Whatever a laboratory researches or produces, safety is a crucial consideration. Without adequate safety measures, even the most innocuous activities can end up putting staff at risk, with the dangers only increasing as more dangerous materials, substances and pieces of equipment are used.
Whether you work in a lab, manage one or hope to do either one day, read on to learn what the fundamental lab safety rules are, and how you can prevent safety problems from manifesting in your workplace.
Correct processes and practice
Depending on the field you work in, it’s important to design and implement processes that allow your operations to be safely carried out. These will differ depending on the type of work your lab conducts, but the Health and Safety Executive’s Laboratory Practice guide is a good place to start. Following these processes is absolutely essential for the safety of all involved.
Crucial to keeping laboratory staff safe is protective equipment. Appropriate workplace clothing should be worn at all times in a laboratory environment, with equipment such as coats, gloves and goggles provided to all staff. Safety footwear must also be worn, especially if corrosive chemicals are in use.
It’s important to make sure the equipment you select suits the work you are undertaking – labs conducting radiography, for example, will have very different protective equipment requirements compared to a food technology lab.
Clear safety signage
Staff and visitors need to be made aware of hazards, emergency exits, emergency equipment and any other safety concerns such as how to safely operate the equipment. The simplest way to do this is by installing clear safety signage around the lab, clearly visible and close to individual hazards.
Correct storage and labelling of chemicals and substances
All substances in use in the lab, including liquid chemicals and solid materials, must be correctly labelled. The rules that govern this are collectively known as Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). You can learn more about COSHH within your specific industry via the Health and Safety Executive’s guide.
No food or drink
Food and drink have no place in a lab, as they can either find their way into the lab work being produced or be contaminated by materials and chemicals stored or used by lab staff. Removing food and drink will prevent yourself, staff, or members of the public from coming to harm.
Access limited to approved personnel only
If your lab is working on sensitive projects, using dangerous substances, or is home to hazards that could put people at risk if they don’t know how to properly operate them, then restrict access to the space. This not only protects your work and investment but ensures the safety of others.