By Maree Kyle
Safety is valued in any workplace, but in areas where dangerous materials and other hazards are present, it’s essential that workers and businesses create a safe environment where accidents are mitigated. Unfortunately, even the best workplace environments boasting well-trained workers are susceptible to the occasional accident, making it crucial that emergency protocols be developed and taught alongside accident prevention measures.
In chemistry laboratories, safety considerations are amplified. Accidents when working with volatile and potentially dangerous materials can be permanently damaging and, in some cases, fatal. Good chemical hygiene is of utmost importance and this encompasses many facets of lab operations. Here are some steps every lab should take to minimize the risk of an accident and to improve emergency response when mishaps do occur.
1. Demand storeroom organization
Maintaining organization and order in a storeroom makes for more efficient lab work, but it also greatly enhances safety in the workspace. Workers need to keep track of a number of chemicals, many with expiration dates, and old chemicals need to be properly disposed of. Additionally, better organization helps ensure property inventory levels of various chemical materials. A good approach to handling the storeroom is to put one worker in charge of the storeroom, managing its contents and handling upkeep as needed.
2. Display safety signs as intended
A little signage can be very helpful for reminding workers of the dangers present in the workplace. Make sure all signage is properly displayed to maximize its efficacy in helping workers avoid accidents.
3. Demand proper attire
It’s not unheard of that some confident chemists will occasionally decline to wear certain safety gear, considering it more a nuisance than a form of protection. But that’s a risky move that’s bound to end up in failure at some point. From the lab’s perspective, a failure to wear safety gear creates extra risks that could be a liability to the facility. Outline proper attire requirements in various situations and strongly enforce the protocol for failing to follow lab rules.
4. Clean, clean, clean
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the third-leading cause of workplace injuries is slips and falls. The vast majority of these are preventable by making sure hazards and obstacles are kept out of the workspace at all times. Clean floors, countertops and other workspaces frequently to eliminate fluids and other hazards that can lead to accidents. The lab should also be stocked with good materials for quickly and easily cleaning up messes. Other lab-specific safety measures include keeping clutter off of countertops, keeping excess chemicals in proper storage, and handling waste products properly and quickly.
5. Offer proper training on equipment
Greater familiarity with various lab equipment will prevent devices from being misused. Teach lab workers how to identify faulty devices, further preventing accidents resulting from equipment errors.
With so many dangerous materials present, chemistry labs can be particularly prone to serious accidents. Every lab needs to invest time and resources into educating their workers and instituting safety measures. Don’t let safety awareness be a one-time thing: Keep workers mindful of safety concerns with random inspections and continued training workshops to reduce your lab’s risk of a preventable accident.
Thanks, Maree, for this invaluable information regarding safety when working with chemicals. Texas America Safety Company has a whole range of personal protective equipment to ensure employees’ safety at work. Pat