Health and safety are one of the highest priorities for a lab manager, and it’s really important that you have a clear set of laboratory safety guidelines in place and agreed by all your staff. This is so you can be confident that your employees are working in a safe environment, minimizing the risk for serious injury. In this article, we take a look at some of the ways you can make sure your lab is a safe space to work in.
General Safety Rules Around Your Laboratory
It’s important that the basics are covered and that everybody understands all the essential safety protocols around the lab. For instance, it’s critical that everybody employs good common sense around the laboratory, ensuring that:
- Everybody knows not to work alone
- Where the safety equipment (first aid, fire extinguishers, eye wash stations,) are
- That everything is clearly labeled and signed (especially hazardous materials or waste storage and dangerous chemicals, so that they can be safely disposed of)
- That all staff know where the emergency exits are in case of a fire (and that fire drills are regularly practiced)
- That broken or damaged equipment is reported and sent for professional repair (using a specialist such as macontrols.com, for example), rather than DIY, in-house repair attempts that can be unsafe.
Keeping Employees Safe in The Laboratory
To ensure employee safety, it’s critical that those personal safety rules are strictly adhered to. There are plenty of potential hazards in a laboratory environment that employees need to be skilled at avoiding by following safety procedures such as:
- Wearing sensible clothes (no open-toed shoes, shorts or skirts – skin must be covered) and always keeping hair tied back and safely out of flames’ way. This is also why lab coats are important, as they provide safety coverage.
- Adequate safety equipment should be worn when handling potentially dangerous materials. Safety gloves, goggles, or glasses should be used at all times.
- Being aware of materials used and making sure that any contaminated hands are kept away from sensitive areas (and, of course, always washing hands thoroughly after working with contaminants).
Working Safely with Chemicals and Hazardous Materials
Chemical use is a certainty in almost all laboratory environments, and their handling, usage, storage and disposal must always adhere to a strict set of safety protocols to ensure that employees aren’t exposed to any potentially dangerous chemical accidents. Staff can avoid chemical accidents and injuries by:
- Being adequately and safely covered to prevent direct contact with dangerous chemicals
- Ensuring correct labeling is kept up to date so that everything can be identified and accounted for and never taken out of the laboratory
- Making sure that the chemical’s properties and potential dangers are known to whoever might be using it
- Any chemical spills or accidents are cleared up immediately using the correct equipment and safety gear, followed by the correct disposal method for that chemical or material
- Chemicals are always mixed safely, away from drains, and only ever in a fume hood if they are flammable or highly reactive
- Treating all chemicals with respect and never allowing them to come into contact with your skin
With careful consideration and a constantly reviewed set of safety protocols that are available and clearly communicated to the entire team, a lab manager can always ensure the safety of their employees.