Friday 8 October 2021

Tips For Hazardous Chemical Handling In A Lab


Working with hazardous chemicals is a necessary danger for lab professionals in the pharmaceutical and medical fields. From flammable liquids such as alcohols to fume and direct contact risks, some of the most powerful and effective results of pharmaceutical research come from work with volatile, dangerous materials.

These materials can include acids, nitrates, sulfates and far more. Proper safety practices and handling are critical for a healthy workplace when dealing with these materials. Below, we will review some of the most important safety tips to protect your workers, facility and business.

Safety Tips for Hazardous Chemical Handling

Proper safety practices and training are your most effective defense against incidents involving hazardous chemicals and your workers. Without a comprehensive safety plan, you risk the health of your employees, the reputation of your business, and the results of your research and development investments.

The following tips can help protect against safety incidents:

·         Keep real-time, 1:1 records: Confirm that employees and managers are aware of the chemicals that are entering the facility and the lab setting, in real time. Lab workers should understand and acknowledge the specific materials with which they are working, so they know the correct handling procedures, potential interactions and risks. Records should be kept in real time for maximum safety and accuracy — not after the fact.


·         Develop comprehensive standard operating procedures: A well-planned standard operating procedure (SOP) is among the most effective ways to prevent safety incidents. The SOP should include the details of day-to-day functions (such as lab startup and shutdown), standard personal safety standards such as PPE, documentation requirements, inventory standards, incident reporting and more. The SOP should be reviewed and readily available to all employees, but most critically those who are in direct contact with chemicals.

·         Instill a safety culture through training and example: Safety training is unlikely to be effective if it is treated as a one-day “necessary” requirement. Safety starts culturally, at the top, and is most effective when it becomes an organizational standard. In addition to leading by example, consider proactive positive reinforcement such as safety record benchmark tracking, educational certifications and other methods.


·         See that the proper infrastructure is present: From fume hoods to air circulators, lab infrastructure is on the frontline of protecting workers. Not only must this equipment be present, it must be kept in good working order, tested regularly, and reported if any aberration or malfunction is detected.

·         Train all employees on immediate incident response: Chemical spills and other incidents are bound to happen, even with comprehensive training and SOPs in place. The first few minutes after an incident are often critical not only to the safety of the employees involved, but also to the long-term effects of the accident. Strive to ensure that all employees are equipped to quickly and safely respond to incidents.


·         Practice accountability: Hand in hand with the culture of safety, personal accountability can be a hugely effective tool in helping employees adhere to these standards. Instill practices such as the “buddy system” and safety accountability in performance reviews so that workers remain aware of the importance of a safe facility.

·         Go beyond the baseline: Safety training, SOP development and facility infrastructure are an excellent start for a safe facility. Yet to be truly effective, these practices must be instilled and repeated: regular retraining, equipment checks and testing, SOP review and fine-tuning, and more. Safe chemical handling is only possible when it becomes second nature to workers, and these are some of the best ways to achieve that goal.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the importance of lab safety for chemicals in the pharmaceutical and medical fields — most importantly, in your responsibility to your employees, but also for the ongoing effectiveness and viability of your facility and business. With these tips at the ready, you are now prepared to instill the tenets of a safe lab facility.


Author bio: Steve Gonzales is CEO of Technical Safety Services, which provides testing, certification and calibration of equipment and controlled environment crucial to the success of the biopharma, medical device, academic research and food production industries.


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