Mike Horne FGS

Risk Assessment
Safety in the Geological Laboratory
for my geology courses at the University of Hull

(also applicable to handling your own collection),

by tutor: Mike Horne.

General behaviour:

Treat the specimens in the collection with respect; do not damage them. Do not test University specimens for hardness by scratching them or carbonate content using acid. Always put specimens back in the correct box and drawer. Make sure that the identification card stays in the box with the specimen.

Behave in a responsible way and do not endanger the safety of fellow students.

Do not eat or drink in the Laboratory.

If we hear the fire alarm - leave via the safest means and assemble in front of the Graduate Research Institute, do not go home until we have checked that everyone has safely left the building.

Risk assessment -

Activity: Handling specimens. Hazard: Chemical hazards - some minerals and rocks are toxic or harmful, for example Lead, Mercury or Barium minerals. Precautions: keep the specimens out of the reach of children. Never eat or drink in the laboratory. Wear disposable gloves when handling high risk specimens. Always wash you hands after handling specimens. Some specimens such as radioactive minerals or asbestos require specialised storage.

Activity: Handling specimens. Hazard: Biohazards - specimens may be contaminated with biohazards. Precautions - wash specimens thoroughly when you collect them (apart from clay or plant fossil specimens - see conservation course notes). Wear disposable gloves when handling high risk specimens. Always wash your hands after handling specimens.

Activity: Handling specimens. Hazard: Sharp edges - some specimens, especially "hard rocks" that have been recently hammered, may have sharp edges that could cause cuts. Precautions - carry out a visual inspection before handing specimens; do not hold the sharp edges; take care when handing specimens to other students; wear stout gloves if necessary.

Activity: Testing Streak - rubbing a mineral on the rough side of a porcelain tile to examine the colour of the powdered mineral. Hazard: tile might have sharp edges. Risk of cuts to hand. Precautions: be careful how you hold the tile or wear stout gloves.

Activity: Use of dilute Hydrochloric Acid or Acetic Acid (vinegar) to test carbonates. Hazard - chemical burns to self and clothing. Precautions - always behave responsibly; only use a very small amount of acid; wear safety glasses if you have them; wipe excess acid off the specimen and dispose of the wipe safely; wash your hands after use; wash any contaminated clothing as soon as possible. If you get acid in your eyes irrigate them with water and seek mediacl help.

Activity: Working with sediment samples, Hazard - dust and biohazard. Precautions - Do not breath in any dust. Wash your hands after handling samples and before eating food. Wear disposable a dust mask and gloves if samples are high risk or very fine grained and dusty. Note - Prepared samples of sediment for microfossil analysis have been prepared using boiling waiter - so they are sterile. The samples of beach sand have merely been air-dried, so any biohazards originally present hare not been eliminated. The samples used in the classes were not collected near any sewerage outfalls.

Activity - moving microscopes and lamps. Hazards - dropping them on your foot or floor and damaging them. Precautions :- When lifting microscopes or microscope lamps - lift them by holding the base with two hands; not by the top, the fibre optic cables or electrical flex. Some parts of the equipment are not fixed, if you try to lift from the top the heavy base can slip off onto your foot! The lamps may be hot after use: allow them to cool down before moving them.

Activity - use of polarising, binocular or other microscopes. Hazards - eye strain and back pain from prolonged use. Precautions :- always set up microscopes correctly, so that you are sitting as comfortably as possible, without bending over the microscope. Arrange the lighting to give maximum illumination. When using a binocular microscope ensure that BOTH eye-pieces are focussed properly (ask the tutor for advice). Take regular breaks from using the microscope to avoid eye-strain.

Activity: use of light sources for illuminating specimens and other electrical equipment. Hazards - electrical and tripping over trailing wires. Precautions - (It is assumed that the electrical equipment at the University has been PAT tested.) Do not use any electrical equipment with damaged flex or loose connections. Beware trailing electrical flexes: ensure that they are not a hazard to yourself or others.

Activity: use of glass microscope slides, cover slips or sample vials for microscopy. Hazards - the glass is very brittle and can break unexpectedly causing cuts. Precautions: be vary careful, do not use too much force when putting tops into sample vials or cover slips into cavity slides. Try to push them away from yourself rather and not into the palm of your hand. If necessary wrap the glass up in a cloth or wear gloves. When using high-powered objective lenses on a monocular microscope take care when focusing not to push the lens into the microscope slide, which could crack the cover slip, break the slide or damage the lens.

Activity: Preparation of specimens using hammer and chisel or other tools. Hazard: pieces of rock flying into your face and eyes. Precautions: always wear safety glasses or goggles, carry out activity away from other people. Make sure that the specimens are not going to move around or slip. Never use a geological hammer as a chisel. Wear thick protective gloves when handling sharp or heavy specimens.

Activity- lifting heavy specimens or other objects (such as the class book box or microscopes). Hazards: injury to back, hands or feet. Precautions: Keep your back straight and bend your knees when lifting heavy objects (seek training if you lift heavy objects regularly). Wear thick protective gloves when handling sharp or heavy specimens. Avoid dropping objects on to your feet or if possible wear protective footwear. Seek the assistance of another class member to help lift the object.

Hazard: U V Light. The 'daylight' fluorescent tubes in the Laboratory emit some UV light. Precaution: If you are sensitive to UV light please use relevant protective creams and clothing.

Updated 30/3/2011.

copyright Mike Horne - October 2016

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