How to reduce risk in a laboratory environment

Containing a range of potentially harmful substances and dangerous equipment, laboratories are inherently hazardous places. This means that in order to minimise risks to workers, organisations must stick to strict safety procedures. This brief guide covers the basics of danger management in lab environments.

Install the right equipment

There can be no compromises when it comes to the equipment used in lab settings. If these resources are substandard or unsuitable, workers’ wellbeing can be jeopardised. Some of the most important devices found within these environments are clean air systems. Specialist providers like Contained Air Solutions offer a range of systems, including safety cabinets, pharmaceutical isolators, laminar flow cabinets, containment booths and robotic enclosures. As well as helping to prevent contamination to materials, these solutions can perform a vital role in protecting workers from exposure to hazardous substances.  

All equipment, including clean air products, should be properly maintained to minimise the risk of technical faults that could compromise worker wellbeing.

Conduct regular risk assessments

Regular risk assessments are a must too. These should be completed for all tasks that are performed in the lab and for all hazardous substances and dangerous equipment. They must also be reviewed on a regular basis so that they’re always up-to-date.

Follow the correct procedures

Lab workers have to follow much stricter rules than most employees when they are performing their duties. For example, they should not eat or drink anything in the lab and they must always stick to authorised areas. In addition, they must be aware of all the conditions required for the safe handling of any specimens or materials.
It’s also crucial that employees are aware of all the safety facilities provided within labs, including fire extinguishers, first aid kits, eyewash stations and emergency exits. Working areas have to be kept clean at all times too and no waste should be left in sinks. In addition, staff members should cover any open wounds on their hands and they must always wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
Meanwhile, certain high-risk activities should not be carried out by personnel operating in isolation outside of regular working hours. Examples of dangerous activities include those that require workers to operate potentially hazardous machinery, handle venomous animals or work with or near to toxic or corrosive substances when there is a significant risk of exposure.

Use the right PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) performs a vital role in labs. The minimum PPE needed for most of these settings includes a lab coat and enclosed shoes. Meanwhile, when required, items like safety glasses, gloves, dust masks, respirator face shields, PVC aprons and hearing protection should be used. All of the relevant equipment must be readily available and in good condition, and workers must be trained in its use.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the measures that organisations need to take to ensure their labs are safe. The precise risk management procedures required differ depending on the design and purpose of these environments.

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