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Common Lab Equipment

Did you know that in 2019, there were more than 337,000 Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians employed in the United States? The field is expected to be one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country and that means labs need to be ready. Laboratory equipment is necessary for performing a particular task, to keep employees safe, and to keep the environment safe. As the number of employees in the lab grows, so does the need for equipment. Today, we are going to teach you about all of the items needed in a lab. Some are simply a review, others may be something you had not given thought to before. We will focus on:

  • Common Lab Equipment for Safety
  • Glassware (Used for Measurements)
  • Glassware (Not Used for Measurements)
  • Common Lab Equipment for Heating
  • Everything Else Your Lab Might Need

Common Lab Equipment for Safety

Common safety equipment in a lab is, in fact, so common that we often forget about these staples. You may already have most of these items but do you have enough of them? Or maybe there are some that you haven’t given special thought to in a while. Sometimes, you may not need a particular item until later when the focus of your lab shifts and new tasks are necessary. These are just some of the reasons we might overlook such common items. Let’s take a look at some of the most common lab equipment for safety to refresh our memory and ensure we’re set up for success.

*Before starting any laboratory, finding out what OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires is important. You do not want to violate requirements and keep everyone as safe as possible.

Safety Goggles 

The most common reason to have safety goggles on hand, and the ultimate purpose, is to protect the eyes. There are too many chemicals that can burn and destroy the eyes if mishandled. Even if chemicals are properly handled and administered, there is still a chance for an accident that causes damage to the eye. For instance, you may drop glass tools or equipment and have a shard scratch or land in your eye. Without this best practice, you risk tearing a cornea, eye infections/irritations, vision impairment, and in the worst cases, blindness. Every lab should have a sizable supply of safety goggles.

Eyewash Station & Safety Showers

Eyewash stations are a must when dealing with chemicals. While safety goggles should be worn at all times, accidents still happen. An eyewash station provides a way to tend to an accidental splash in your eyes, quickly and effectively. 

Safety showers are for situations in which corrosive and damaging chemicals land on more than just your face. These are to help cleanse the entire body from liquids that can cause more serious damage and are in larger amounts than a small splash. Clothing is to be removed before using a safety shower.

Latex Gloves

Latex gloves are best for when you are working with bodily fluids, sensitive chemicals, or anything that is not going to burn you. This helps prevent you from contaminating any specimens or from contaminating yourself. 

Lab Coats

A lab coat may seem unnecessary, but it does serve an important function. Not only does it protect the clothes you’re wearing, it acts as an added defensive layer to protect your skin from caustic materials that could be accidentally spilled. In many laboratories, there is typically some kind of restriction on clothing that leaves your skin overly exposed (such as open-toe shoes). The lab coat is an extra layer of protection after those clothing requirements are met. 

Biohazard Waste Containers

Appropriate waste disposal is important since so much of what is in a laboratory cannot be tossed in a regular trash bin. Standard orange biohazard waste containers should be conveniently located around the lab in areas close to where disposal may occur. They should also be clearly marked as to what is being disposed of in that particular bin. 

First-Aid Kits

You may be thinking that this is an obvious answer but it’s still an important part of the list. It is best to assume that an accident will happen and prepare for it. First-aid kits should include:

  1. Bandages
  2. Tweezers
  3. Sterilizing wipes
  4. Sterile dressings
  5. Gauze
  6. Antiseptic creams
  7. Scissors
  8. Eye dressings

It is also important to check your kits often to ensure that everything is fully stocked at any given time. Especially if it has been a long time in between any accidents. Checking the kit regularly can also ensure everything inside is not expired and still usable.

Fire Extinguishers

Even if your lab is refrigerated and rarely uses heat, you need to ensure that you are prepared for a fire. It can happen at any time and most certainly without warning. Extinguishers are required by law and depending on the chemicals you are involved with, the type of extinguisher may be important. Some are made for chemical-based fires rather than electrical. OSHA has guidelines for extinguishers in their Laboratory Safety Guide.

Laboratory Glassware (Used for Measurements)

Pieces of glassware that are used for measurements have different measuring qualities. It may be volume, weight, or even temperature. All of these are important so that you stay within safety parameters, conducting tasks effectively and without legal repercussions. Here are some of the common lab glassware used for measuring.

Graduated Cylinders

A tall thin tube that measures liquids ranging from 10 milliliters to 50 mL and up to 100 mL. It provides precise measurements. Graduated cylinders can be contained with rubber or glass stoppers.

Volumetric Flasks

The volumetric flask is used to create standard mixed solutions and contains precise amounts of liquid at specific temperatures. It is round at the bottom with a tall and thin neck. Some come with stoppers so that nothing will spill.

Thermometers

Thermometers are used to measure temperatures of liquid and gases. They come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. You will also find some that are specialized for certain types of chemicals and varieties of liquids. 

Pipets & Burets

These glass tubes are used to transport liquids from one container to another. They are a short tube and often paired with a pipet (or pipette) bulb, which draws the liquid into the pipet through a small opening. It also measures the volume of liquid so that you are not transferring too much or too little. There are disposable pipets available that have a bulb already built into them. They are for single-use only and are not meant for use in every lab. Burets, also known as burettes, are the wider cousin of the pipet that has a narrow opening at the bottom where a stopcock monitors the flow.

Glassware (Not Used for Measurements)

In this section, we look at other glassware necessary for tasks in the lab. This type of glassware does have measurements marked on the containers but are not typically used for precise measurements. The purpose of these vessels is for transporting, mixing, and reacting.

Florence Flasks 

This type of flask has a round body with a flat bottom. These are designed for heating up liquids but can also be used for mixing. The long, thin neck is to keep the liquids from splashing out. They also come with rubber stoppers to store liquids in. These can be used as part of a distillation apparatus.

Erlenmeyer Flasks & Ring Stands

These flasks are of a triangular shape, with a neck that is wider than the Florence flask. It is often referred to as a conical flask because of the shape. This one is most popularly used for holding liquids or solids that may release gas or splatter if heated or stirred. The neck is the perfect shape for holding in a clamp for mechanical heating or shaking while in a ring stand.

Beakers & Test Tubes

They are used for heating, mixing, and stirring. They often have a spout for pouring (and to minimize splashing). Because of the rimmed edge at the lip, there are no covers for a beaker. However, you can use a watch glass to temporarily cover liquids during a task. Test tubes are thin tubes with a rounded bottom. They can be used to mix chemicals, separate chemicals in a centrifuge, and to compare specimens.

Watch Glasses

Watch glasses are small concave pieces of glass that have a few functions. They can hold liquids and solids for weighing and for reactions, such as evaporation. They can also be used to cover beakers temporarily.

Common Lab Equipment for Heating

At a certain point, you will most likely need some equipment to heat beakers and test tubes. These items below are some of the most beneficial in a laboratory when completing a task or test that requires heat or high temperatures.

Hot Plates

This provides heat to a plate that can hold beakers. It is often used when an open flame is not permissible due to the environment or chemical used.

Bunsen Burners

Bunsen burners provide an open flame to heat certain liquids. They are often used with flasks and test tubes.

Crucibles & Tongs

A crucible is a type of bowl or container that heats chemicals and metals to a very high temperature. They often come with a cover to keep particles from escaping. Crucible tongs are used to transport the crucible without burning yourself or causing damage to the lab space or equipment.

Flint Lighters/Strikers

A necessary tool in any chemistry lab used to light a bunsen burner and other glass equipment. The flint can be expensive and should only be used carefully with a bunsen burner.

Centrifuges

A tool that uses cylindrical force to separate components of a sample for observation. Centrifugation generates heat, increasing the temperature within a centrifuge, sometimes by more than 50°F.

Everything Else Your Lab Might Need

We aren’t done just yet. There are other things that you might need to help get you through your daily tasks, keep you safe, and your work area clean. Your lab might not need every single thing listed below, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add these items and equipment for those just-in-case moments. It’s better to be prepared and keep everyone and your work safe. Here are a few items that can really round out any lab.

Test Tube Racks & Test Tube Holders

Because of the shape of the test tubes, they must be kept in a rack or holder when in use. Not only do they function as a holder, but they are also used to compare samples as well.

Funnels & Wash Bottles

This tool is used to help pour liquids into various containers, keeping spills to a minimum. Wash bottles are designed to safely clean funnels and other tools.

Tongs & Forceps

Most frequently used with containers that are hot or extremely cold. They can also be used to help move containers from various rack to rack to avoid spillage onto the skin or other sensitive areas.

Droppers

These come in various sizes and are used to transport very small amounts of liquids into containers. Droppers are often made of glass but can also be made from plastic. Plastic droppers are typically single-use.

Scoopulas/Spatulas

These are used to transport solid chemicals into containers. They are never used to mix chemicals.

While this list covers the most common lab equipment, you may find that your lab requires some other extra equipment. Perhaps you need a mortar and pestle, stirring rods, wire brushes, spectrometers, and other tools for your laboratory needs. Whether you are starting a brand new lab, or just want to further equip one, this list should help you figure out what you’ll need by covering some of the most common tools found in labs today. You can find some of these at your local lab equipment auction or any online or in-person seller and manufacturer. No matter what you need, Excedr is here for you. Contact us today so that we can help you get everything necessary to make your lab as successful as possible.