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Lab Inspections: Recognizing Problems and Eliminating Hazards

Inspections are conducted at least annually to ensure safety and compliance with all applicable lab safety regulations and guidelines

by Dennis A. Terpin
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A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which research experiments, analytical services, quality control, etc., are performed to determine whether a clinical intervention or process produces the desired effects or whether other factors were responsible for the desired effects.

Laboratory inspections are conducted at least annually to ensure safety and compliance with all applicable lab safety regulations and guidelines. These inspections are also intended to provide a formal opportunity for laboratory personnel to ask questions regarding any aspect of lab safety in order to improve overall compliance. Since all laboratories and research are different, maybe the definition of a laboratory inspection should be as follows: The laboratory inspection is the safety audit of the conditions and operations that occur on a daily basis in a specific laboratory.

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If we agree with the latter definition of a laboratory inspection, laboratory inspectors need to have a greater understanding of safe laboratory operations. The lab inspector needs a higher level of laboratory safety training to be able to recognize problem areas and be able to ask questions and eliminate the hazards.

With this higher level of laboratory safety knowledge, the laboratory inspector will be able to use processes and practices to identify unsafe conditions, and be able to focus on safety and health issues including assessing facilities, verifying that safeguards and safety equipment are available, and verifying that approved safety practices are being followed correctly. The laboratory inspector must be knowledgeable about the conditions and operations that occur on a daily basis in the laboratory.

The laboratory inspector must also have a strong working knowledge of safety hazards that can be present in any specific area or particular process. These include basic kinetics as well as an understanding of NFPA-45 and principles of laboratory ventilation, temperature, pressure, and vacuum operations. The inspector must also be able to recognize the different safety concerns between benchtop work (Open Use), contained operations (Closed Use), and “upscaling” to pilot plant operations.

All laboratory operations can be broken down into four basic parts: the activity, the hazards associated with the activity, the existing safeguards, and the additional requirements necessary to safely conduct the laboratory operation. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to list the activities associated with following laboratory operations.

The experiment to be carried out is a six-month carcinogenicity study for mice. A positive control is required. The positive control is p-cresidine. The positive control is mixed with the mouse chow by an outside vendor. Food consumption and clinical observations are monitored daily. Animals are weighed weekly. List all the required activities. The activities will be posted in one week. Hint: I will be listing 14 steps or activities. Do not evaluate the hazards; just list the activities or steps involved in the operation/study. Answers to follow.