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A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. Laboratory services are provided in a variety of settings: physicians offices, clinics, hospitals, and regional and national referral centers.

Laboratories used for scientific research take many forms because of the differing requirements of specialists in the various fields of science and engineering. A physics laboratory might contain a particle accelerator or vacuum chamber, while a metallurgy laboratory could have apparatus for casting or refining metals or for testing their strength. A chemist or biologist might use a wet laboratory, while a psychologist's laboratory might be a room with one-way mirrors and hidden cameras in which to observe behavior. In some laboratories, such as those commonly used by computer scientists, computers (sometimes supercomputers) are used for either simulations or the analysis of data. Scientists in other fields will use still other types of laboratories. Engineers use laboratories as well to design, build, and test technological devices.

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Scientific laboratories can be found as research room and learning spaces in schools and universities, industry, government, or military facilities, and even aboard ships and spacecraft.

In many laboratories, hazards are present. Laboratory hazards might include poisons; infectious agents; flammable, explosive, or radioactive materials; moving machinery; extreme temperatures; lasers, strong magnetic fields or high voltage. Therefore, safety precautions are vitally important. Rules exist to minimize the individual's risk, and safety equipment is used to protect the lab users from injury or to assist in responding to an emergency.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States, recognizing the unique characteristics of the laboratory workplace, has tailored a standard for occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories. This standard is often referred to as the "Laboratory Standard". Under this standard, a laboratory is required to produce a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) which addresses the specific hazards found in its location, and its approach to them.