Laboratory safety depends on the careful planning of laboratory activities, on the availability of information and advice about hazards and on the readiness of all concerned to keep to sensible rules and to encourage others to do likewise. Carelessness and lack of foresight are very human characteristics, and keeping this constantly in mind can help prevent many of the commonly occurring laboratory accidents. The following simple rules may help:
2:1 Remove the Hazard
Laboratory operations should be subject to continuing review. Is it really necessary for us to have dangerous substance X? Must we continue to carry sharp/fragile/hot/ corrosive things around?
2:2 Reduce the Hazard
Do we need to work with such a large amount? Would plastic be safer than glass?
Could the process be carried out in a safer place?
2:3 Guard Against the Hazard
If the substance explodes will it injure people, cause trivial or severe damage? Have we secured everything that is likely to collapse, fall over or strike other things?
2:4 Warn About the Hazard
Are we relying on common sense when we should be positively informing people? Should we be doing more to replace 'everybody knows' with 'everybody has been told in writing'? Are our signs and notices clear and concise and do they conform to the relevant regulations?
2:5 Protect Against the Hazard
Only after we have been through and completed 2:1 to 2:4 may we rely on protecting the person. Gloves, glasses, coats, visors, aprons etc have their place, but they must not be used as a substitute for a safe system of work.
2:6 YOU MUST CARRY OUT RISK ASSESSMENTS
To identify hazards, RISK ASSESSMENT is necessary. It is an Offence to handle substances hazardous to health without carrying out a Risk Assessment. All laboratory and fieldwork procedures should be subjected to risk assessment (not just those involving substances covered by COSHH regulations). Risk Assessment enables you to IDENTIFY THE HAZARDS. Steps can then be taken to ensure that the hazards are removed or safely controlled.
2:7 USE WRITTEN PROTOCOLS
You should use written protocols for all complex or hazardous procedures. (You will only know if procedures are hazardous after carrying out a Risk Assessment). If you follow a written protocol you are unlikely to make errors that could lead to accidents. Written protocols are ESSENTIAL for the training of others.
2:8 Filing Risk Assessments and Protocols
You should keep copies of Risk assessments and Protocols in a labeled folder in the laboratory where it can be accessed by all workers. Copies should also be saved in the Department's Safety File in the Department Folder on the CFS using the following pathway. After logging on double click: My Computer, Departments on 'cfs.le.ac.uk\Root', Biology, Information, Safety, C.O.S.H.H., completed forms. By keeping copies centrally, we can all help each other by disseminating information on (1) Hazards (via Risk assessments) and (2) How to carry out different operations (via Protocols).
2:9 NOTE: We are legally required to provide a SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
All employees ARE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO COOPERATE IN BRINGING THIS ABOUT. The Health and Safety Executive has enormous powers. They carry out inspections to make sure that Universities comply with the law and that workers are not working in unsafe conditions. It is particularly important that appropriate Health and Safety arrangements are in place because
- they provide you with a safe environment
- your lab would be closed down and you could be prosecuted for non-observance of the law. (A number of universities have been prosecuted in the immediate past and this University has been recently served with an enforcement for non-compliance with regulations). You should realise that in the event of a serious accident an HSE inspection would follow automatically and that they could use their powers to inspect anything.
IF YOU ARE IN DOUBT OR UNSURE REGARDING ANY ASPECT OF WORKING WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT, THEN ASK FOR HELP OR ADVICE.