Risks Associated With Hazards in a Physics Laboratory - Essay Sample

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George Washington University
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It is said that no job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take the time to perform our work safely. The most important thing in performing any job or experiment is ensuring that the participants are safe. Otherwise, the job would be rendered not viable. When you perform a task the safe way, then you can do it every day but engaging in a task that puts you at risk minimizes the frequency of occurrence. Regardless of how motivated or determined an employee can be, they are of no use to the company dead. Safety is often overlooked on the foundation of success and is not given the attention it deserves but taking a closer look at it, it is the cornerstone of success. Employees need to be in good health to be able to perform the assigned duties. When it comes to experiments and laboratories, there are safety procedures and protective gears to improve the working conditions of such a high-risk environment. However, many students ignore safety procedures as they regard them to be a waste of time. It is not until one has sustained a work-related injury that they start taking safety precautions seriously. Many accidents in the laboratories can be avoided if students paid more attention to the safety measures and precautions. This paper is going to expound on the risks associated with the hazards in a physics laboratory.

Opening a research laboratory is a challenge, let alone running it. In addition to stocking the laboratory with necessary equipment and ensuring that they are all in good shape and functional, one needs to also consider the safety of the employees. In many cases, the latter is overlooked or inadvertently procrastinated to a later date and eventually forgotten. These assumptions made by developers and lab workers are sometimes presented with dire consequences. It is therefore imperative to understand the standard Occupational Safety and Health Administration programs to improve the experience of working in a physics laboratory. A laboratory hazard is defined as anything that can potentially harm or injure a researcher and lead to short or long-term health effects (El Nadi, 2013). What laboratory hazards in a physics laboratory vary greatly from one is the biology and chemistry department.

Even though the physics laboratory does not usually utilize chemicals as in the case of biology and chemistry experiments, it still has some safety concerns that should be considered upon every visit there. Such safety concerns are not clear to everyone, and some people end up putting themselves at risk. As good physicists, we should avoid as much to learn from experience and keep ourselves safe while at the laboratory. The primary safety concerns in a physics laboratory are extreme temperatures, mechanical hazards, and electrical. Most physics experiments are done using an object that investigates on require mechanical motion. Mechanical motion of objects with varying amounts of mass is used to investigate physics theories of speed, force, and momentum (Manual of safety and health hazards in the school science laboratory, 1980). When handling such objects, the students should be careful not to hurt themselves with force affiliated with the momentum of moving objects. If a string holding an object was to snap, the student should try not to be in the way of the trajectory of the object.

Another important aspect of physics that is usually experimented is thermodynamics. There are a plethora of experiments that test the theories of thermodynamics. These tests require extreme temperatures and students should be careful when handling such. Getting to such high or low temperatures might be risky especially where the students have no protective clothes and gears (McLeod, 2017). Common hazards in this area include scalding and burning. In handling such experiments, the students should ensure that they use gloves and hot pads in dealing with hot objects. There are gloves and hot pads that are designed to protect the student from extreme temperatures and could come in handy at this juncture. Checking the temperatures of steam and generators is a common step in the procedures and is just as risky. Students and lab workers are always advised to use steam lines to check the temperatures and maintain a safe distance while doing so. Another important precaution to take while carrying out a thermodynamics experiment is to always check the temperatures of the objects before picking them up. Researchers should not rely on their eyesight to estimate the temperature of an object. Not all objects appear red when hot, but this does not mean that they are not packing a lot of heat. Similarly, some objects lose heat slowly to the environment, and it is easy to assume that they are cool after leaving them exposed for a couple of minutes (Fss.txstate.edu, 2017). The best and safest way to go about such cases is to ensure that you check the temperature before handling such an object.

Finally, electricity and current are often tested in the physics laboratory and pose a hazard. Several electrical devices of varying current, voltage, resistance, and capacitance are experimented with by the students, and it is important to be careful when handling the same. For the ready-made circuits, safety is ensured by the producers by insulating wires and using the right amount of current (Physics.appstate.edu, 2017). However, when it comes to set-ups that students have to prepare their circuits, bare live wires are used, and they should be treated with utmost caution. Although the circuits and experiments are conducted in a controlled environment and operating at a non-lethal voltage, this should never be an excuse for carelessness. When connecting, disconnecting or changing a part of the circuit, the power supply should be off.

Ensuring safety in a physics responsibility is a collective role, and each person has a part to play. The physics laboratory instructor must inform the students of the various hazards and their extent of the danger. Orientation in the physics laboratory should be frequent and thorough as possibly can. The instructor can go a step ahead and put warning posts and bench aids to educate the students and remind them to keep safe (Osha.gov, 2017). In the course of the experiment, the instructor should keep an eye on the different groups and guide them whenever necessary. The laboratory instructor also must answer all questions directed to him according to his/her best knowledge.

On the other hand, students are expected to practice caution in their experiments. They should not put themselves in open hazardous situations and consult the laboratory instructor whenever in doubt. Students should always be accompanied by a laboratory instructor in their physics laboratory experiments. Common sense judgment is also encouraging when dealing with laboratory equipment.


El Nadi, L. (2013). Modern trends in physics research. [Hackensack] N.J.: World Scientific.

Fss.txstate.edu. (2017). Common Laboratory Hazards: Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management : Texas State University. [online] Available at: http://www.fss.txstate.edu/ehsrm/safetymanual/labsafe/cmlabhaz.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].

Manual of safety and health hazards in the school science laboratory. (1980). Cincinnati, Ohio: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

McLeod, V. (2017). Laboratory Hazards and Risks | Lab Manager. [online] Lab Manager. Available at: http://www.labmanager.com/lab-health-and-safety/2011/09/laboratory-hazards-and-risks#.We5RGWiCy01 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].

Osha.gov. (2017). Safety and Health Topics | Laboratories | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. [online] Available at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/laboratories/index.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].

Physics.appstate.edu. (2017). Laboratory Safety | Department of Physics and Astronomy | Appalachian State University. [online] Available at: https://physics.appstate.edu/undergraduate-programs/laboratory/laboratory-safety [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].

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