Any work place is prone to accidents due to human or other circumstances beyond one’s control. However laboratory poses a greater potential for accidents due to:
- Presence of hazardous, toxic, flammable, corrosive and poisonous materials
- Exposure to hazards such as fires, electric shocks, mechanical machinery and heavy loads
Safety at work place has been a theme topic for training programs and seminars. Laboratory safety e- course deals with the topic at length and offers suggestions for prevention of laboratory accidents.
The objective of the present article is to go into the causes of such accidents and why it becomes necessary to adopt preventive measures to avoid such unfortunate happenings.
Before proceeding further it is necessary to highlight the reasons as to why safe practices get overlooked.
It is a common saying that ‘Accidents do not happen – they are caused’. This is true to a large extent as over confidence leads to defiance and a tendency to sideline and overlook the standard operating procedures on safe practices.
Ignorance on the other hand is also a major contributor to mishaps. It is the responsibility of laboratory managers and seniors to provide training on safety before new entrants are inducted into the laboratory
Work stress arising due to poor planning results in fear of slowdown of laboratory productivity. This feeling gives rise to a tendency to take shortcuts with little regard to safety norms and practices. The greater the work stress greater will be the degree of carelessness in carrying out routine activities. It is therefore essential to plan your daily activities and arrange the essential requirements in advance
Poor Work Planning
It is not possible for the chemist to change laboratory design layout but you can certainly contribute to prevention of accidents by adopting tidiness and improving order around your workbench. Ensure all reagents are returned to their designated places after use, do not leave bottles uncapped, there should be no dangling electrical wires or tubes, gas cylinders should be kept properly secured and passages kept free for unrestricted movement.
Now we shall go into reasons that call for adherence to safety norms.
Injuries and loss of life
Every laboratory worker is responsible for his safety as well as safety of others working around him. A little carelessness can prove to be costly and can even leave you or others physically impaired.
Accidents can lead to financial loss to the laboratory or to your own self. In case the scale of accidents is serious they can even lead to closure of operations for some time if not permanently. Laboratory can claim damages partially through insurance claims but permanent impairment of your physical functions can be a big blow to your career objectives.
A major accident can extend the damage to neighbouring establishments and in such situations the laboratory can be held responsible for third party damages.
It is clear that under no circumstances there can be a compromise on laboratory safety. It is equally important to understand and follow safe laboratory procedures. Safety should become a habit and there should be no need for enforcement.