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Addressing Hazardous Chemical Risks In Lab Settings

White coats. Safety goggles. Bunsen burners. For some, these items merely stir memories of high school science labs but for others they are daily essentials. In the world of laboratory research, chemists and lab technicians are surrounded by hazardous chemicals and dangerous elements daily. At times, there are lapses in safety protocols furthering the dangers they face. Here is a brief look into the common risks researchers encounter with standard methods to address them and improve safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Laboratory Standard defines certain chemicals as Particularly Hazardous Substances (PHS) when they are known to have immediate or long-term toxic health effects. Such dangerous chemicals — which can be acids, sulfides, flammable liquids, etc. — present physical and health threats to clinical, industrial and academic laboratory workers.

What kind of health threats? From known carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) to neurotoxins and corrosives, PHSs pose many dangers to human health and wellness. A recent survey of lab workers with positions exposing them to chemical substances uncovered 89.4% of subjects handled chemicals classified as “lethal if in contact with systems of the human body.” The workers were assessed on their perceptions and awareness of chemical hazards and were found to have significant gaps in knowledge as well as poor observance of safety processes.

Currently, OSHA maintains numerous rules limiting exposures to approximately 400 substances workers may encounter. However, errors and accidents happen. Such accidents, or their resulting injuries, often go unreported. In fact, a recent survey of lab personnel found 25% to 38% of participants have been involved in an accident inside the lab that w…

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Risk Assessments – What, Why and How

“Everything in life has some risk. What you have to actually learn to do is how to navigate it.” - Reid Hoffmanphoto shows a person welding

From the moment you wake up in the morning, you are constantly assessing levels of risk and implementing controls to remove or reduce the risk involved in that activity.

Let’s consider the morning commute. It is quite possible that it will still be dark outside. There is therefore a risk of you having an accident as a result of the lack of visibility, due to the reduction in the amount of light available when driving. However, this risk is reduced when you turn on your car headlights, as this mechanical light aids in providing you with more light, therefore providing you with an increased visibility of your surroundings whilst you drive.

Whilst the above all seems straight forward, we see that many people struggle with the concept of Risk Assessment, especially when these need to be written down.

This article will therefore provide you with the information on why we need to conduct Risk Assessment, along with the 5 steps which you need to follow, in order to produce a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

What is a Risk Assessment?

A Risk Assessment is the systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a particular activity or undertaking.

Why do we need to conduct a Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessments are a vital tool in the management of Health and Safety for your business, as it allows for the documentation of risks that your workforce is being exposed to, along with the controls which need to be implemented in order to eliminate or reduce this risk.

From a legal perspective, as an employer, you are required to protect your employees and others from harm. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regul…

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