Workplace Safety Guides

   Chemical Dangers


Many of the requirements for laboratory safety and health are based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories rule, also known as the OSHA Lab Standard.

One of the major requirements of the OSHA lab standard requires the use of a chemical hygiene plan. The chemical hygiene plan covers work practices, procedures, and policies needed to ensure that employees are protected from potentially hazardous chemicals. Employee training and information, hazard identification, and medical examinations are among the plan's requirements.

Proper protective gear must be provided and warning signs must be posted. However, employees are the most important part of the safe operation of a hospital lab. Only you can prevent injuries to yourself and your coworkers. It all begins with knowing what the dangers are, and that begins with the worker.

An employee's clothes should not be made of a high percentage of acetate, or other highly flammable material. This is especially important when working around ether, or other highly flammable substances, as they can create static electricity, which can send off sparks. All employees should wear shoes that cover the entire foot. Workers must not wear dangling jewelry in a lab; it could get caught in the equipment. And if an employee has long hair, it must be secured back and off the shoulders. This will keep hair from shedding bacteria, as well as from getting caught in moving equipment.

Employees should wash their hands every time they go in and out of the lab, and before and after contact with each patient, chemicals, or equipment. Eating, drinking, smoking, and applying cosmetics or perfumes are strictly prohibited in work areas. If you need to, ask your supervisor where these activities are permitted.

Protective equipment is provided for tasks involving risks to skin, eyes, and lungs. It is essential that workers wear a lab coat and use the proper protective equipment when working with hazardous materials or with potentially infectious specimens.

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