Each lab should maintain a chemical inventory on file with the University Police department, the department of Environmental Health and Safety, and within the respective department’s central office. Emergency responders will need to know this information in case of a fire. Without this information, any response may be delayed. For information on how to submit your chemical inventory please contact the EHS Lab Safety Coordinator.
For any procedures involving any kind of hazardous materials, each lab should maintain a written record of standard operating procedures (SOPs). These SOPs can be kept in a lab binder or as a digital file accessible to all lab personnel. The purpose of these procedures is to reduce risks by standardizing how chemicals are handled, stored and disposed of.
The Chemical Safety Board has noted that university lab safety plans typically have ignored physical hazards in laboratories. These include pyrophoric, highly reactive and other materials. UMSL EHS believes it is prudent to address and identify these materials and after a brief search, decided on two sources. The first source is the settlement between UCLA Board of Regents and the second source is the California OSHA (CALOSHA), after a research assistant fatality. The settlement required Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for 10 categories of chemicals totaling 500 substances.
The categories are:
A risk assessment of procedures involving hazardous chemicals can help identify areas of high risk and low risk. Begin by breaking down procedures into about 10-12 essential steps.
The American Chemical Society has developed guidelines for identifying hazards in the research laboratory. This draft document is intended to give guidance to Principle Investigators. Identifying and Evaluating Hazards in Research Laboratories provides five methods for performing risk assessments.
Peer review of SOPs can also improve the overall effectiveness of the lab SOP and provide opportunities to discuss areas of improvement. A department may develop a set of SOPs that individual Principle Investigators can then customize for their specific needs.
Risks can also be reduced by implementing the Hierarchy of Controls.
Examples of Controls
Each lab must keep SDS readily available to all lab personnel either in a binder or as a digital record. It is highly recommended that a hard copy be retained for extremely hazardous materials. An SDS can be obtained from the vendor where the chemical was obtained. Always read the SDS and any other technical information before starting work with a new material.
NIOSH is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They produce a free Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. This is guide provides basic information to help personnel recognize occupational chemical hazards.
To prevent chemical reactions that may result in fire, produce dangerous vapors, or produce uncontrolled explosions, the laboratory should select a storage scheme that achieves segregation of incompatible materials. Storage guidance may be found in Safety Data Sheets and from Prudent Practices in the Laboratory Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards published by National Academies Press. This resource, sponsored by the National Research Council, can be purchased or downloaded for free from the NAP website.
"The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the agency's board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The CSB conducts root cause investigations of chemical accidents at fixed industrial facilities. Root causes are usually deficiencies in safety management systems, but can be any factor that would have prevented the accident if that factor had not occurred. Other accident causes often involve equipment failures, human errors, unforeseen chemical reactions or other hazards. The agency does not issue fines or citations, but does make recommendations to plants, regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industry organizations, and labor groups. Congress designed the CSB to be non-regulatory and independent of other agencies so that its investigations might, where appropriate, review the effectiveness of regulations and regulatory enforcement." (About the CSB)
EHS recommends watching Experimenting with Danger, a video produced by CSB after the investigation of the Texas Tech Explosion.
Hazardous chemicals can present physical or health threats to personnel working in the lab. They include carcinogens, toxins, irritants, and corrosives as well as agents that can damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Engineering, administrative, and work practice controls should be in place that keep exposures below the Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL). PELs have been established for numerous chemicals and are listed in the OSHA standard at 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1. For chemicals that OSHA has not identified a PEL, refer to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.