Best practices in handling hazardous chemicals in the lab

June 17, 2023 | Lab Furniture

In various lab works and industries, risks are involved when working with hazardous chemicals. However, it can be mitigated by having knowledge on the potential risks of having these chemicals inside the lab.

A lab personnel might encounter these chemicals including but not limited to: carcinogens, acids, toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, neurotoxins, etc. Exposure to these also entails some health risks such as acute or chronic illness, cancer, respiratory issues, skin and internal irritation. On top of that, chemical properties such as flammability expose lab personnel to explosion risks and severe injuries.

Lab Design outlined 10 easy tips for proper handling methods and safety in the lab setting when working with hazards: 

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Assigning a chemical hygiene officer

Having a chemical hygiene officer ensures that a proper hazardous chemical handling strategy is in place and is adhered to by everyone else in the lab. The officer shall be held accountable and responsible for the creation of the comprehensive hygiene plan with the input of other personnel to make sure that the plan is understood by everyone involved.

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Creating a chemical hygiene plan

A chemical hygiene plan on hand requires not only the expertise of the chemical hygiene officer but also from experts, managers, and those who are tasked in handling the chemicals on a daily basis in order to have best practices and safety measures included into the plan.

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Ensuring that all employees are trained on the chemical hygiene plan

All employees should be made aware of the plan and should be receiving comprehensive training to fully understand the hygiene plan’s tenets and methods. The plan will only be as good as the level of an employee’s knowledge and compliance to it. Holding workshops, hand-on training, and knowledge testing are some of the effective ways to train employees. 

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Keeping training current

To ensure ongoing safety and adherence in the face of evolving handling methods and employee turnover, retraining on an annual basis and including it as part of employee onboarding is highly recommended. 

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Ensuring the proper use of PPE

Employees should be well-trained with regards to using personal protective equipment when operating certain applications, as well as the specific guidelines on material handling while wearing it. 

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Keeping real-time inventory of materials in use

Employees should know which materials are currently in use - whether they are directly or indirectly using them - and which methods to follow when doing certain procedures. Knowing the different properties, characteristics, and the accompanying risks is also critical. 

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Making sure documentation is readily available

Manufacturer documentation, facility-specific procedures, and other material safety information should be readily available for any employee who seeks to consult it for guidance. 

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Keeping accurate and consistent records

Lab personnel should be consistent, thorough, and accurate when it comes to recording materials and applications in order to take note of potential safety incidents. This serves as an extra level of documentation process that ensures transparency when safety issues have occurred so that they can be addressed later on. 

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Ensuring proper labeling of materials and containers

This step should be considered and as a baseline requirement for any chemical inventory management. This is one of the primary ways in which personnel can know which chemicals they are handling and which steps to follow. 

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Installing proper infrastructure

Investing in appropriate infrastructure and maintenance should be high on the priority list. Lab equipment should be regularly checked and repaired as needed. Some key requirements that guarantee safety of personnel when using chemicals include:

  • Proper venting

  • Circulation equipment

  • Filtration

  • Cleanroom infrastructure

  • Alarms

These crucial tips and steps can help you and your lab sustain a safe and effective laboratory environment for personnel and end-users despite the use of hazardous chemicals.

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