Friday, November 28, 2014

Laboratory Safety / Chemical Hygiene Programs


Laboratory environments pose special hazards to your employees and visitors. A strong lab safety program (also referred to as a Chemical Hygiene Program) can help to protect both your facility and the people within it. Clas Consulting’s Certified Industrial Hygienists can help your organization to develop an appropriate laboratory safety program, recommend control measures, and train your employees. Our Consultants will lead you through the key elements of a lab safety program: 

Hazard Identification & Inventory

Different laboratories have different hazards. For instance, a laboratory in a chemical manufacturer of strong acids will have much more severe dangers than a lab that simply checks food products for quality control. Awareness of the dangers in the lab setting is the first step in preventing accidents. All labs should have a full inventory of hazardous materials and equipment that could potentially cause injury or death.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) Filing

MSDS are documents that summarize the hazards and chemical properties of a substance. There is one MSDS for every chemical produced and used in modern industry. The MSDS for every chemical used in the lab should be kept on file and available for any employee to read, although there are online databases of all MSDSs, which can usually be viewed for free. Each MSDS will have hazard ratings for things like flammability and corrosiveness, as well as information on what to do in the event of a spill or contact with skin.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Determination

Hazardous materials should never be handled without the necessary compliment of PPE. Although PPE may need to be more extensive for highly hazardous substances, the basic set in most labs is a lab coat, neoprene gloves, vented splash goggles, closed toed shoes and long pants. This provides cover for most of the body and helps prevent accidental contact with chemicals. All PPE should be fit-checked before use to make sure the equipment will perform properly. This is especially true with respirator masks, where a small leak could have dire consequences.

Emergency Response Plan (ERP) Development

Accidents are always preventable, but they do occasionally happen even among well-trained employees. An ERP should always be in place for such times. ERPs should be broad in covering what accidents may occur, but also specific in how employees should react. In addition to having a well-drafted response plan, all employees should have extensive practice in carrying out the plan. If employees are not familiar with the plan, then more complications could arise out of confusion.

Fire Safety

FEMA News PhotoFire control and prevention is one of the most important aspects of lab safety. Since many laboratory settings use hazardous chemicals with irregular fire control measures, having specific equipment and trained employees on hand should be considered a necessity. Although basic fire extinguishers should be present and employees should be familiar with their use, some chemical fires will not be extinguished with basic means. Metal fires, for instance, require special dry powder extinguishers. Using water on many chemical and metal fires will only make them worse and spread contamination.

FEMA News Photo

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