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Accidents involving glassware are the leading cause of laboratory injuries. To reduce the chance of cuts or punctures, use common sense when working with glassware. In addition, follow special safety precautions for tasks that involve unusual risks.

Follow these practices for using laboratory glassware safely:

  • Prevent damage to glassware during handling and storage.
  • Inspect glassware before and after each use. Discard or repair any cracked, broken, or damaged glassware.
  • Thoroughly clean and decontaminate glassware after each use.
  • When inserting glass tubing into rubber stoppers, corks, or tubing, follow these guidelines:
    • Use adequate hand protection.
    • Lubricate the tubing.
    • Hold hands close together to minimize movement if the glass breaks.
  • When possible, substitute plastic or metal connectors for glass connectors.
  • Large glass containers are highly susceptible to thermal shock. Heat and cool large glass containers slowly.
  • Use Pyrex or heat-treated glass for heating operations.
  • Leave at least 10 percent air space in containers with positive closures.
  • Never use laboratory glassware to serve food or drinks.
  • Use thick-walled glassware for vacuum operation.
  • Use round-bottomed glassware for vacuum operations. Flat-bottomed glassware is not as strong as round-bottomed glassware.

Do not use chromic acid to clean glassware. Use a standard laboratory detergent. Chromic acid is extremely corrosive and expensive to dispose of. Chromic acid must not be disposed in the sanitary sewer system.

Follow these safety guidelines for handling glassware:

  • When handling cool flasks, grasp the neck with one hand and support the bottom with the other hand.
  • Lift cool beakers by grasping the sides just below the rim. For large beakers, use two hands: one on the side and one supporting the bottom.
  • Never carry bottles by their necks.
  • Use a cart to transport large bottles of dense liquid.

Follow these guidelines for handling and disposing of broken glass:

  • Do not pick up broken glass with bare or unprotected hands. Use a brush and dustpan to clean up broken glass. Remove broken glass in sinks by using tongs for large pieces and cotton held by tongs for small pieces and slivers.
  • Glass contaminated with biological, chemical, or radioactive materials must be decontaminated before disposal or be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Dispose of broken glass in designated cardboard boxes marked "Broken Glass."
  • Contact your department lab services technician or EHSRM for additional boxes and thick gauge bags.
  • When boxes are about 3/4 full, close the bag and tape the box closed. The box can then be safely disposed of in the dumpster. Each lab is responsible for disposal.

May 2011
Reviewed November 2014