General Laboratory Safety

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Lab Safety Guide

All work with hazardous materials must follow some simple guidelines:

There are hazards other than biological and chemical materials found in labs that need to be controlled with engineering controls, administrative controls or personal protective equipment (PPE).

Work practice controls are an important part of your laboratory safety program. Work practice controls are considered "administrative controls". Administrative controls are measures aimed at reducing employee exposure to hazards. They are changes in work procedures such as written safety policies, rules, supervision, and training with the goal of reducing the duration, frequency, and severity of exposure to hazardous chemicals or situations. These types of controls are normally used in conjunction with other controls.

Work practices for specific OSHA standards may be required. Some of these specific areas include:

  • Bloodborne Pathogens [1910.1030]
  • Laboratory Chemical Safety [1910.1450]
  • Respiratory Protection [1910.134]

Although administrative controls should always be used to control employee exposure, they are prone to human error and cannot be relied upon to reduce exposure all the time. Additional control mechanisms such as substitution of less hazardous materials and procedures, engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required to address employee exposure to the hazard(s).

Some specific examples of administrative controls include:

  • Conducting a Hazard Assessment and writing a Safety Protocol before beginning lab work.
  • Performing operations that involve hazardous substances at night when most of the staff is not present.
  • Rotating workers through various job assignments so that they do not develop repetitive motion injuries.
  • Prohibiting workers from working with ionizing radiation once they have reached a predetermined level of exposure.
  • Requiring workers in hot environments to take breaks in cool rest areas and providing fluids for rehydration.
  • Prohibiting worker access to areas involving hazards such as lasers, energized electrical equipment, or excessive noise.
  • Proper housekeeping. Reducing clutter reduces the chances for an accident and minimizes the effects if an accident does occur.