Chemical safety involves all phases of chemical use from procurement, storage, transportation, manipulation, decontamination and disposal. Before working with any new chemical, personnel should start by familiarizing themselves with the hazards and potential risks associated with the chemical. The chemical's toxicological and physical hazards should be evaluated and the appropriate precautions taken to eliminate or reduce the inherent risks. There are a number of considerations and resources that should be reviewed when assessing the hazards of a new chemical.
Chemical Substitution: Consider substituting or replacing a toxic material with one that is considered less hazardous. Substituting can be successfully used and is a practical method for eliminating a chemical hazard.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS): Manufactures and distributors of chemicals must provide an SDS with every chemical. SD Sheets include much of the necessary information needed to begin a hazard assessment and should be reviewed before starting any new chemical work. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) provides access to an online searchable SDS database of over 6 million original vendor SDS’s called ChemWatch.
Training: Training is a critical part of the chemical safety process. Training should be provided prior to beginning any new laboratory activity and should provide personnel the information needed to perform the required task safely. All training weather required or specific to the task should be documented. A number of online chemical safety related training topics can be found on our training page.
Engineering Controls: The primary method of controlling a chemical hazard involves the implementation and use of engineering controls. Engineering controls remove the hazard by isolating, enclosing or ventilation. The most common type of engineering control found in laboratories is a chemical fume hood.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The decision to use any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should first start by reading the chemicals MSDS. Examples of PPE include gloves, eye protection, body protection (Ex. lab coats) and respiratory protection (Ex. respirators or dust masks). EHS provides risk assessment services including PPE evaluations for assistance with choosing the appropriate PPE for the task or chemical hazard.
Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP): When applicable laboratories should develop a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). A CHP is a written program developed and implemented by the employer which sets forth procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment and work practices that are capable of protecting employees from the health and physical hazards presented by hazardous chemicals used in the laboratory. EHS maintains a generic CHP for general laboratory use; site specific information should also be included. The CHP must be updated annually or as changes occur in the laboratory. Personnel covered by the plan should be familiar with the information and have continuous access.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): Standard Operating Procedure (SOP’s) provide written documentation of specific processes, operation or analysis. The development and use of SOP’s promote consistent execution of a process or procedure, regardless of temporary or permanent personnel changes. SOP’s also ensure conformance to good laboratory practices, reduce work error, improve safety, data comparability, credibility, and defensibility. Much of the necessary planning and preparation of a new experiment should be outlined using an SOP. Resources can be found or our SOP page.