Whether in A-level chemistry or university medical research labs, chemical safety management requires a different tack than it does in an industrial environment. Although chemicals may be fewer in number and less hazardous, the students who handle chemicals often have no practice experience in chemical safety or chemical safety equipment. The result: they require more preparation and attention.
We created this guide for educators and staff who work in and around laboratories in schools. However, it can also be applied to chemicals used for general maintenance in educational facilities.
1. Use a Safety Checklist Every Day
In an education or research setting frequented by rotating groups of students, things get moved, used, and misplaced. Starting each day or session with a checklist gives you a baseline to work from so that staff and students avoid any surprise chemical hazards left behind by the last group.
What belongs on the checklist? At a minimum, consider adding these points:
- Check lab safety equipment at the start of the session
- Inspect personal protective equipment as you hand it out
- Ensure emergency switches are operable
- Provide the chemical safety data sheets (SDS) for each chemical used in that session
- Check vent positions and function
- Remove clutter from work and storage areas
- Eliminate any food or beverages from the area
- Update any relevant records
2. Regularly Inspect the Chemical Inventory
Unlike professionals who use chemicals every day, students’ encounters with chemicals will be infrequent by comparison. Even with chemical safety lessons, they will not immediately spot an issue, like a missing label or a product stored in the wrong place.
You can help avoid accidents by conducting regular chemical inventories and recording the relevant information. These chemical inventory inspections are also a good chance to ensure that chemicals are:
- Stored in the correct space
- Segregated appropriately (e.g., corrosive chemicals stored away from other materials)
- Kept away from any source of ignition
- Labelled accurately and clearly
3. Prevent Chemical Access with Safe Chemical Storage
Chemical storage plays an important role in risk management. You will need to store any chemicals, whether for learning or maintenance purposes, in a way that meets COSHH regulations and the suggestions provided on the SDS.
In any case, chemicals should never be stored in the laboratory, unless they are in locked cupboards. Even when they are stored in labs, they should be stored in minimal quantity.
Some general rules to use in a school setting include:
- Store chemicals inside a cabinet and put high risk chemicals in a locked cabinet
- Secure any shelves to the wall
- Ensure the chemical store can be locked
- Follow chemical segregation rules and use dedicated cabinets like flammable liquid storage cabinets or ventilated cabinets as required
- Use storage containers that can close
- Follow labelling protocols
Following lab safety strategies and rules is always important, but it can be extra challenging in a school laboratory. Not only are students less likely to have a foundation in chemical safety, but there are extra rules in place in regards to taking care of students’ health.
Are you looking for safe chemical storage solutions that exceed COSHH regulations are are suitable for school use? Get in touch to discuss your needs and learn how to streamline chemical safety with the right storage system.