Laboratory Safety

Laboratory Safety

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

What is a laboratory?

A general definition of laboratory is a "room or building equipped for scientific experimentation or research." [American Heritage Dictionary]

The OSHA standard regarding occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories distinguishes laboratories that fall within its scope by defining laboratory to mean a facility where the "laboratory use of hazardous chemicals" occurs. A workplace where relatively small quantities of hazardous chemicals are used on a non-production basis.

In the bloodborne pathogens standard, laboratory refers to a research laboratory which is defined as "a laboratory producing or using research-laboratory-scale amounts of HIV or HBV. Research laboratories may produce high concentrations of HIV or HBV but not in the volume found in production facilities."

What are the hazards associated with working in laboratories?

The physical hazards associated with working in laboratories can include: flammable liquids, gases and solids; compressed gases; water-reactive chemicals; and pyrophoric chemicals.

The health hazards associated with the use of chemicals in laboratories arise from chemicals that exhibit one or more of the following properties: acute and chronic toxicity (single organ and multiple organ); mutagenic; carcinogenic; irritation (ranging from slightly irritating to strongly irritating); and respiratory sensitization.

Additional health hazards in laboratories pertain to work with biological hazard such as, but not limited to, bloodborne pathogens (e.g., HIV, HBV, HCV, Ebola virus), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and other emerging disease-causing microorganisms.

Solutions

Solutions

What can I do to protect myself?

"Think bad in the lab!" Whether dealing with chemical or biological hazards, plan your work in advance to include how to respond to deviations in procedures (e.g., chemical fume hood failure, glove tear, unexpected chemical reaction, etc.) so that you are not injured or made ill. Be sure to follow established laboratory protocols and procedures. Ensure that all protective laboratory equipment (e.g., chemical fume hoods, biological safety cabinets (BSCs) are properly functioning and the appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment (e.g., lab coats, gloves, face shield, respirators) is worn when working with hazardous chemicals and biological hazards. Consult safety data sheets (SDS) in advance of work for chemical hazard identification, proper precautions and incompatibilities, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

What resources are available to assist employers?

Example programs for chemical hygiene, hazard communication, bloodborne pathogens, PPE hazard assessment, and respiratory protection are available for download and should be customized to fit workplace hazards and conditions.

Presentations on a variety of topics associated with laboratory work are available to assist employers in training their employees. These include: bloodborne pathogens; PPE; hazard communication; and respiratory protection.

A-Z topic pages on bloodborne pathogens, compressed gases, flammable liquids, formaldehyde, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection can provide more resource information. In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). The education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards that are applicable to laboratories in North Carolina:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-807-2875.