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Criteria for Implementation of Chemical Control Measures

RSO's - note and delete: This section does not require extensive tailoring. However, research safety officers for some departments have provided descriptions and floor plans that identify the location of equipment such as fume hoods, biological safety cabinets, glove boxes, showers, eyewashes, fire extinguishers, etc.

Engineering controls, personal protective equipment, hygiene practices, and administrative controls each play a role in a comprehensive laboratory safety program. Implementation of specific measures must be carried out on a case-by-case basis, using the following criteria for guidance in making decisions. Assistance is available from the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Engineering Controls

  1. Fume Hoods
    The laboratory fume hood is the major protective device available to laboratory workers. It is designed to capture chemicals that escape from their containers or apparatus and to remove them from the laboratory environment before they can be inhaled. Characteristics to be considered in requiring fume hood use are physical state, volatility, toxicity, flammability, eye and skin irritation, odor, and the potential for producing aerosols. A fume hood should be used if a proposed chemical procedure exhibits any one of these characteristics to a degree that (1) airborne concentrations might approach the action level (or permissible exposure limit), (2) flammable vapors might approach one tenth of the lower explosion limit, (3) materials of unknown toxicity are used or generated, or (4) the odor produced is annoying to laboratory occupants or adjacent units.

  2. Procedures that can generally be carried out safely outside the fume hood include those involving (1) water-based solutions of salts, dilute acids, bases, or other reagents, (2) very low volatility liquids or solids, (3) closed systems that do not allow significant escape to the laboratory environment, and (4) extremely small quantities of otherwise problematic chemicals. The procedure itself must be evaluated for its potential to increase volatility or produce aerosols.

    In specialized cases, fume hoods will contain exhaust treatment devices, such as water wash-down for perchloric acid use, or charcoal or HEPA filters for removal of particularly toxic or radioactive materials.

  3. Safety Shields
    Safety shields, such as the sliding sash of a fume hood, are appropriate when working with highly concentrated acids, bases, oxidizers or reducing agents, all of which have the potential for causing sudden spattering or even explosive release of material. Reactions carried out at non-ambient pressures (vacuum or high pressure) also require safety shields, as do reactions that are carried out for the first time or are significantly scaled up from normal operating conditions.

  4. Biological Safety Cabinets
    Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC), also known as tissue culture hoods or laminar flow hoods, are the primary means of containment for working safely with infectious microorganisms. Cabinets are available that either exhaust to the outside or that recirculate HEPA filtered air to the laboratory. They are not to be used for working with volatile or hazardous chemicals unless they are specifically designed for that purpose and are properly vented. Generally, the only chemical work that should be done in a BSC is that which could be done safely on a bench top involving chemicals that will not damage the BSC or the HEPA filter. For proper cabinet selection and use see, the CDC publication Primary Containment for Biohazards.

  5. Other Containment Devices
    Other containment devices, such as glove boxes or vented gas cabinets, may be required when it is necessary to provide an inert atmosphere for the chemical procedure taking place, when capture of any chemical emission is desirable, or when the standard laboratory fume hood does not provide adequate assurance that overexposure to a hazardous chemical will not occur. The presence of biological or radioactive materials may also mandate certain special containment devices. High strength barriers coupled with remote handling devices may be necessary for safe use of extremely shock sensitive or reactive chemicals.

  6. Highly localized exhaust ventilation, such as is usually installed over atomic absorption units, may be required for instrumentation that exhausts toxic or irritating materials to the laboratory environment.

    Ventilated chemical storage cabinets or rooms should be used when the chemicals in storage may generate toxic, flammable or irritating levels of airborne contamination.

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Personal Protective Equipment

  1. Skin Protection
    As skin must be protected from hazardous liquids, gases and vapors, proper basic attire is essential in the laboratory. Long hair should be pulled back and secured and loose clothing (sleeves, bulky pants or skirts) avoided to prevent accidental contact with chemicals or open flames. However, bare feet, sandals and open-toed or perforated shoes are not permitted in any laboratory. Short pants and short skirts are not permitted unless covered by a lab coat. Long pants should be worn to cover skin that could be exposed during a spill.

    Lab coats are strongly encouraged as routine equipment for all laboratory workers. It is the responsibility of the employer to purchase and wash lab coats for employees who request them or are required to wear them. Lab coats are required when working with radioactive materials, biologically-derived toxins, Biosafety Level II organisms, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, substances which have a high degree of acute toxicity, and any substance on the OSHA PEL list carrying a "skin" notation. See Appendix B for chemical listings. Lab coats cannot be assumed to provide complete protection against all agents, but will provide an extra layer that can be removed if accidently contaminated, buying time for the researcher to get to the emergency shower and minimize direct skin contact. For strong acids and bases, a lab apron impervious to liquids would be a more appropriate choice.

    Gloves made of appropriate material are required to protect the hands and arms from thermal burns, cuts, or chemical exposure that may result in absorption through the skin or reaction on the surface of the skin. Gloves are also required when working with particularly hazardous substances where possible transfer from hand to mouth must be avoided. Thus gloves are required for work involving pure or concentrated solutions of select carcinogens, reproductive toxins, substances which have a high degree of acute toxicity, strong acids and bases, and any substance on the OSHA PEL list carrying a "skin" notation.

    Since no single glove material is impermeable to all chemicals, gloves should be carefully selected using guides from the manufacturers. General selection criteria are outlined in Prudent Practices, p. 132, and glove selection guides are available on the web . However, glove-resistance to various chemicals materials will vary with the manufacturer, model and thickness. Therefore, review a glove-resistance chart from the manufacturer you intend to buy from before purchasing gloves. When guidance on glove selection for a particular chemical is lacking, double glove using two different materials, or purchase a mulitlayered laminated glove such as a Silvershield or a 4H.

  2. Eye Protection
    Eye protection is required for all personnel and any visitors whose eyes may be exposed to chemical or physical hazards. Side shields on safety spectacles provide some protection against flying particles, but goggles or face shields are necessary when there is a greater than average danger of eye contact with liquids. A higher than average risk exists when working with highly reactive chemicals, concentrated corrosives, or with vacuum or pressurized glassware systems. Contact lenses may be worn under safety glasses, goggles or other eye and face protection. Experts currently believe the benefits of consistent use of eye protection outweigh potential risks of contact lenses interfering with eye flushing in case of emergency.

  3. Respiratory Protection
    Respiratory protection is generally not necessary in the laboratory setting and must not be used as a substitute for adequate engineering controls. Availability of respiratory protection for emergency situations may be required when working with chemicals that are highly toxic and highly volatile or gaseous. If an experimental protocol requires exposure above the action level (or PEL) that cannot be reduced, respiratory protection will be required. Rarely, an experimental situation may potentially involve IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) concentrations of chemicals, which will require use of respiratory protection. All use of respiratory protective equipment is covered under the University of Minnesota Respiratory Protection Program.

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Hygiene Practices

Eating, drinking and chewing gum are all strictly prohibited in any laboratory with chemical, biological or radioactive materials. Researchers must also be careful to restrict other actions (such as applying lip balm or rubbing eyes) which could inadvertently cause exposure to research materials. Consuming alcohol or taking illegal drugs in a research laboratory are strictly prohibited, as such actions potentially endanger the health and safety of not only the user, but everyone in the building. Infractions will be met with serious disciplinary action.

Before leaving the laboratory, remove personal protective equipment/clothing (labcoat and gloves) and wash hands thoroughly. Do NOT wear laboratory gloves, lab coats or scrubs in public spaces such as hallways, elevators or cafeterias.

Administrative Controls

Supervisors shall consider the hazards involved in their research, and in written research protocols, detail areas, activities, and tasks that require specific types of personal protective equipment as described above. Researchers are strongly encouraged to prioritize research so that work with hazardous chemical, biological or physical agents occurs only during working hours (8 am - 5 pm, Monday through Friday). After-hours work (on nights and weekends) should be restricted to nonhazardous activities such as data analysis and report writing. If hazardous materials must be used at nights or on weekends, ensure that at least one other person is within sight and ear-shot to provide help in an emergency. Undergraduate workers are prohibited from working alone in the laboratory unless there is a review and formal approval by the department's RSO and/or safety committee.

Research Safety Officers must coordinate and/or conduct inspections of laboratories in their area of responsibility and ensure laboratory supervisors address any noted deficiencies. An audit checklist is available in Appendix G. RSOs can report cases of continued non-compliance to the unit head and to the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (DEHS). The RSO, in conjunction with DEHS and the unit head, has the authority to halt research activities that present an imminent hazard.

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