Compliance with health and safety standards of the research laboratory
Research laboratory management is fraught with many challenges. Modern research laboratories contain many types of sophisticated equipment such as autosamplers, autoclaves, mass spectrometers, chromatographs, ultrasonic machines, etc. During a busy day, the health and safety of workers can be overlooked, sometimes with dire consequences. This article is intended to provide an understanding of OSHA’s basic rules and programs for addressing recognized laboratory hazards. This will help laboratory managers identify and minimize the many common safety and health hazards associated with the operation of the research laboratory.
A key precondition for worker safety is OSHA’s requirement that employers provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. This is known as a general duty clause of the OSH Act, which covers all recognized hazards, but especially those for which specific standards may not exist, such as ergonomics and exposure to anesthetic gases or experimental. There are many specific OSHA standards that apply to research laboratories, the most notable being 29CFR1910.1450, Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, also known as OSHA Laboratory Standard Other standards include Hazard Information (1910.1200), Organ Protection breathing (1910.134), electrical safety and fire safety and others.
Types of laboratory hazards
The first step to protecting the health and safety of workers is to recognize hazards in the workplace. Most of the hazards encountered can be divided into three main categories: chemical, biological and physical. Cleaners and disinfectants, drugs, anesthetic gases, solvents, paints and compressed gases are examples of chemical hazards. Potential exposure to hazardous chemicals can occur both during use and in poor storage.
Biological hazards include potential exposure to allergens, infectious zoonotic drugs (animal diseases transmitted to humans) and experimental agents such as viral vectors. Allergens, ubiquitous in animal research centers, are one of the most common health hazards, but they are often overlooked.
The latter category contains physical hazards associated with research facilities. The most obvious of these are slips and falls when working in damp environments, and the ergonomic hazards of lifting, pushing, pulling and repetitive tasks. Other physical hazards that often go unnoticed include electrical, mechanical, acoustic, or thermal hazards.
The use of chemicals in research laboratories is largely unavoidable. Improper use or mishandling can result in significant damage or injury. The most important OSHA standard to help mitigate these potential problems is the Hazard Communication Standard, which deals with employers’ requirements for informing and training employees to handle chemicals outside the laboratory. This applies to things in the lab like pump oil, Chromerge, or the liquid nitrogen used at Dewars. Although these chemicals are found in the laboratory, their use does not meet laboratory use criteria.
The second most important has already been mentioned, known as the OSHA Laboratory Standard, 29CFR1910.1450. It requires laboratories to identify hazards, determine employee exposure, and develop a chemical hygiene plan (CHP) including standard operating procedures (SOPs). A “laboratory standard” applies to the laboratory use of chemicals and requires written SOPs dealing with specific hazards and necessary precautions. for safe use. This includes experimental design and planning. Both standards require MSDS maintenance and employee training.
Biological hazards are associated with working with microbes, recombinant organisms and viral vectors, as well as with biological agents administered to experimental animals. Health and safety issues such as localization, replication and potential biological effects are of vital importance. When working with biohazards, ensure that procedures can be performed safely. Much of the work with recombinant DNA, acute toxins, and select agents is currently regulated by federal agencies such as the USDA, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health.