Health and Safety Programs, Assessment and Compliance
Laboratory Safety Solutions
More than 500,000 workers are employed in laboratories in the U.S., including research and development, teaching, diagnostic and analytical laboratories. Laboratory workers may be exposed to numerous potential hazards, including chemical, biological, radiation, laser, physical and ergonomic hazards. Laboratory work often involves changing and novel materials and processes that require an agile safety environment.
Laboratory accidents, such as exposures to chemicals and infectious materials, high voltage, explosions and fires have led to injuries, illnesses, laboratory-acquired infections, deaths, damage to facilities and destruction of research. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) reported 261 chemical incidents in public and private laboratories from 2001 to 2018 that led to 487 injuries and six deaths.
Many of these accidents could have been prevented with proper controls, work practices, procedures and training. In addition to safety and health risks, laboratories may generate multiple hazardous waste streams that must be properly managed. Laboratory work may involve materials and equipment that may be intentionally misused, requiring rigorous security controls, such as controlled substances, select agents and pre-cursor chemicals.
Laboratories that work with chemicals, biological agents and/or radiation are governed by numerous federal, state and local environmental, health, safety, and security regulations, codes and consensus standards. When laboratories are closed or renovated, they must be properly decommissioned, including removing and disposing of hazardous materials and equipment and cleaning or removing contaminated surfaces and infrastructure to protect contractors, future occupants and the environment.
Laboratory Safety Solutions:
- Conducting compliance audits
- Performing hazard assessments
- Developing programs for laboratories and vivariums, including chemical hygiene, biosafety, non-ionizing and ionizing radiation, laboratory security, environmental compliance, controlled substances and laboratory ventilation.
- Developing training programs
- Conducting laboratory accident investigation and root cause analysis
- Reviewing new laboratory facility plans
- Managing laboratory clean-out, decommissioning and demolition projects, including planning, budgeting, scheduling, technical support and oversight
According to the National Science Foundation, academic institutions in the US conducted almost $80 billion in research and development in 2018 within over 220 million square feet of research space. Several high-profile accidents which resulted in severe injuries and deaths led to a national focus on safety culture in academic research laboratories. The U.S. CSB, the National Academy of Science, the American Chemical Society, OSHA and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) published reports and recommendations for improving safety culture in academic research.
In addition to the laboratory safety services discussed above, TRC can assist universities and other organizations in assessing safety culture and implementing recommendations for improvement.
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