When my skills at organization begin to break down, I know it’s time to create a checklist. I find checklists offer a simple solution to restoring control and then staying on track. Safety checklists in the lab are a work in progress, but as long as you’re committed to updating your plan to account for new hazards as your lab evolves you should feel on top of things.
Your yearly safety checklist (or however often you conduct a full safety audit) should be reviewed and updated as well, but at minimum your checklist should account for the following 10 areas:
1. Proper signage—Is the chemical hygiene plan posted? Are labels on chemical containers present and in good condition? Is there more than 10 gallons of flammable liquid outside of proper storage cabinet? Are acids and bases stored together? Are cylinders secured from tipping? Are new reagent containers dated when opened? Are biohazardous agents properly labeled?
2. Safety—Is an eye wash present and holding current inspection? Are lab coats worn? Is food or drink present in the lab? Is access to the lab area restricted at all times? Are work surfaces and furniture decontaminated throughout the day and recorded? Is mouth pipetting prohibited? Do personnel wash hands properly and remove gloves before leaving the lab? Is the lab overcrowded?
3. Biosafety Cabinets/Fume Hoods—Are cabinets located away from doors, windows that open and heavy traffic areas? Has the cabinet been certified within the last year? Are there emergency shut-off valves for the gas and vacuum supply?
4. Centrifuges—Are counterbalance tubes weighed on a scale? Has the unit been serviced within the last 12 months to ensure no stress fractures or pitting?
5. Autoclaves—Is quality control and assurance testing performed on a regular basis and recorded? Is the area around the equipment free of clutter? Is secondary containment used when autoclaving infectious waste bags, sharps containers, reusable glassware, etc.? Is the autoclave rack used during each cycle?
6. Waste Disposal—Is infectious waste identified and disposed of properly? Is it decontaminated prior to disposal? Are infectious materials labeled with the universal biohazard symbol?
7. Sharps—Are sharps containers in use? Is needle recapping allowed? Are needle nipping devices in use? Are needles and syringes disposed of as a unit?
8. Rubber or Plastic Tubing—Any cracked, brittle or pinched tubing? Any tubing absent? Are water hoses wired at all connectors? Are water taps safeguarded against “suck-back”?
9. Training—Have all personnel completed an introduction to laboratory and biological safety training? Is annual update training provided and recorded? Is bloodborne pathogen training and an annual update provided and recorded? Has proper training been done for personnel who ship and package infectious or biological substances?
10. Administrative—Is a current exposure control plan available in the lab and reviewed annually by employees? Are biohazard spill response procedures and emergency phone numbers posted?