Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 31, 2022

Staying Safe in the Laboratory

Every job on the planet needs some level of personal protection equipment to protect you from potential risks to your physical or mental health. Particularly in the field of science, safety equipment is essential. Companies offer the leasing of lab safety materials to take the pressure off the expense incurred by the upfront costs.

When it comes to life, risks are inevitable. They are unavoidable to some extent, but for the most part a thorough risk assessment will allow you to take the necessary precautions to create a safe lab environment. If possible, risks should be removed by the implementation of a better facility design or improved lab processes. When elimination of the risks is impossible, they should be reduced by using personal protective equipment. Although PPE doesn’t prevent the hazard, it protects the wearer if they encounter the given hazard.

But what kind of PPE is needed in a laboratory?

Whether you’re establishing a new lab or replenishing your current inventory, it’s took to take a refreshing look at the needed supplies to make sure you can maintain the health and safety standards of your workplace.

Body Protection

Body protection is the best place to start. A white lab coat might seem like a cliché, but they are vital for individuals who are working with dangerous chemicals, germs, or other materials. The length and sturdiness of the coat protects against any plashes or spills and the material can destroy 99% of bacteria. Furthermore, in the event of such a spill, a spill skit needs to be in place and well understood by the team, to be able to handle the spillage of chemicals in the lab.

Eye Protection

Your eyes are very precious commodities. In an environment where splashes and spills are likely, it’s vital that you protect your eyes. The best idea is to use a pair of glasses, goggles, or wraparounds. The material to be used depends on the kind of lab you’re working in – the needs vary from simple glasses to specialised anti-impact goggles with anti-fogging features. In the event of a foreign substance entering the eye, it’s important to have an eyewash station in the lab and that all workers understand how to use it correctly in an emergency.

Hand Protection

This is maybe the first thing people think of with it comes to personal protective equipment. In this line of work, you’ll be using your hands a lot and as a result they need their own category of protection.  Most workers may decide on disposable gloves, maybe vinyl or latex. In a lab, the more suitable chemical resistant nitrile gloves will be well suited to the environment and working needs. If the work is more intense, it may be better to go for reusable gloves, known as gauntlets. These will offer great protection against chemicals and other dangerous substances.

Hearing Protection

In some labs, the machinery can result in a high level of noise so in such environments, it’s good to thinking about using hearing protection. This could include things like earmuffs, ear plugs, or noise-cancelling headsets. Some ear plugs come in a standard, pre-moulded shape while others can be formed to fit the user, thus offering great protection.

Respiratory Protection

Looking after your lungs in a lab is vital as the affects may not be immediately noticeable, but they will be permanently damaging. The chemicals involved may emit toxic fumes that can cause poisoning over a prolonged, extended period. In these situations, a durable mask is essential.

Biosafety Protection

If your lab is working in a field that involves biohazardous substances, it’s important to take extra measure to ensure the safety of your team. One such piece of equipment would be a Biological Safety Cabinet. These cabinets are designed to protect against exposure to dangerous particles in the air. It purifies the air of infectious pollutants as a ventilated enclosure. A fume hood works in a similar way, but provides personal protection only as opposed to protection for the whole area.  They limit the workers exposure to toxic vapours in the air using a similar method as a BSC.

Assessing the Risks

When it comes to the issues surrounding health and safety, the laws and restrictions can feel overwhelming. However, the consequences of disregarding these regulations are devastating – it could result in injury of a staff member, damage to expensive equipment or even regulatory fines or concerns over the lab’s accreditation. Therefore, no matter how inconvenient it may seem, it is essential to live up to the standards set forth by the regulatory bodies. One such body is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Formed over 100 years ago, this regulatory agency provides confidential occupational safety services for all sizes of business, free of charge. These services help to detect hazards in the workplace as this process requires specialised knowledge that is not always easy to comprehend. The agency’s inspections, although daunting, have proven to great reduce injury rates and costs which will greatly help your lab to remain safe and reliable. 

Who Has the Responsibility?

The primary responsibility to implement safe working procedures in the lab belongs to supervisors. They need to ensure that hazards are evaluated, personal protective equipment is readily available, and that employees are well trained on how to deal with hazards and how to use safety equipment. In this regard, it becomes the responsibility of all those in the lab to ensure that the safe environment is maintained. All staff members must take an interest in becoming familiar with safety equipment and procedures, take the initiative to use it when necessary and be ready to report any risks or damage to safety equipment immediately.  Therefore, it really becomes the responsibility of all workers to do their part to add to the safe and healthy environment of the lab that they operate in. When all play their part in doing so, it ensures a safe workplace, inside and outside the laboratory itself.

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