Instituting a New Laboratory Safety Standard? How Chemical Management Can Help

chemical management
Building a laboratory safety standard can be tedious when done from the ground up, but a chemical management system can make the process easier.
Image source: Flickr CC user UNMEER

Just when we thought the issues had finally been settled, laboratory safety in government facilities hits headlines once again. I’m not even talking about the mishaps that plagued the CDC last year. It turns out the conditions and attitudes that led to those incidents are pervasive in other facilities as well, unfortunately.

The most recent example is a nuclear facility in Los Alamos, Nevada. Responsible for collecting scientific data on a gas used to boost nuclear weapons’ effectiveness, the laboratory closed four years ago due to a wide array of safety issues.1 Despite attempts to address the problem, the laboratory has yet to reopen. In fact, it still hasn’t completed a comprehensive safety analysis.

Part of the problem stems from an attitude that’s pervasive in many facilities. Safety is considered a pain and outside of the lab’s main purpose, rather than something that’s intrinsic to the mission’s success. Instead of taking an active interest in the implementation of their lab’s safety plan, managers often push the responsibility onto someone else. Studies have shown that senior researchers, often the ones responsible for ensuring adherence to established protocols, tend to have more confidence in their safety procedures than junior researchers who usually spend more time in the lab.2

Clearly, there’s a disconnect between perception versus reality. That need not be the case, however. Poor safety conditions in laboratories often stem from loose guidelines and lack of supervision.3 In order to have a successful laboratory safety standard, laboratories must ensure that they encourage a culture of safety. This becomes especially important when you’re instituting a new safety standard. It does nothing to replace old procedures if you don’t take the mindset that safety is part of the organizational culture as well.

Implementing new safety standards can be overwhelming, especially if you’re building them from scratch or doing a significant overhaul. Some facilities rely on spreadsheets and paper binders, but they can become unwieldy depending on the size of your firm. When it comes to adherence and maintenance, then adopting a chemical management system is your best bet.

Implementing a digital tool like a chemical management system has the following benefits:

  • Managing chemical inventory – The software can track a number of details regarding your chemical inventory. Not only can it record when your laboratory received the chemical, it can also note quantities, volumes, and location. If your firm has thousands of chemicals, being able to look up those details can be a timesaver.
  • Observing safety regulations – A chemical management system can also keep track of the associated safety data sheets. With that information, your lab can highlight potential chemical hazards in your inventory and ensure that they’re stored properly. In addition, users can follow best safety practices when handling these chemicals as well as disposing them.
  • Eliminating costly waste – Aside from the benefits of adopting a paperless system, whereby you no longer have to print reams of paper to update safety binders, a chemical management system also lets users track expiration dates. This lets lab employees know which chemical containers to prioritize in their bench work. It also prevents accidental duplicate orders by allowing you to check if your lab already has a chemical. I’ve worked in many laboratories and this is something that’s happened at least once in all of them.

Given recent public scrutiny, it behooves firms to ensure that their laboratory safety standards are up to snuff. Hopefully, it is. If not, the task of instituting new measures—while daunting—are not insurmountable. With the help of a digital tool like a chemical management system, the process can be both easy and sustainable.

Are you interested in learning how a chemical management system can help your company’s laboratory safety standard by supporting inventory tracking and regulatory adherence? Visit our website today to learn more about BIOVIA CISPro.

  1. “Nuclear lab lets safety gaps languish for years,” July 22, 2015, http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-07-22/nuclear-lab-lets-safety-gaps-languish-years
  2. “Safety first?,” May 29, 2014, http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/05/safety-first
  3. “Lab safety is still elusive,” June 26, 2015, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/people/2015/06/178_181615.html

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