Essential Considerations for Laboratory Safety Audits

Fully-protected-laboratory-worker

Fully protected laboratory worker

A laboratory has potential for exposing you to hazardous chemicals, toxic gases, corrosive liquids, poisonous substances, fire hazards, electrical hazards, etc. Awareness of laboratory safety practices is an individual need as well as a social responsibility as you are responsible for your own safety as well as safety of all those working around you. In other words you should make safety a personal habit.

All laboratories across the world lay down safety procedures and practices based on universal guidelines but it is more important to ensure that such guidelines are followed in letter and spirit. Laboratory safety program emphasized the need for periodic safety audits. Each laboratory is advised to constitute a safety audit team which communicates its findings to management on regular basis.

The objective of this article is to present a checklist to help safety auditors evaluate the safety standards in the laboratory. For the purpose of convenience the critical points that need to be observed are covered under different heads. The auditors should mark their comments as Yes, No or Not applicable and forward their comments or recommendations to the laboratory management.

Training

  • Training on safety requirements should be provided to each and every laboratory worker. This has to be evidenced by individual training records.
  • Are the workers aware about the hazards associated with their respective roles
  • Use of protective equipment in emergencies
  • Code of conduct in laboratories
  • Evacuation plans in case of emergencies
  • Knowledge of elementary first aid procedures
  • Disposal of wastes and spill management

General Laboratory Safety

General laboratory safety is possible only through a clear understanding and cooperation of all concerned. The general points that need to be observed are:

  • Tidiness of laboratory including work benches
  • Safety showers and eye wash stations in working condition
  • All exits are prominently marked and equipped with emergency lighting
  • Exit routes are marked preferably with fluorescent paint
  • Passages and stairways are clutter free
  • Provision of adequate lighting but it should not produce glare on work surfaces or monitor screens
  • Floors are free from holes and cracks
  • Stairways provided with properly secured hand rails
    Hazardous chemicals stored in special cabinets and excess amounts not kept inside the laboratory
  • Cabinet or work bench drawers left open even after use
  • Hazard signs on hazardous materials clearly displayed
  • Easy access to material safety data sheets
  • Workers wearing protective lab clothing and safety gear
  • Edibles,foods or drinks found in lab or in worker drawers
  • Are workers using improvised ladders, chairs, desks or boxes to reach higher level shelves
  • Is a log of major or minor accidents maintained
  • Female workers wearing overflowing or hanging jewellery items or with untied long hair.

Movement Restrictions

  • Employees having identification badges and access allowed only in designated areas
  • Vendors and visitors provided appropriate badges and have restricted access
  • Laboratory doors permit authorized card entry only

First Aid

  • First aid kits inspected for essential items periodically
  • Record of expired items replenished
  • Employee awareness of preliminary first aid measures
  • Information on first aid procedures, emergency contact numbers, blood groups, individual allergies and contact details of nearest hospital.

Fire Safety

  • Availability of fire extinguishers and their location charts on each floor
  • Awareness on fires and their extinguishers marked under different fire categories
  • Fire extinguishers fully charged with inspection dates clearly marked
  • Availability of fire alarms and sprinklers
  • Fire sprinkler heads free from dirt and corrosion
  • Combustible materials stored in spaces away from ignition sources

Electrical Safety

  • Access to electrical panels is free from obstructions
  • All electrical equipment grounded
  • Wiring proper and free from temporary joints
  • No loose wires in passages to prevent tripping
  • Equipment being operated under sanctioned loads
  • Overloading of points using multi-plug sockets
  • Fuse enabled extension power strips and surge protection in use
  • Junction boxes covered
  • Continued use of defective equipment

Compressed Gases

  • Colour coding on gas cylinders along with identification label of contents
  • Gas cylinders stored away from heat sources or direct sunlight
  • Cylinders secured properly against tripping, rolling or falling
  • Transportation of cylinders in cylinder trolleys
  • Cylinders stored upright and with protective caps in position when not in use

Mechanical Safety

  • Safe loading and unloading procedures
  • Unsafe suspended loads, if any
  • Use of unsafe material handling trolleys and forklifts
  • Material handling vehicles with awkward or bulky loads being driven in reverse

Laboratory safety audits cannot be overlooked or sidestepped as regular audits will help

  • Spread awareness of safe conduct in laboratories
  • Prevent financial losses
  • Prevent liability of damages to third parties
  • Avoid closure of business operations either temporarily or permanently in case of serious accidents.
About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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