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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
sizes safe work practices and workplaces should be an important goal of the leadership of an institution. An inspection system to audit work practices is recommended to ensure that laboratory activities are conducted prudently and comply with all regulatory requirements and local policies. Owing to the diversity and number of activities conducted in a typical laboratory, inspections commonly focus on particular experiments or procedures that may contain special hazards. However, random checking of more routine operations may uncover laxity or hidden problems not envisaged when the experiment was first planned. The nature and structure of an inspection will vary with circumstances, but clearly inspections should not be conducted in circumstances where they may actually increase laboratory hazards. However, the basic concepts used by a financial auditor to define a scope, conduct an audit, document the findings, require a response to the findings, and ensure that these responses address the findings properly can apply quite readily to the audit of pre-experiment reviews and general laboratory safety inspections.
2.E.1Chapter 3: Evaluating Hazards and Assessing Risks in the Laboratory
Complete assessment of hazards should be made for all materials and suspected products associated with the experiment or procedure. Chapter 3 provides the basis for interpreting and applying much of the available hazard information. Both literature resources and knowledgeable contacts inside the local research community and in other institutions can provide additional information. If risks are determined to be unacceptable, experiments can be redesigned to minimize the volumes of chemicals used or to employ less hazardous alternatives that might do the job equally well. Some important considerations include volumes and flow rates to be employed, amounts required, physical properties of materials to be used, potential for exposure, regulatory concerns, and emergency response for unexpected events.
The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical is one of the resources that should be incorporated into experiment planning. However, because of the inconsistent quality of information found in MSDSs, Laboratory Chemical Safety Summaries (LCSSs), which are compiled in Appendix B, should be consulted or developed for the materials involved. In any case, the experiment planner needs to be aware that the existing regulations do not necessarily represent the full complement of prudent practices for handling hazardous materials and that other input is therefore essential.
In many experiments, new materials are produced whose physical properties and toxicity are unknown. Product mixtures should, therefore be regarded with suspicion of hazard until their compositions can be determined and they can be proven safe. Some provision for protecting those involved in the analysis of these product compositions from potential hazards must also be considered in experiment planning. Moreover, not all experiments proceed in the expected manner. A critical analysis should also involve consideration of the accidents that could occur in even simple experiments.
2.E.2Chapter 4: Management of Chemicals
The experiment plan should include provisions for acquiring and storing chemicals and equipment to be used in the procedures. Some considerations for management of materials include effective labeling; inventory maintenance and reagent tracking; source reduction and materials sharing; compound shelf life; monitoring of reactive chemicals; hazards associated with storage of incompatibles, flammables, reactive chemicals, and so on; and the regulations governing shipping and storage of chemicals.
2.E.3Chapter 5: Working with Chemicals
While the subject of Chapter 5 is at the heart of every experiment, because of the diversity of possible laboratory procedures, it is impossible to anticipate all of the potential issues that should be specified for a "generic experiment." Instead, the worker who is planning the experiment needs to rely on judgment and consultation with the literature and fellow scientists in determining which factors require particular attention. In any case, the proposed experimental procedure should be considered in adequate detail before any laboratory operations begin. Certainly these preparations should include steps such as sample preparation, equipment assembly and commissioning, start-up and calibration of equipment, data acquisition, product isolation and characterization, and storage and disposal of materials after the work is completed. Special consideration should be given to planning for unattended operations, novel equipment that is to be purchased or fabricated, and experiments that are undergoing significant scale-up.
In experimental work, it is important to recognize that although accidents can be minimized, the nature of gaining new knowledge suggests that they can never be eliminated completely. Any good experimental design process should identify hazards and develop