It is assumed that undergraduate experiments have been approved by the respective committees – Physical, Organic, Analytical and Inorganic. Academic members of each section should help in carrying risk assessments of the experiments. A slightly different approach to Risk Assessment from that required of Research Supervisors/Advisers is required.
Following the Assessment, information, instruction and training are given to anyone who may be exposed to the material so that they are aware of any health risks and of the precautions to be taken to minimise such risks. Given the almost total lack of experience of a first year Undergraduate, it would clearly be insufficient simply to state that a material is of low risk if good laboratory practice is applied. Rather, information and instruction needs to be given on:
- the nature of the risk involved and consequences of exposure;
- the precautions to be taken, the protective equipment to be used and how it is to be used;
- the cleaning and disposal procedures following use of the substance;
- the emergency procedures to follow if, for example, the material is spilled or comes into contact with skin.
How this information and instruction is given is left to individual academic; however, a statement of the risks, the precautions and emergency procedures should be made available to students in some written form and clearly pointed out to them before they begin experiments.
For first year students the written form may involve only a few lines on the experimental script for each particular substance but, for more advanced students, part of the training process may be to find out this information for themselves, provided that the information is reasonably readily available and is validated by the current Academic or Teaching Assistant before experimental work is begun
A number of simple Risk Assessments and operating procedures are made available to Undergraduates, including the use of Fume-hoods, the use of Glassware (one of the major causes of injury in the teaching laboratory), use of standard Electrical Equipment, use of Laboratory Heating Equipment (Bunsen burners and steam-baths) and use of Reduced Pressure Equipment (water pumps and rotary evaporators).
If other items of equipment are used or procedures followed which carry more than minimal risks, Assessments must be made and information and instruction passed to the students. This is the responsibility of the Academic-in-charge.
Safety information and Assessments should be reviewed annually and revised as necessary.
Academic in Charge of Teaching Lab
The main duty of the Academic-in-charge is to provide immediate supervision of the Teaching Laboratory at all times when students are present and to ensure that:-
- local Rules and work practices are followed and that the well-being of all students in the Laboratory is protected;
- students are taught to carry out procedures in a safe way and that any perceived unsafe practices are corrected;
- accidents or dangerous incidents are reported in writing to the Chemistry Safety Committee
- in the case of emergency alarms all students are ushered from the Laboratory via the normal exit to the appropriate assembly point;
- any student who shows persistent disregard for matters of safety is warned that this is a disciplinary offence and the matter is reported in writing to the Chemistry Safety Committee.
Local Rules and Introductory Talks
In the course of introductory talks to Laboratory sessions, students should be informed about detailed rules operating in the Teaching Laboratories (e.g. no eating or drinking, long hair to be tied back etc.). It does not convey a consistent message if some laboratories allow students to enter without wearing safety glasses and others insist on them.The hard and fast rule should be that students are not allowed into the laboratory area without wearing safety glasses. In the course of introduction to Laboratories, students should be shown the normal route of exit when the emergency alarm sounds, the position of fire extinguishers, blankets and any other emergency equipment.
Academic-in-charge of Teaching Laboratories aided by Teaching Assistants must ensure that local safety rules such as those requiring wearing of Safety Glasses and Lab-Coats are obeyed at all times. Any student who, despite warnings, show a persistent disregard for matters of safety should be warned that this is a disciplinary offence and, if repeated, must be required to leave the laboratory in order to ensure that their own safety, and that of anyone else who might be adversely affected, is maintained.
Accidents and Incidents
It is the duty of the Academic-in-charge to report in writing any accidents or dangerous incidents, of which they are aware, occurring within that laboratory or involving any student for whom they are responsible. In the first instance any such accidents or dangerous incidents should be reported to the Chemistry Safety Committee and OSHE via the online accident/incident website (https://staffweb.nus.edu.sg/oshe/submit_airs.htm). Accident reporting is mandatory under the Workplace Safety & Health Act.
Teaching Assistants are normally employed to assist the Academic Demonstrator in the running of Teaching Laboratories. As such they have considerable responsibility for ensuring the Safety of Undergraduates in these laboratories and, in order to be able fulfill there responsibilities, Teaching Assistants should prepare themselves by becoming familiar with:-
- the local Safety Rules of the Teaching Laboratory in question by attending any introductory talks which include Safety Information and by reading the Department of Chemistry Undergraduate Safety Note document. Demonstrators must themselves obey all local Safety Rules including, for example, the wearing of Safety Glasses and fastened Lab. Coats,
- the Emergency Evacuation Procedure including the Evacuation Route from the Laboratory,
- the location of Emergency Equipment i.e. fire extinguishers, fire blankets and safety showers serving the Laboratory,
- any Risk Assessments or COSHH Assessments relevant to procedures or substances used in the Teaching Laboratory so that they are aware of
- any particular hazards associated with the experiments and
- the steps to take in the event of an accident
When laboratories are in progress, the Teaching Assistant must ensure that:
- students in the laboratory obey all the local Safety Rules. Repeated breach of these Rules must be reported to the Academic-in-charge of the Laboratory,
- students are taught to carry out procedures in a safe way and that any perceived unsafe practices are corrected,
- in the event of an Emergency Alarm, students are assisted in making their work safe and are directed to the proper exits as soon as possible. All Teaching Assistants should assist in ushering students out of the Building,
- all accidents and dangerous incidents are reported immediately to the Academic-in-charge.