Published November 19th, 2020
What is a Laboratory Safety Checklist?
A laboratory safety checklist, or lab safety checklist, is utilized by lab supervisors and safety officers to identify and minimize chemical, biological, physical and radioactive hazards present in laboratory facilities at schools and hospitals, among others. It helps ensure that the laboratory complies with environmental standards to prevent overexposure to hazardous chemicals, injuries and respiratory-related illnesses or fatalities.
What is Laboratory Safety?
Laboratory safety, or lab safety, aims to prevent laboratory risks and hazards to protect students and staff from hazardous chemical exposure. It is implemented to avoid incidents such as fire, explosions, biohazards and more. Laboratory safety is important as it helps:
- prevent toxic contamination;
- secure the property and equipment from damages; and
- manage an organized and safe laboratory environment.
This article features:
- 4 types of laboratory safety hazards according to the OSHA laboratory safety guidance;
- overlooked laboratory guidelines lab supervisors should keep in mind;
- 4 essential laboratory housekeeping and maintenance tips;
- mobile-ready laboratory safety software for hassle-free safety inspections; and
- free downloadable and ready-to-use laboratory checklists.
For clinical, industrial, and academic laboratory personnel, the laboratory environment can be a hazardous place to work. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), here are the different types of hazards workers can encounter while in laboratories:
Laboratory chemicals like formaldehyde can include cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), toxins (e.g., those affecting the liver, kidney, and nervous system), irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, as well as agents that act on the blood system or damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Air contaminants such as toluene, xylene, and acrylamide require even more specific hazard communication (HAZCOM) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).
Many laboratory workers encounter daily exposure to biological hazards such as blood and body fluids, culture specimens, body tissue and cadavers, and laboratory animals, as well as other workers. These federally regulated biological agents (e.g., viruses, bacteria, fungi, and prions) and toxins can result in but is not limited to infectious bloodborne pathogens, zoonotic diseases, foodborne diseases, Legionnaires’ Disease, and respiratory problems from molds.
Some of the common physical hazards that they may encounter include the following: ergonomic, ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation and noise hazards. Physical hazards as repetitive movements in the laboratory usually occur during routine laboratory procedures such as pipetting, working at microscopes, and operating microtomes. Moreover, exposure to continuous noise may lead to stress-related symptoms such reduced efficiency and decreased productivity, decreased concentration in the workplace, and increased errors in laboratory work.
Laboratory personnel should be properly trained to use autoclaves and sterilizers, centrifuges, compressed gasses, and cryogens and dry ice, as well as be able to recognize and remove potential safety hazards like electric shock and electrocutions, small bench-top fires, and slips, trips, and falls.
Safety issues often arise and go unnoticed due to lack of protocol, faulty implementation, or oversight guidelines. Most of the time employees tend to overlook simple guides that can lead to possible incidents or bigger issues. You can find below the commonly overlooked safety laboratory guidelines:
Dress code safety
Wearing appropriate PPE is one of the basic requirements when working inside the laboratory. All employees must be informed of the proper dress codes to eliminate any risks of chemical contact. Employees must ensure all equipment including goggles, face shields, safety gloves, body, and respiratory protection are in good condition before entering the laboratory.
Laboratory waste disposal
Hazardous wastes are classified based on their physical or chemical properties. Commonly, inappropriate disposal can cause an acute or immediate effect on employees’ health and safety. Enforcing proper waste management can eliminate potential hazards, including environmental pollution, pathogenic diseases, and chemical reactions.
Repetitive awkward postures can cause discomfort to employees that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Proper training on ergonomics safety can help employees maximize their laboratory efficiency and productivity.
Labels are important elements of laboratory safety. They help in identifying chemicals, its substance, and the hazards associated with it. A proper label should have the name of the substance, its concentration, the date it was received, and the name of the person responsible for it.
Record of an incident
Reporting an incident is essential to raise the organization’s awareness about the things that can go wrong so that corrective and preventative actions can be taken promptly. Keeping a record of an incident can also help both employees and business owners to have evidence in case of an accident to support their insurance claims.
OSHA has reinforced rules and published guidance to make laboratories increasingly safe for workers and other people involved. The following tips can help in maintaining a safe laboratory to protect employees from chemical exposures and unexpected incidents.
Enforce laboratory standards
All employees must undergo proper induction and training about laboratory standards, emergency procedures, and other policies to keep them informed about the hazards in the workplace. Monitoring employees’ permissible exposure limits (PELs) protects employees from possible harm including respiratory ailments and physical injuries.
Keep it clean
It is paramount to maintain laboratory cleanliness throughout the operation to secure the health and safety of employees and the property. Keep the laboratory space unobstructed and clean all spills immediately to avoid accidents.
Keep the functionality, quality, and accuracy of measuring equipment to avoid disrupting the entire experiments. Conducting regular equipment calibration helps the organization prevent accidents and damage that can lead to legal action and profit loss.
Remove and replace damaged items
Maintain equipment in peak condition to prevent production hitch. Immediately report any damaged equipment either for replacement or removal to avoid unnecessary incidents and equipment malfunction.
The laboratory environment exposes numerous hazards to students and staff. Conducting regular lab safety inspections help reduce risks. Traditionally, inspectors use pen and paper in performing lab safety inspection and it’s burdensome and consumes a lot of time to document their reports.
Avoid this hassle with iAuditor by SafetyCulture, a cloud inspection software and app used by labs and universities worldwide to improve safety and prevent incidents from occurring. With iAuditor you can:
- Capture photo evidence, annotate, and attach detailed notes of laboratory damages or repair needs
- Spot issues and immediately assign corrective actions to other teams within the organization
- Generate laboratory inspection reports in real-time anywhere, anytime even if you’re offline. It will automatically sync your data once you gain access online
- Access and share laboratory checklist with other team members
- Send/receive notifications for scheduled lab maintenance checks
- Securely recorded laboratory inspections in the cloud.
Get started with this collection of daily laboratory checklists you can download for free and modify for your lab requirements.
Featured Laboratory Checklists
Laboratory Safety Checklist
This laboratory safety checklist is used by labs in conducting regular self-inspections of their areas. It assesses general safety, PPE compliance, chemical safety, hazardous waste, biological safety, compressed gas cylinder safety, and radiation safety. You can edit this template to suit your individual lab, specific equipment, and relevant safety standards.
iAuditor lets you conduct inspections and generate reports on your mobile device while in the lab. You can schedule monthly inspections for your labs to ensure safety oversights aren’t missed. Preview a sample completed lab safety report using iAuditor below.
OSHA Laboratory Safety Checklist
An OSHA laboratory safety checklist is used by lab supervisors to ensure the general safety of a lab according to OSHA laboratory standards. This OSHA laboratory safety checklist is used by the American Chemical Society to assess training and documentation, spill and emergency planning, personal protection clothing, equipment, and engineering controls, chemical safety, biological safety, radiation safety, compressed and cryogenic gas safety, equipment and physical hazards safety, housekeeping, and waste management.
Laboratory Housekeeping Checklist
A laboratory housekeeping checklist is used by lab housekeeping personnel to ensure the cleanliness, sanitation, and disinfection of labs before and after use. This laboratory housekeeping checklist is used in cath labs, or cardiac catheterization labs—specialized rooms in the hospital where doctors perform minimally invasive tests and procedures to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease.
Laboratory Inspection Checklist
A laboratory inspection checklist is used by safety inspectors to verify the safety of a lab. This laboratory inspection checklist includes emergency preparedness, housekeeping, compressed gasses, mechanical hazards, electrical hazards, spill clean up, lab hoods, personal protective equipment, chemical storage, and waste management. You can also use this checklist to specify additional safety concerns observed and sign off the laboratory inspection with digital signatures with the site representative.
Laboratory Health and Safety Checklist
A laboratory health and safety checklist is used by lab workers to determine if a lab is safe before use, especially in an academic setting. This laboratory health and safety checklist is used by the Princeton University Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) officials to validate adherence to OSHA laboratory standards, including hazard communication, or awareness (do the laboratory workers know…?), shipping and procuring dangerous goods, postings, pressure and vacuum systems, and ventilation.
This laboratory checklist is used by the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Department of Chemistry officers-in-charge to make sure of and reinforce the safe behavior of lab instructors and students while using a laboratory. This lab checklist can be used daily to observe if they are wearing goggles and appropriate attire, etc.
Lab Fire Extinguisher Inspection Template
Lab fires can be extremely dangerous due to various flammable liquids, chemicals and ignition devices (e.g. bunsen burners). All laboratories should be prepared with the correct fire extinguisher fully equipped at all times. This template can be used by labs to conduct monthly fire extinguisher inspections and to accurately identify any defects or further maintenance work required.
Chemical Safety Checklist
Use this chemical safety template when conducting inspections of labs or work areas that house hazardous chemicals. Inspect chemical handling, wastage, storage and safety processes. Conduct general safety checks of fume hoods, gases, hand wash facilities and personnel training. Take photos of areas that need attention or commendation of best practices. Give detailed recommendations and complete your report on your mobile without leaving the lab.
Laboratory Radiation Safety Checklist
Use this template to ensure safety when working with radioactive devices in the laboratory. Begin by detailing the building and room information and the radionuclides used for the activity. Check if the storage rooms and waste containers are adequate as well as the disposal practices for radioactive materials. Evaluate if laboratory safety measures are followed including personnel protection and monitoring for all workers. Lastly, training and survey records must be updated to ensure that all workers are competent and permitted to work during risky conditions. Download more radiation safety checklists
Lab Incident Report Form
Use this template to report any incidents in the lab including chemical spills, leaks, cuts and any other injuries or property damage. Begin with information of the lab and building details, persons involved and exact details of the incident. iAuditor allows you to capture photo evidence of the injury and equipment damage, giving you more time to record and identify the root cause of the incident rather than wasting time on paperwork.