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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
by experienced practitioners, (2) more formal discussion of the experiment and options with experienced peers for more hazardous operations, or (3) a formal hazard review process with complete written documentation of the procedures to be employed for new, unfamiliar, or intrinsically hazardous operations. For example, the following special areas of laboratory work will almost always require some approval steps: work with radioactive materials; experiments involving pathogens that cause serious or lethal infection; high-and low-pressure work; research involving especially hazardous materials; and experiments being scaled up.
Diversity in local, state, and federal regulatory issues and institutional policies also enters into the planning of an experiment. Simply "thinking things through" and recording a description of a procedure in a laboratory notebook might be a fully prudent practice for handling one chemical, while the identical procedure for another compound subject to specific regulations or for a large quantity of the same compound might demand a detailed written experiment plan, review by others, authorizing signatures, and accounting of material balances.
It is clear that no single, universally applicable description of "good" experiment planning exists and that the level of formality to be considered prudent in pre-experiment planning is a matter of judgment. In an area where potential hazards exist, more attention to planning is clearly better than less.
2.CINDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES FOR PLANNING EXPERIMENTS
Implementation of effective pre-experiment review programs must be initiated and backed by the highest level of leadership in an organization. Primary responsibility for day-to-day implementation of such programs should rest with individuals who supervise particular laboratory activities. While the experiments may be prepared and conducted by the laboratory workers, it remains the responsibility of the laboratory supervisor to determine what level of experiment planning is appropriate and to be accountable for necessary training, documentation, and compliance with regulations.
The laboratory workers involved with the experiment or procedure should participate actively and monitor the planning process carefully. When planning for new or unfamiliar procedures or experiments, the workers should review the literature and consult experts to assist with the review. These experts may be outside the regular chain of leadership in the organization or may even be outside the organization altogether. They could include program leaders, co-workers, and safety, health, toxicology, and industrial hygiene personnel who are associated with chemical research. Experimenters should also consult appropriate sections of this book and any other available safety, toxicology, and industrial hygiene reference materials that might aid in planning the experiment. At the completion of the pre-experiment review process, the workers should have complete familiarity with the planned activities, their associated risks, all protective measures needed, and contingency plans to deal with unexpected events or accidents. The protection of the individual worker and the public is paramount. When conducting laboratory activities, workers not only must have the knowledge necessary to ensure their own safety and that of co-workers and society, but also must be willing to accept the responsibility for that safety.
2.DINSTITUTIONAL POLICIES AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLANNING
Just as those proposing an experiment have responsibilities for safety in laboratory work, the institution in which the experiment is to be conducted is also responsible for certain aspects of experiment planning. This is the case for academic departments in universities and national laboratories as well as for private corporations. Because of the scope of institutional responsibilities, it is generally less effective for an institutional bureaucracy than for the experienced professionals directly involved in the work to attempt to set guidelines for specific experiments. However, the institution shares the ethical, legal, and financial burden of ensuring that experimental work is carried out safely and responsibly; thus, the institution must establish general guidelines for what constitutes prudence in laboratory work practices. The institution is responsible for setting standards and keeping records of any necessary training of laboratory workers. Moreover, in specific circumstances the institution may spell out guidelines for working with specific hazards, as in the case of an especially toxic compound or a federally regulated drug intermediate.
In addition to setting the general tone for work practices, the institution is responsible for developing and implementing laboratory policies and standards for emergency response procedures and training. This responsibility is best handled at the institutional level by a central environmental health and safety office. Activities of such an office might include developing contingency plans for handling injuries, chemical spills, explosions, fires, natural disasters, the loss of