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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
tory ventilation systems are described in considerable detail.
Although many other types of buildings in a large institution can be converted fairly readily from one use to another, the special demands of chemical laboratories require that they be dedicated to their unique purpose. Because of the great expense for a laboratory's construction and operation, the intricacy of its facilities, and its important role in protecting the public and the workers who use it, laboratory personnel should have a thorough understanding of specialized facilities designed for their safety. For the full value of a modem laboratory to be realized, it is important to maintain good working relationships between laboratory personnel and the facility engineering and maintenance staff as well as with environmental health and safety workers.
Perhaps the single most important safety system in chemical laboratories, and certainly the one most responsible for their unique design and cost, is the ventilation system, especially the fume hoods that remove toxic vapors from the workplace. During the past 15 years, virtually every aspect of air handling in the laboratory has been refined, and the issue of acceptable emissions to the outside environment has come under increasing scrutiny. As demands for "zero emissions" become more frequent, the hood is viewed increasingly as a necessary safety device that should be used for removing toxic vapors in case of an accident. Although this viewpoint may be unrealistic if carried to the extreme, it requires special consideration in the planning and execution of laboratory chemistry.
Many of the regulations that now impinge on the handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals in laboratories attempt to formalize their safe operation and to penalize noncompliance. Laboratory inspections are an important means for ensuring not only that laboratories are maintaining a safe operating standard, but also that they are being operated in an efficient manner that justifies their expense. Suitable laboratory inspections cover a wide range of formality and detail. At one end is the informal peer review by fellow workers or the laboratory supervisor giving collegial advice on safe procedures or identifying deteriorating equipment that needs maintenance or lapses in good housekeeping. At the other end are formal inspections by regulatory officers looking for noncompliance with local, state, or federal laws. Chapter 8 provides a variety of options and advice on conducting inspections, along with a basic checklist of common hazards that should be considered.
GOVERNMENTAL REGULATION OF LABORATORIES (CHAPTER 9)
In recognition of the enormous impact of federal, state, and local regulations on the planning and performance of every stage of the handling of chemicals as they move to, in, and from laboratories, Chapter 9 outlines the vast and intricate legal framework by which organizations, laboratory workers, and supervisors are held accountable for compliance. Most institutions that deal with chemicals in laboratories, and dispose of them, have organized professional infrastructures to give advice and help implement the laws. The most essential regulations are promulgated under the OSHA Laboratory Standard and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which were conceived to protect the public, the environment, and the individual laboratory worker. Noncompliance may expose workers to unnecessary risks, undermine the public's confidence in its institutions, and lead to fines of up to $25,000 per day of violation and severe criminal penalties. Prudent practice in the laboratory is mandated by law and enforceable through citations.
Although some regulations have not recognized the laboratory as a special environment for using chemicals, the OSHA Laboratory Standard specifies that each institution accountable for handling and disposal of chemicals must develop its own Chemical Hygiene Plan for implementing the requirements of the Laboratory Standard. Each employer is required to "furnish to each of his employees ... a place of employment ... free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm ..." The individual employee is required to "comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules ... which are applicable to his own actions and conduct." Although the position of students, in contrast to that of employees, is not covered explicitly, custodial and maintenance personnel who work in laboratories or handle chemicals or chemical waste are clearly protected by requirements for training and other safeguards. Provision is made for the development and enforcement of state OSHA regulations.
In addition to the Laboratory Standard, the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) applies to all nonlaboratory businesses or operations "where chemicals are either used, distributed, or produced" and is more stringent than the Laboratory Standard in some respects. Other OSHA standards concerning level of exposure apply to hundreds of chemicals and are included in the LCSSs prepared for this report and in many MSDSs.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA; 42 USC 6901 et seq.) applies to waste reduction and disposal of laboratory chemicals from "cradle to grave." Laboratory workers should be aware of RCRA definitions of "generators" of different amounts and types of hazardous waste as described in Chapter 7, and of the legal limitations on moving and disposing of hazardous chemical waste as defined by RCRA.