Nov 012016

Occupational health and safety (OH&S) essentially provides science and research with unsolicited parental advice. That is, something you hate hearing, never really listen to but know you should’ve when things go wrong and you end up with gravel rash, bloody knees and snot running into your mouth. Every university has a dedicated OH&S Nazi who’s just itching for their phone to ring so they can rush to the lab, clipboard in hand, and explain in intimate detail all the things you have done, and will do wrong.

My opinion of OH&S has softened over the years. Of course, people should expect to go to work and return home with all of their important bits unchanged or improved (limbs, face, and reproductive organs). It seems the easiest way to ensure scientists remain safe is to keep them occupied with 2 days worth of paperwork so they’re not in the lab, which is where most of the accidents happen. Instead, they can sit at their desks and fill out forms which, never have enough space for the chemical you want to use (this one takes 3.5 hours to say out loud and someone has actually read the whole thing). Oh…and to sit at their desks and fill out forms, researchers need to fill out a form so they can sit at their desks and fill out forms safely.

Every field of research has the standard lab safety requirements. In chemistry, we have rules that every swimming pool attendee would know such as, no running, no splashing, no heavy petting and no bombs. A science lab is full of really fun and potentially dangerous tools and equipment. There are, however, some other rules that take all of your effort not to break. And if you’re a scientist and haven’t thought about breaking them, you’ve actually broken them. (I take no responsibility for injuries caused by this post).

Don’t spray stuff on people

Lab solvent bottles

If I had to design a water fight side arm or handgun, I’d design it exactly like a solvent bottle that you’d find in nearly every lab in the world. There’s nothing more tempting than to have a solvent bottle full of water and a friend/colleague who needs to look like they’ve wet themselves. The danger is that you’ll pick up the wrong squirt bottle and dissolve their pubes.


No sitting in the lab

Now, imagine this: You have been in the lab for 6 hours, your lab partner has just screwed up a part of the experiment and no-one has noticed your awesome new shoes. Go on, take a seat:


NOPE, fuck you and your squished buttocks – no sitting in the lab. Well, at the very least you’re not allowed to sit while someone important is looking. The risk being that you may spill something on your pant area and dissolve your pubes.

Do not get naked and use the safety showers

If you do spill something, labs also contain safety showers to wash away any chemicals. Although there’s no specific rule stopping you from doing this, don’t pretend that you haven’t wanted to sneak into the lab at night and have a proper soapy shampoo shower while the creepy, racist security guard watches. You sick bastard.

To overcome these inappropriate urges, fill out a standard operating procedure and watch as your will to live slowly fades…

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  2 Responses to “Fuck the system – Lab rules every scientist wants to break”

  1. Great article Andy-you forgot to mention that you should also try not to set fire to your colleagues 🙂

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