Why Is it Important to Be Familiar With Laboratory Apparatus & Their Uses?

By Clifton Watson
Knowing how to use lab equipment can be beneficial in many ways.
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If you work in a laboratory setting, you undoubtedly encounter many kinds of expensive and complicated instruments and machines. Knowing how to use these tools can only benefit you. This is especially true if you are expected to use them while pursuing your area of research and testing. Not knowing what you are doing can set you back in a variety of ways.

Safe Handling

Lab equipment can have dangerous side effects if not handled properly. Something as simple as a Bunsen burner can light surrounding objects on fire, cause property damage and potentially harm your fellow lab denizens if it is handled incorrectly or carelessly. More complicated machines that use high-powered magnets, for instance an MRI scanner, can harm the subject or surrounding area if the technician operating it allows metal objects within its scanning range. Knowing how to safely operate all lab equipment in your purview will limit these kinds of accidents and create a safe working environment.

Efficient Use

Lab machines are complex scientific tools. They often feature more than a simple "On" switch. Sensitive calibrations must be done to ensure that the task is carried out exactly as the experiment or study requires. A scale must be set to "zero" when nothing is on it so that any added weight is measured accurately on the display for instance. This ensures that the machine does its job effectively and wastes as little time and energy as possible. This benefits you by speeding up the rate at which you can perform your analyses, and it benefits the machine by allowing it to run within its recommended parameters and serve the lab for as long as possible.

Proper Materials

Many lab machines are designed to study and analyze samples from a variety of sources. This sample could be organic or inorganic, vegetable or mineral. Knowing which machine is for which kind of sample and what the machine is supposed to do is good for avoiding trouble. Placing the wrong kind of substance inside a machine can, at best, cause the test results to be gibberish and, at worst, cause damage to the machine by exposing it to something it wasn't designed to withstand. For example, if a plastic container is not rated to handle acidic compounds, it is important to know this before trying to pour hydrochloric acid or a similar liquid into it.

Understanding Results

After inserting the correct materials or calibrating a machine correctly, you still won't be able to finish your task unless you understand what it is that the machine has just done. Being able to correctly interpret the results of a spectrum analysis or chemical separation is vital to deepening your understanding of what you are studying. Knowing which sections of any printouts or displays contain the most vital information and what that information means is important to completing the research.