What to Include in Your Laboratory Chemical Safety Checklist

26th March 2018

All laboratories will have chemical safety measures in place, from designated chemical storage cabinets, to PPE and spill kits. A safety checklist is essential to ensure that these safety measures are up to date and systems are in place for safe handling, storage, and disposal of chemicals – as well as the procedures for responding to accidents and emergencies.

Although the scope of the checklist will vary according to the nature of the materials, standard practice typically covers the following areas:

Safe chemical storage

Any laboratory must have a thorough inventory of what chemicals are stored, accompanied by up-to-date Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each. These must be easily available to all those with authorized access to the laboratory.

The laboratory safety checklist should detail the quantities, locations and correct chemical storage procedures. It should confirm that each chemical is sealed in the appropriate chemical container, in a safe environment, with a clearly identifiable label of its contents, potential hazards, and correct disposal procedures.

Flammable and combustible materials can become dangerously volatile if exposed to heat, electricity, or other substances. Adequate flammable storage is imperative to prevent these hazards. The checklist must establish the designated storage areas for each flammable chemical, with clear segregation, ventilation, and the absence of obstructions that could cause physical damage.

Personal Protective Equipment  

Personal Protective Equipment must be available to support laboratory safety. The laboratory safety checklist ensures that staff/technicians can access the appropriate PPE for each procedure, and that all equipment is properly maintained, fit for use, and stored in a designated location.

Typically, PPE covers gloves, goggles, lab coats and footwear. These should be fit-tested and inspected regularly for signs of wear and tear. In some cases, respirators might be appropriate, but only for use by those who have passed medical clearance and received adequate training.

The checklist can also extend to what items are not authorized within the laboratory, such as contact lenses, jewellery or food.

Emergency Plan

The laboratory safety checklist is a useful tool for testing the effectiveness of an emergency plan in case of chemical spill, fire, explosion or electric shock, among others. All those with authorized access to the laboratory need not only be familiar with the details of the plan, but also regularly refreshed in its execution through drills.

Check that measures are in place to address chemical spills, and that spill kits, spill barriers, extinguishers and fume hoods are properly maintained. All staff should know the location of eyewash stations, emergency showers, circuit breakers and alarms. The plan should detail evacuation procedures, fire department liaison personnel, and the sequence of actions those present should take upon alarm.

Chemical Safety Signage

Use the checklist to confirm that appropriate signage is posted in clearly visible positions throughout the laboratory, and that staff are trained in their meanings. Several universal conventions apply – signs should not include text, but should indicate hazards with red for prohibition, yellow for warnings, and blue for mandatory actions.

Key areas that should be clearly signed include eyewash stations, circuit breakers, spill kits, first aid station, defibrillator, fire extinguishers, and emergency exits.

Laboratory Equipment

Given the sheer volume of equipment in use in the typical laboratory, the checklist is the primary safeguard that all items are maintained and functioning correctly. Set a clear schedule for inspecting inventory, and policies for disposing of chipped or cracked glassware in a labelled waste container. The checklist should also detail the designated storage area for each type of equipment.

Chemical Disposal

Without a robust disposal procedure, a laboratory can risk incurring fines, sanctions, or serious accident. The safety checklist should clarify which substances need to be deposited in controlled waste by designated personnel.

Record keeping is also vital. The checklist should clarify how each waste container should be labelled, segregated, and placed for disposal. Because certain substances can react when mixed in the same container, or pose a significant hazard to waste collection personnel, the checklist must clarify the appropriate conditions for all chemical substances held in the laboratory.

A well-conceived chemical safety checklist eliminates unnecessary risk in hazardous laboratory environments and protects workplace safety for all those present. Safety Storage carry vital equipment to keep laboratories safe, from chemical storage cabinets to spill trays, bunds and containment barriers. For tailored advice to your own safety needs, contact our chemical storage experts.

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