Lab Health and Safety

Safety Tip: Develop Specific Work Practices for Individual Experiments

This simple idea preceded by 15 years the requirements of the OSHA Lab Standard for “Standard Operating Procedures,” “Control Measures” and “Special Provisions for Working with Particularly Hazardous Substances.”

James A. Kaufman

This simple idea preceded by 15 years the requirements of the OSHA Lab Standard for “Standard Operating Procedures,” “Control Measures” and “Special Provisions for Working with Particularly Hazardous Substances.” Today “it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!”

While the Lab Standard does not require specific work practices for individual experiments, it does stipulate that employers generate a list of recognized good practices which lab workers are expected to follow, i.e., wash hands before leaving the lab, never work alone, leave lab clothing in the lab, don’t eat, drink or smoke in the lab, etc..

Control measures include elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment (PPE) as methods for managing risks. Employers are responsible for insuring that their lab employees understand these controls and can easily determine when to implement them. For example: when should chemical splash goggles be worn? Chemical splash goggles should be worn (1) whenever a chemical/biological known to be hazardous to the eye is being handled, (2) whenever a chemical/biological with unknown eye hazard is being handled and (3) any liquid hotter than 60 degrees Celsius.

Particularly hazardous substances include “select carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and highly toxic substances.” The Lab Standard says that the employer must decide (1) whether these must be used in a “designated area,” (2) when to work in a fume hood or other enclosure, (3) if procedures need to be developed for “decontamination,” and (4) how to achieve the “safe removal of contaminated waste.”

LSI believes that the scope of particularly hazardous substances should be expanded. There are others in the lab that may need some additional precautions. We would like to see highly flammable (class IA solvents), highly corrosive (concentrated and fuming acids), and highly reactive substances (picric acid, explosives).

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute, www.labsafetyinstitute.org