Your Safer Source for Science

Since 1977

Address P.O. Box 219 Batavia, IL 60510
Phone 800-452-1261
Fax 866-452-1436
Email flinn@flinnsci.com

Safety FAQ

Safety FAQ

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) does not recommend the ventilation of flammables cabinets. (See page 906 of the Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual.) Instead of ventilating individual chemical safety storage cabinets, we suggest you ventilate your entire chemical storage area a minimum of four air changes per hour. This type of ventilation system will provide needed ventilation for all chemicals. The best type of vent fan and how it should be installed can be found on page 958 of the Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual.

It is always wise to store flammable liquids and acids/bases in a secure chemical safety storage cabinet. For those schools with limited quantities, we urge you to consider one of our combination acid/flammables cabinets. A combination cabinet is a single cabinet designed and constructed so one side of the cabinet can safely store flammable liquids while the other side can safely store acids and bases. Several sizes are available, depending on quantities to be stored.

Ideally, it would be nice to have separate chemical storage cabinets for acids and bases. However, due to the cost of having two cabinets and limited storage space, acids and bases can be stored together. Should the two families mix, you will get neutralization with some heat being generated.

Nitric acid, when combined with acetic acid on a tile/concrete floor, will sometimes create a fire. This situation has occurred enough times that we feel nitric acid should be stored in the same cabinet but kept separate from acetic acid. A special nitric acid compartment has been developed to fit into your existing acid cabinet. (See the Safety Storage Cabinets section of our Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual.) This unique secondary containment device will provide ample protection for nitric acid.

A flammables cabinet constructed of one-inch, 9-ply plywood like those manufactured by Flinn/SciMatCo will hold up in a fire just as well or better than a metal flammables cabinet. Our flammables cabinets will not distort or bend when involved in a fire. The only way for the fire to get inside our cabinets is to burn all the way through the one-inch thick plywood. This will take hours at very high temperatures.

The purpose of a flammables cabinet is to protect the flammable contents from flame and heat. The one-inch, 9-ply plywood Flinn/SciMatCo cabinet is a wonderful thermal insulator. While a fire's temperature will reach 2,000 °F, the inside temperature of our wooden flammables cabinet will seldom ever exceed 100 °F. Wooden cabinets keep their contents cooler longer. This is especially important since most organic glass bottles will break at 240 °F. The unique construction materials, design, and thermal insulation qualities of Flinn/SciMatCo flammables cabinets will provide first class fire protection for your school. All Flinn/SciMatCo cabinets are manufactured to meet and exceed OSHA and NFPA specifications for wooden flammables cabinets.

Chemical vapors are attacking the metal. Your chemical storage area is in need of ventilation. Good ventilation, even as little as one air change per hour, would dramatically reduce your corrosion problem.

For metal shelf clips the problem is probably very close by. Look for iodine, iodine solutions or concentrated acids. These are usually the culprits.

To help reduce corrosion of metal shelf clips, spray them with Krylon® spray once a year. This liquid plastic will greatly reduce the amount of corrosion.

Reactive metals should be stored in dry mineral oil in an unbreakable bottle. The mouth of the bottle should be wide enough so you can easily obtain the sample. The bottle should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed with a twist tie. The bag and bottle should be placed into a metal paint can and surrounded by cat litter. The metal lid should be firmly secured. Both the outside of the can and the individual bottle should be labeled with the chemical's name, concentration, how it can hurt you, and the date prepared.

Always buy reactive metals in as small a quantity as you can. The less you store, the less your hazard. All Flinn Scientific reactive metals are already packaged using the method described above.

Shelf space is limited. Yes, you can store two or three families on the same shelf. All we ask is that you either physically divide the shelf with a piece of wood or keep 2-3 inches of space between each family.

Flinn Scientific believes that "all chemicals in any form can be safely stored, handled or used if the physical, chemical and hazardous properties are fully understood and the necessary precautions, including the use of proper safeguards and personal protective equipment, are observed."

In our Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual we discuss in detail questions you should ask before purchasing a chemical. The random banning of chemicals is becoming an increasing problem. Teachers must have available to them every teaching tool possible to educate our nation's young people. The five questions we ask on page 36 will help you make an informed decision about the chemical you wish to purchase.

Responsible science teachers must provide students with safe, appropriate eye protection. When selecting eye protection always make sure all goggles or safety glasses meet ANSI Z87.1 Standards. Products meeting this standard will have stamped on the body or lens "Z87.1."

Secondly, OSHA states that school laboratories should include "protective apparel compatible with the required degree of protection for substances being handled." In other words, different situations require different levels of eye protection. Make sure the eyewear you've selected meets or exceeds the hazards you may encounter.

Lastly, select eyewear that is durable and comfortable for the student to wear. If eye protection hurts or does not fit properly, the student will not wear it for the full class period.

For chemistry, we recommend a chemical splash goggle or Visorgogs®. Both do an excellent job in preventing a chemical splash from entering the eyes.

For biology, we recommend-for dissection-safety glasses with side shields (like our Bioglasses®). If chemicals, heat or glassware are being used, follow our chemistry recommendation.

For middle school students, we recommend the same as biology.

For elementary students (grades 2-6), we recommend safety glasses called Sonic II®. Adjustable bows allow them to fit any size head.

All are ANSI Z87.1 approved.

First of all, adopt a firm goggle policy. Any time chemicals, glassware or heat are used, students must wear their goggles.

Purchase goggles that fit and are comfortable to wear. How can you expect students to wear goggles if they really do hurt their face?

Students who forget to wear goggles should be warned and/or penalized. A really good penalty is to tell each lab team that if one of them is caught not wearing his goggles, they will all have to wear their goggles during the next non-lab period. (This usually gets their attention.)

For students who simply refuse to wear their goggles, excuse them from the lab and give them a zero.

Suggestions for cleaning up mercury spills:

1. Immediately upon spillage of mercury, open the windows, doors or, in general, provide maximum ventilation. Air dilution is the solution for your personal protection when mercury is involved.

2. Never sweep the spill with a broom. Attempt, to the greatest extent possible, to avoid creating free mercury vapor. Avoid contaminating brooms, your shoes or other items in the area. Put plastic bags over your shoes if you must walk in the spill area.

3. Push the pools of mercury together.

4. Pick up the pools with a closed device like a medicine dropper or a Beral pipet. Transfer the droplets to a seamless polyethylene or polypropylene bottle.

5. It is unlikely that you can pick up all the hidden droplets, so how do you handle the remaining residue? Follow this procedure while maintaining a high level of room ventilation.

Sprinkle zinc metal dust over the spill area. Zinc metal dust will react with elemental mercury to form a very safe amalgam. The amalgam formed is more easily collected and disposed of than elemental mercury. If the mercury is "dirty" with dust and dirt, the likelihood of the zinc amalgam being formed is reduced. The zinc metal powder may help with some of the "clean" droplets. Be careful in handling zinc metal dust. If it is damp and in a confined space (like a bottle or a can) the container will expand or even explode.

Another option is to use a mercury spill control kit. The Mercon® Mercury Spill Control Kit is virtually 100% effective as a mercury suppressant and decontaminant. On contact with mercury, Mercon® immediately stops mercury vapor from going into the air. (See page 949 of the Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual.)

You cannot dispose of mercury by yourself. You can either pay a professional company to dispose of it for you or, better yet, have it recycled. Mercury Waste Solutions, 1-800-741-3343, will recycle mercury. In the meantime, make sure the bottle in which your mercury is stored has plastic bags wrapped around it. Should the bottle ever break, you'll really appreciate having secondary spill containment around the bottle.

Acid fumes can oxidize the pigments in the blue cabinet paint. The yellow or green color does not compromise the quality of the cabinet.

Use a weak (10%) solution of TSP, trisodium phosphate, to wash the cabinet. We recommend doing this twice per year.

We suggest you have the following safety books at your school. They are listed in order of importance.

1. Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual, free to U.S.A. certified science teachers

2. Chemical MSDS Library, AP4241

3. Merck IndexAP1361

4. Science Classroom Safety and the Law-A Handbook for TeachersAP6118

Remember, for current pricing or if you ever have a safety question you can't answer, call Flinn Scientific, Inc. at 1-800-452-1261.

Yes, both federal and state laws require you to have Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for every chemical at the location in school where chemicals are stored. To obtain SDS, you can either write the chemical supplier and request a copy or, better yet, purchase the Flinn SDS Library. Our SDS Library contains over 1,000 different SDS and is available in both a hard copy or computer version.

The SDS Library is especially helpful because it provides an SDS for every chemical found in the Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual. Not sure about purchasing a chemical? Check the SDS. Students working on a long term research project have a chemical question? Check the SDS.

With the Flinn SDS Library you'll always be in compliance.

Seventy percent of all high school science accidents occur at the ninth grade level. According to teachers, the number one reason for accidents occurring in the science lab was "students' failure to carefully read and understand laboratory activity instructions." Do you agree with these findings? See the Right to Know Laws section of the Flinn Catalog/Reference Manual.