Known by several names, including cup sink or bench sink (figure #1), this small receptacle can be a source of odors in your laboratory. How? The u-bend or p-trap below the drain is designed to provide a water seal, preventing back-up of gases, vapors and fumes into the laboratory. When the water in the p-trap evaporates due to lack of use (figure #2) odors can migrate through the trap into the laboratory. How can you help prevent these odors? Do not let these traps become dry. Sinks that are regularly used are typically not a source of odors; for those that are rarely used, simply turn on the faucet to fill the trap or pour a liter of water into the sink. That's all it takes to refresh the trap and block odors! Please note, placing duct tape, cardboard or other covers over the cup sink will not prevent odors from escaping into your laboratory. While many newly renovated laboratories no longer have this type of sink built into the bench, check today fo
Running water, solvents in supply and effluent loops, and energized electrical connections are common and generally safe aspects of laboratory operations and equipment under normal circumstances. If not observed under the direct, watchful eye of a responsible laboratory staff member, however, the potential is greatly increased for hazardous conditions to occur. To guard against flood, fire and other emergencies that can be caused by equipment or utility failure, unattended operations should be periodically checked to ensure no problems arise. Researchers must post a sign (http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/UnattendedLaboratoryOperationsDoorSgnFillable.pdf) detailing the nature of the hazards, and contact information where a knowledgeable laboratory representative can be reached in the event of an emergency. Finally, unattended operations involving highly hazardous materials should be brought to the attention of EH&S prior to commencement of work. Taken together, these simple steps can help ensure your safety, the safety of first responders, and the successful completion of your experiments!.
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