Laboratory inspections are a vital component of a successful laboratory safety program. Inspections reveal the commitment of the department to the institution’s laboratory safety program. The goal of any safety program is to ensure a safe and healthy environment in which to teach, learn and conduct research.
All laboratories, prep rooms, chemical storage areas and shops in the Eberly College will be inspected during the upcoming months using “LabCliQ,” an inspection software package by Safety Stratus.
Each report that is generated using this software will be automatically sent via email to the PI/lab supervisor and to the departmental chemical hygiene officer. The reports will include compliance issues and recommend a course of action that must be taken to achieve compliance and avoid accidents/injuries and property damage. Follow-up inspections will be conducted, as needed. If there are numerous compliance issues with the laboratory, the report will also be sent to the department chairperson and to the Dean’s Office.
When the PI/Lab Supervisor receives the LabCliQ email for the first time, he/she must click on the link and set up an account (with a password) with Safety Stratus to view his/her report.
Areas of special concern that have been noted in laboratories during past inspections include:
Personal Protective Equipment
All personnel who work in laboratories (i.e., undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty and visiting scientists) must wear appropriate apparel and PPE that is appropriate to the degree of hazard.
Good laboratory housekeeping is an important aspect of the laboratory safety program. The following housekeeping violations were noted during past inspections:
- Blocked aisle ways
- Blocked emergency exits
- Dirty bench tops
- Dirty chemical fume hoods
- Cluttered laboratories with trip and fall hazards
- Beverages and food are not permitted in the labs.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has mandated that universities must protect against theft and reduce the vulnerability of their laboratories to theft or vandalism. DHS is particularly concerned about toxic and dual-use materials that could be stolen or released by terrorists. DHS is enforcing a new security rule that requires colleges to reveal their current protection plans and security measures.
Personnel should be reminded that lab doors must be kept closed at all times to ensure that the laboratory room air is properly exchanged and to maximize the efficiency of the HVAC system. Additionally, the automatic closing mechanism on the laboratory doors is damaged when the door is propped open.
In the event of a chemical spill or fire, incompatible chemicals that are stored in close proximity can mix and create fires, toxic fumes and explosions. To protect the laboratory worker, chemicals must be separated and stored according to hazard category and compatibility. Compatibility information can be found on the label and in the Safety Data Sheet. The laboratory worker should read and heed the precautions regarding the storage requirements of the chemicals that are used in the laboratory. A detailed compatibility table is included in Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards.
All chemical containers must be properly labeled. Secondary container labels should contain the following information:
- Chemical name
- Hazard warnings
- Name of manufacturer
- Name of researcher in charge
- Date of transfer to the vessel
Laboratory-grade explosion-proof refrigerators and freezers are used to store chemicals that require cool storage. The chemicals that are stored in the refrigerator must be placed in sealed and properly labeled containers. Place trays in the refrigerators to hold small bottles/vessels. Periodically clean and defrost the refrigerator/freezer to ensure maximum efficiency.
Flammable liquids should be stored in approved flammable liquid storage cabinets. Store odiferous materials in ventilated cabinets.
Do not store chemicals on the bench tops, in the chemical fume hoods, or on the floors. Liquid chemicals should not be stored over five feet in height on the shelves in the laboratories.
Laboratory Chemical Fume Hoods
Laboratory chemical hoods should be used in the following situations:
- When working with chemicals with significant inhalation hazards, such as toxic chemical vapors, dusts, powders, gases and volatile substances
- When working with chemical vapors that could ignite
- When working with odiferous materials
- When working on procedures that generate high pressure or can cause explosions
Except for the chemicals that are needed for the work-in-progress, chemicals should never be stored in the hood. All chemicals and equipment should be positioned so that they do not block the back baffles and should be placed at least six inches from the hood face to ensure proper airflow. Large pieces of equipment should be raised on racks to facilitate the airflow in the hood. The workspace and the sash glass must be kept clean. The view should not be obstructed with posters, decals or other items. Hood performance should be tested on a regular basis and a tag or label should be attached to the hood to indicate the date of the testing and the test results in feet per minute. The chemical fume hoods are tested on an annual basis by WVU Department of Environmental Health and Safety personnel.
Chemical Waste Disposal
It is critically important that all personnel follow the EHS guidelines for satellite waste areas to ensure compliance with University, state and federal regulations.
EHS Hazardous Waste Guide for Satellite Areas
- EHS will pick up unwanted chemicals and chemical wastes.
- Chemicals must be compatible with the container.
- Containers must be labeled with the words "Waste <chemical name(s)>". Place waste stickers for each liquid or solid waste container in your lab. Use the common or IUPAC name of each chemical (no abbreviations or formulas).
- Containers must always be kept closed unless actively adding waste.
- Containers should be no more than 95% full to allow for expansion.
- Containers must have a screw cap closure or equivalent.
- Date container when it is FULL.
- Submit the online Hazardous Waste Disposal Form to EHS.