Neglecting the most basic procedures can derail experiments and present a risk to health and safety. This is according to Lidia Montero, an applied analytical chemistry expert, who is set to deliver training at analytica Lab Africa. The expo takes place in Johannesburg from 9 to 11 July.
A common mistake made in laboratories is overlooking basic protocols. This presents a significant risk to health and safety. Montero, Ph.D. of the Applied Analytical Chemistry department of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, will participate in analytica Lab Africa. She will present a practice-orientated seminar for laboratory users, giving an overview of the basic yet important procedures for working in a lab.
Know the hazards and risks
‘One of the most dangerous mistakes to make in a lab is to store hazardous materials incorrectly. Every chemical requires specific storage conditions in terms of temperature, light and ventilation. Overlooking correct storage of these materials can cause a dangerous accident,’ says Montero. ‘People working in chemistry labs are in continuous contact with hazardous substances that could produce physical risks like explosions, health risks like toxicity, and environmental risks. It is very important to know the hazards associated with these substances and how to handle them properly.’
Simple mistakes such as incorrect labelling of aliquots or samples can create confusion and cause accidents. They could also derail extensive work.
‘Mistakes that can occur are related to the organisation of the lab. For example, the availability of the materials (chemicals, glass material, pipets and tips) and their order in the lab are crucial to optimise working time. The best solution for optimal availability is to organise the material by a logical distribution or classification, depending on the drawers and cabinets and the needs of the lab. Using signs or labels to identify material inside cabinets or drawers is very useful. This helps to indicate whether the contained material should be specifically used for certain experiments.’
Always remember the procedures
Approach new experiments with caution, first researching published articles and scientific data, reviewing the potential risks of chemicals to be used and ensuring a clear understanding of any instruments that have not been used before.
Other common errors include unfamiliarity with specific laboratory rules, not having an adequate lab notebook to note every step in an experiment or workflow, or neglecting proper maintenance of large instruments and calibration of measurement instruments such as pipets, balances and pH-meters.
‘Laboratory personnel should know the rules and procedures, but knowing the rules does not mean they always remember to put them into practice,’ she says. ‘It is very common to neglect proper procedures amid the routine of the experiments, and the stress and hurry to obtain results.’
Seminar for laboratory users
Montero will hold a practice-orientated seminar for laboratory users at analytica Lab Africa, the trade fair for laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology and diagnostics. The trade fair is organised by Messe München and takes place at Gallagher Convention Centre from July 9 to 11.
Ongoing refresher courses on how to work in a lab are important, to share advice on how to properly work in the lab, focusing in particular on the routine but important tasks that all of us do daily, like the adequate use of gloves, pipetting, balances, foam hoods or personal care, with the main objective of maintaining the best lab environment.
‘Following this practical advice, some errors will be avoided, and besides these practices can contribute to the achievement of better results in terms of quality and reproducibility,’ Montero comments. She will present both the theory and practical demonstrations of the basic lab techniques and procedures. This session is designed to be informative for everyone from students to industry experts.
The latest in laboratory technology
Analytica Lab Africa will present expert insights, over 120 leading international and local exhibitors as well as over 130 additionally represented companies. It will be staged alongside fdt Africa and IFAT Africa – the premier environmental technology trade fair for water, sewage, refuse and recycling. Up to 6 000 visitors are expected to attend the co-located events.
With solutions for a range of sectors, from pharmaceuticals and cosmetics through to chemicals, analytica Lab Africa will offer the latest in laboratory technology and analysis equipment. The expo will also feature a German Pavilion, Spanish Pavilion, Chinese Pavilion and – for the first time in South Africa – an International Pavilion with companies from the US, UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey, looking to branch out into Africa.