Workplace Safety Guides

   Hazard Identification and Preparation


You must learn to instantly recognize the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA Hazard Identification Diamond. Color and number codes are combined to provide essential information about safe handling and storage procedures for a specific material.

The color represents the kind of hazard, blue for health, red for flammability, and yellow for reactivity. White is reserved for special instructions.

The numbers zero through four are used to indicate the degree of danger involved. Zero meaning the risk is relatively low, and four warning that a serious danger is present when handling the material.

Warning signs indicate areas where radioactive materials are stored. Prior to entering these areas or handling any radioactive materials, you must follow the correct procedures outlined in your SOP and Federal Regulations. Familiarize yourself with the safety policies and applicable SOPs of the lab you work in.

In the hospital labs as in any lab, working with chemicals is an everyday occurrence. Many of the chemicals are hazardous. Labels define the different types of hazards, corrosive, toxic, ignitable and explosive. The labels contain essential information about the safe handling of these dangerous chemicals. They tell what hazards are present with the use of the chemical, and they also explain what precautionary measures you can take.

Make sure you know where emergency eye wash stations and emergency showers are located in case hazardous chemicals get in your eye or on your skin. Learn how to operate these devices before an actual emergency occurs.

Be particularly cautious with explosive materials. Some of these materials have the power to not only destroy the lab and you with it, but can even reduce an entire hospital to rubble. Handle explosive materials with extreme care.

Gases can cause explosions or fires, too. Place cylinders where they cannot be knocked over or damaged. Always keep restraints on the cylinders securely tightened. A broken valve head can turn a cylinder into a missile capable of penetrating walls or you.

You must have complete familiarity with proper procedures for the handling, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals. Consult your material safety datasheets for specific instructions. Never guess or rely on what you might remember from your high school chemistry class.

Throughout the hospital lab you will see warning signs and labels. They are there for your protection. Do not ignore them or take them for granted. Read them carefully every time you work in a dangerous area or handle hazardous materials.

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