Laboratory workers are exposed to a variety of different hazards each day including sharp objects, pathogens and dangerous chemicals.
In addition, working with chemicals could lead to fires and explosions if the right precautions aren't taken.
Mark Saner, technical manager at Workrite Uniform Co., says there are five basic tips safety professionals can take to protect workers.
1. Establish a Comprehensive Safety Program
Based on the hazards in your laboratory and the applicable safety standards and regulations, companies should determine the equipment, procedures, emergency protocols and environmental conditions that will best facilitate safety,Saner says. Be sure to document the program and complete ongoing audits as needed, he adds.
2. Create a Culture of Safety
Once you’ve established a safety program, it is important to communicate all safety information clearly and ensure laboratory personnel and visitors fully understand the actions they need to take, Saner says. Make sure that safety is treated as a top priority and that each individual has the safety resources they need and feels comfortable bringing up safety concerns.
3. Consistently Follow Practices
Outlining safety procedures is one thing — following them consistently is another. Even basics such as keeping food out of the lab, storing chemicals correctly, practicing good housekeeping in work areas and washing your hands can easily be forgotten. Remember that skipping a step even once can have devastating consequences, Saner cautions.
4. Use the Proper PPE
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can include lab coats, safety glasses or goggles, gloves, and beyond. Always ensure that the equipment you select is designed for the hazards present in your laboratory. For example, you may need lab coats that are flame-resistant (FR), offer chemical-splash protection (CP) or provide a combination of both (FR/CP), recommends Saner.
5. Always Re-Evaluate Your Approach
Even if you have a strong safety program in place and have gone awhile without an accident, it is still important to be vigilant, Saner cautions. Stay on the lookout for potential safety issues as well as new innovations in laboratory safety, and continue to improve your program over time.