November 21, 2013

Upgrading Laboratory Safety Procedures

Many colleges and universities need to upgrade their laboratory safety practices in order to protect their students and researchers and to ensure public safety.  Recent experience poignantly shows that chemical fires, explosions, and theft cause personal tragedy and consume inordinate administrative time. (See articles on explosions at Texas Tech and University of Florida).  However, disaster usually leads to improved practices by the facility’s teaching and research staff.

What are some of the first improvements that can be made?
§  Overall review of current practices, including mock inspections, looking for gaps and early opportunities to mitigate potential problems.

§  Inventory assessment , for example, excess and old chemical inventories need to be monitored or discarded.

§  Proper selection and use of PPE, personal protective equipment.

§  Written and understood SOP’s, standard operating procedures, for each type of experiment, special chemicals and process equipment.

§  ERP, emergency response procedures, for potential or past situations.

Such knowledge and practices are well established in the chemical, biotech, energy and pharmaceutical industries.  Specialty technical search firms can often help.  They can individually advise researchers on specialty situations (chemical formulations, chemical processes) or they can be critical team members to assist with management issues (regulatory compliance, security/surety, forensic investigations, expert witness).

University of California recently underwent an extensive safety procedures overall. Read about their experience here.

Additionally, OSHA has just released new resources to help businesses protect workers from hazardous chemicals. These resources can be found here.

The CECON Group has been providing science and engineering consultants to businesses, universities, and attorneys since 1985. Our technically trained project managers are skilled at helping locate the right expert or team of experts for projects of varying scopes and sizes.

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