.g. personal protective equipment [PPE] required for handling the chemical).
  3. Organize chemicals correctly into their 5 color-coded segregation classes. Chemicals with red segregation fields on their labels are flammable, blue are toxic, yellow are reactive, white are corrosive, and green are general storage.
  4. For each container, record the substance name, approximate amount of chemical in the container, and its location (room, rack, and shelf).
  5. Assess the condition of each container. Transfer the contents from a failed or failing container to a new container, label it appropriately, and securely close it.
  6. Identify any chemicals for disposal. Notify appropriate school personnel to arrange pickup, or consider asking other teachers in your school or district whether they can use them. Remember: If you don't plan to use it, lose it. Note: If you have mercury thermometers, consider discarding them. Many districts forbid their use. These thermometers must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  7. Maintain SDS for every unique substance in your inventory and make this information readily available. Share the location of SDS information with other science department staff and your administration.
  8. Ensure that chemical spill kits are fully outfitted for the following year.
  9. Secure the chemical storage area and document the names of people who have access to it. Share this list of names with your school's administration.

Note: Reconsider your use of hazardous chemicals and, if possible, replace them with less toxic substitutes. This table identifies hazardous chemicals and suggests less toxic substitutes. Suggestions also appear on some Carolina product description pages (online and print catalogs) for replacing hazardous substances with their less toxic substitutes. In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health publishes a comprehensive list of chemicals whose hazardous nature outweighs their educational value.

Additional considerations

Below are tasks we suggest for helping clean out and organize your lab. Complete them in any order. As with the chemical inventory, start from this list, but document the steps you perform and create your own comprehensive, customized checklist for next year.

  1. Conduct an equipment inventory and create an accurate list of equipment available for the next school year.
    1. Examine all equipment to make sure it is in working order and is stored in its proper location.
    2. Label and report any defective or damaged equipment to the administration for repair.
  2. Confirm that laboratory glassware is clean, free of defects, and free of chemical residue. Note: Even small cracks in glassware can lead to an explosive failure when the glassware is heated. Discard defective glassware in a dedicated, broken-glass trash container.
    1. Contact the administration to determine if there is a specific handling protocol for glass collection.
    2. If not, place the broken glass inside a plastic container with lid and discard it in the regular trash.
  3. Verify that the fume hood draws air sufficiently.
    1. Clean all fume hood interiors.
    2. Report an inefficient hood to the appropriate person.
  4. Make sure that the gas flow is turned off both at the main valve and at student lab stations.
  5. Verify that water lines and airlines are securely closed.
  6. Check that fire extinguishers, eyewash fountains, safety showers, and safety blankets are ready for use.
  7. Check the condition of your PPE, such as gloves, goggles, aprons, and lab coats. Replace any that are defective.
  8. Make sure that a current evacuation route is posted per school guidelines. Many schools require posting one (showing a primary and secondary route) beside the room entry/exit door.
  9. Review emergency procedures, including evacuation procedures, and discuss any changes with the science department and school administration. Implement any changes before classes start in the coming year.

See you next year

We hope these suggestions help you manage your chemistry lab safely and efficiently. Visit us at www.carolinachemistry.com for information about chemicals, lab safety, green chemistry, and much more. We look forward to providing your classroom and lab chemistry supplies for the coming school year.

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