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Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Lab Safety

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 18, 2009 10:30:46 AM

Laurie de Laski

1. The OSHA Standard for regulating hazardous chemicals in research and development laboratories is: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.1450). The standard does not apply to production or QA/QC labs. Please refer to last week’s post for specific requirements of this standard.

2. Proper chemical handling and storage needs to be maintained in labs, including: appropriate spill control methods, separation of incompatible materials, flammable storage, chemical waste storage, dating of dangerous or short shelf life materials.

3. Hazard Assessments should be performed on new or highly hazardous operations or tasks. Basic lab procedures and controls may not be sufficient for some processes or chemicals.

4. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) should be written for all lab practices. SOPs should include control methods, such as the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used. SOPs can also used as part of the Chemical Hygiene program for R&D labs.

5. Chemical Fume Hoods must be available, maintained, and used properly. Hoods must be 100% exhausted and the type of hood is dependent on the chemicals and volumes to be used. Large equipment should not be placed in hoods, but should be provided with alternative local exhaust ventilation. Hood should be monitored and ventilation rates maintained within 20% of the approved face velocity.

6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be selected based on the Hazard Assessments conducted and should address all potential exposes to chemicals, infectious agents, or physical hazards (UV, lasers, sharps, etc.). A lab coat, safety glasses and exam-type nitrile gloves may be acceptable for small potential splashes of low hazard chemicals and biologicals, however, larger quantities, high hazard materials, or hazardous operations require additional PPE.

7. Emergency Equipment must be available and well maintained. This includes: spill kits, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, fire blankets, eye wash stations, emergency showers, and PPE. Emergency equipment should be inspected and/or tested at least monthly.

8. Cleaning and decontamination of lab surfaces and equipment should be conducted on a regular schedule. Surfaces, like lab benches and floors, with a high potential to have spilled chemical or biological materials, should be decontaminated at the end of each shift or immediately when contaminated. Other surfaces to consider are computer keyboards, mouse, cabinet and door knobs, equipment (including buttons and doors), and other surfaces that are handled, perhaps with gloves, during normal operations. These surfaces should be cleaned and decontaminated periodically.

9. Special hazards (radiation, lasers, and highly hazardous chemicals) require special controls and procedures. These special hazards should always have a specific SOP to address the additional controls needed, including: training of users and awareness of others in the lab, signs/warnings, special PPE, emergency equipment.

10. Training of lab workers is essential to control hazards and reduce accidents. Lab operations change frequently and it is important for the worker to understand the basics of hazard identification and control in addition to the specifics of the chemical, physical, and biological hazards they may be exposed to in the lab. Though the lab environment tends to be clean, there are many hazards and potential injuries that can occur, including life threatening ones. For example, the recent death of a post-grad student in a lab that spilled a highly flammable chemical on her clothes, and died of her burn injuries.

Topics: OSHA, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Lab Safety & Electrical, Occupational Training, Lab Safety

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