Every workplace has its hazard but safety in the laboratory seems to be an even greater priority. Why is this the case? Well, people in laboratory work with highly-sensitive, expensive equipment, as well as toxic, flammable and unstable substances. This is a recipe for a disaster unless everything is done right. Now, a part of this responsibility falls on the employer but there’s also a second part that depends on the employer. So, here are the six most important laboratory safety tips that the majority of laboratory managers and owners should abide by.
1. Proper hiring and training process
The first thing you need to ensure is the reliability of your staff. This can be handled in two ways. First, there’s the hiring process. Hiring people who have a long history of accidents in previous workplaces is usually not a good idea. Also, hiring people with substance abuse issues should be a hard pass. Second, you need to keep in mind that laboratory safety isn’t necessarily something that comes intuitively. In order for your staff to adopt it, it will take weeks and months of training. Committing to this is incredibly important.
2. Quality PPE
Another thing worth keeping in mind is the importance of quality PPE. In the laboratory, this may constitute lab coats, protective masks, goggles, visors, gloves, and other, different forms of protective clothing. Overall, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that a huge number of these PPE items are disposable. This is why you might have to order them in bulk. Still, just because you’re making bulk orders, this doesn’t mean that you can skim on the quality. Safety still comes first, which is why you’ll have to consult your budget before proceeding further.
3. Adequate lab equipment
The acquisition of adequate lab equipment is always paramount. This is not only crucial for the quality of end product and productivity, in general. It’s also incredibly relevant for the stability of the product. Due to the fact that these items are highly sophisticated and specialized, they come with a sizable warrantee. It is usually seen as a bad idea to buy used lab equipment. Sure, the purchase is a tad more expensive but it’s also something that you’ll do once and be over with. So, don’t try to skim on the selection.
4. Warning signs are crucial
Even if they know how they should act in certain scenarios, it might be a good idea to post a warning sign or two in order to remind everyone. People get distracted or they doze off. So, why not remind them to wear their PPE, to turn off the apparatus when they’re done, as well as remind them to keep a safe distance from certain areas. Labels are quite inexpensive and can be custom-made in order to fit the purpose of your laboratory. In this day and age where social distancing is such a big of an issue, this might be even more important.
5. Insist on order and hygiene
Order is crucial for a safe laboratory. What you need to do is teach your staff to return everything in its place when they’re done with it. This is especially important for materials (which probably have to return to the fridge) and laboratory glassware that might get shattered if left outside. All in all, you will probably have a cleaning crew, which is why the choice of the person in question might make all the difference in the world. No, cleaning a laboratory is not one and the same as cleaning the office floor. So, try finding someone with previous experience in this field.
6. Chemical waste disposal is pivotal
Lastly, you need to keep in mind that the safety process doesn’t end with the material being used. The key thing here lies in the fact that chemical waste disposal is just an important part of this process. Some of these chemicals are hazardous for your staff until the moment that they’re safely disposed of. This is why it’s important that they’re in a safe container and that the container is handled with utmost care. Also, the way in which they’re deposed may have a major environmental impact. Ignoring regulations regarding the disposal is finable quite heavily and may even be considered as a major legal transgression.
In the end, you need to understand that the matter of laboratory safety tends to evolve. With new working practices, new safety measures have to be introduced. Moreover, there are new safety regulations and trends every year and keeping up with them is important both from the legal and from the ethical perspective. Lastly, PPE gets worn out, people get too comfortable and careless and new hires are brought to the lab on a regular basis. It’s your job to keep all of this from falling apart.