Controlling Chemical Exposures in the Laboratory

Chemical exposure reduction is a crucial idea in employee health protection. Exposures to chemicals are often reduced to the lowest possible level, even when a Threshold Limit Value® exists.

Accepted solutions include engineering controls like ventilation and shielding, administrative controls like leaving lab coats behind before exiting to a clean location, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The first two work by measuring real exposures, whereas the third works by controlling exposures not controlled by the first two.

Exposure control is rarely considered by lab personnel. Laboratories are designed to offer adequate ventilation to minimise normal exposures. Most work that poses a breathing zone exposure hazard is done under a fume hood. If you are looking for one for your lab, you can look up fume hood supplier in Malaysia. Even in a well-designed laboratory, there are ways to decrease exposures.

Engineered controls and administrative approaches can help to reduce exposures.

Engineering controls require minimal laboratory involvement. Ventilation is sufficient to remove fugitive emissions from containers and experiments. Lab personnel can adjust flow rates across hoods’ faces. While the best flow rate for efficiently capturing gases, vapours, or mists is debatable, most hoods have an optimal sash level. The sash must be placed at this level by lab employees.

Some labs feature built-in safety interlocks on equipment. Some labs use static electricity controllers or unique electrical equipment to prevent vapour ignition. To ensure appropriate operation, lab employees must be familiar with all engineering controls.

Install and maintain automatic monitors and alarms

Some labs handle hazardous liquids or gases. Some labs handle enormous amounts of asphyxiant gases like Nitrogen. Some labs handle a lot of radioactive stuff. To identify high levels of dangerous substances and inform people, any location with these or other hazards should have automatic monitoring systems.

These systems need regular upkeep. The lab staff must know how the sensors work and what to do in the event of an alarm.

Develop a programme for regular chemical monitoring in work locations

Every laboratory should have regular checks to see how much staff are exposed to the chemicals utilised there. The frequency and specific monitoring strategy should be designed by the laboratory director and skilled specialists.

Provide routine medical monitoring of employees

Depending on the chemicals used, staff medical monitoring may be required. For example, a laboratory that uses carbon monoxide should periodically monitor potentially exposed personnel’s blood. Carbonmonoxy haemoglobin over 3.5 percent of total haemoglobin indicates engineered control methods are failing. The ACGIH maintains a list of substances with a Biological Exposure Index.

Use protective shields and guards as needed

When operating below or above ambient pressure or temperature, some processes require mechanical shielding to protect employees in the case of a system breakdown. A routine laboratory safety review should assess the requirement for such shielding.

As needed, use proper eye, face, hand, and body protection

Laboratories require eye protection, gloves and lab coats. However, most lab staff do not know how to correctly operate this technology. Choose gloves carefully to avoid cutaneous exposure. Not all gloves protect against chemical penetration. These gloves are not suitable for handling chemicals such as Toluene, N-Methyl Pyrrolidone, or Dimethylformamide.

In a lab, safety glasses are required. When necessary, utilise splash goggles, complete face shields, or other protective gear.

Lab jackets prevent low-level contamination of personal clothing. No lab coats in the café. Clean lab coats routinely.

All safety gear should be utilised as part of a comprehensive lab safety programme.

Practice good personal hygiene around chemicals

Personnel should avoid hand-to-mouth chemical transfer. Touching your face while wearing gloves, eating, drinking, or smoking in the lab, and not washing your hands afterward all increase the risk of ingesting low quantities of pollutants. Recognizing this helps regulate it.

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