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6 Considerations for Workforce Safety in Regulated Laboratories

Laboratories are full of hazardous materials such as precursors, lead, benzene, and other chemicals, indicating regulatory compliance is a must for all laboratories. Not only does compliance help to mitigate unnecessary risks of working in such an environment, but any violation can attract a fine of more than $30,000 per day per violation, along with criminal penalties.

6 Considerations for Workforce Safety in Regulated Laboratories

Every institution will have different regulations depending on the type of work and hazards in that environment; however, here are six ways to ensure employee health and safety with regulatory compliance can be achieved in your preclinical laboratory.

1. Compartmentalize Your Lab's Institution

Delegate an institutional system or a department that will solely focus on complying with the laboratory’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) needs. The department will feature health and safety specialists and inspectors who will ensure compliance within the lab.

Depending on your location and lab operations, there will be different statutes and regulations to comply with. Health and Safety Personnel, Compliance, and EHS leaders must focus on these significant federal agencies:

  • U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • U.S Drug Enforcement Agency
  • U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • U.S Department of Transportation (DOT)

Having a separate department dedicated to regulatory compliance and risk management will help your lab maintain its regulatory compliance during regulatory audits provided by the agencies that deal with the regulation of workforce safety and associated handling and storage of laboratory chemicals.

2. Educate Lab Personnel

Enforcing regulatory compliance within lab operations is only as good as the compliance of its personnel. All employees must receive direct and detailed training on the tasks and performance requirements of the job. You can appoint a staff whose responsibility will be staff training, document control and assessment of personnel, and sensitization of good clinical laboratory practices.

Such training should include courses and in-house training on proper laboratory practices and compliance requirements. Furthermore, the appointed staff or compliance department should inform employees of updates regarding regulations and standard operating procedures as policies evolve in relation to the pivotal stances of regulatory bodies.

3. Inspect Equipment Regularly

All laboratory equipment must function effectively and efficiently, as per the manufacturer’s specifications. To ensure compliance, the staff must inspect preventive maintenance and service on the equipment as per the company’s program, either daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Ensuring proper maintenance and calibration of equipment not only maintains compliance, but it maintains a safer working environment for the entire workforce.

The lab must document all preventive maintenance, service records, and calibrations on the equipment, after which the lab director must review, sign, and date all documentation for accountability purposes. The lab should also maintain records of monitored conditions and temperatures to be compared against other reports. In case of changes, the lab must perform corrective actions.

Lastly, the lab should have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which shall guide laboratory activities on the quality and integrity of lab standards. These SOPs will help test performance laboratory processes.

4. Implement Regulatory Requirements

OSHA and EPA standards often influence the design and construction of laboratory buildings, whether it is regarding storage, workers’ safety, or the efficiency of the laboratory tools and equipment. Therefore, here are a few regulatory requirements your laboratory must follow:

  • Write a chemical hygiene plan.
  • Provide lab personnel access to medical consultations and equipment such as the first aid kit.
  • Keep labels of chemicals intact.
  • Use respirators appropriately.
  • Train laboratory personnel on OSHA standards, signs and symptoms of exposure, and prudent practices in the lab. 

OSHA also quotes, “It’s the laboratory manager’s responsibility … to apply scientific knowledge in safeguarding workers against risks, even though there may be no specifically applicable OSHA standard.” Therefore, implement additional guidelines that will protect your personnel’s’ health and safety. 

5. Benchmark or Join Similar Societies

Besides the significant federal agencies stated above, some other organizations and societies could guide you towards compliance and other laboratory health and safety issues. You can join such institutions to benchmark and learn about assessment, implementation, and program development.

Examples of such professional societies include:

  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
  • American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
  • American Chemistry Council (ACC)
  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)
  • Campus Health Safety and Environmental Management Association (CHSEMA)

These societies often discuss proposed regulations and compliance procedures that could help your laboratory as well.

Emidence XD helps employers minimize risks and manage compliance to create safer workplaces.

6. Create and Maintain Quality Control Programs

Lastly, you can create system analysis programs to ensure seamless compliance through organizational structuring, training, and assessing. A unified compliance, predictive risk, and quality management system (QMS) such as Xybion QMS will ensure maintenance and quality of laboratory operations by planning out lab objectives, recording lab procedures, and assigning responsibilities to laboratory staff.

The Quality Manager will work with the lab’s quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) programs to evaluate the lab’s performance and enhance its functions, such as inventory control, parallel testing, review of data, and quality control logs. Furthermore, such programs can also help with documentation and resolution of issues within the lab.

Laboratory violations against workforce safety can cost 30k USD per day per violation

Bottom Line

The importance of employee health and safety for laboratories is crucial because there are many risks associated with employee health and the potential consequences of regulatory violations. Therefore, to ensure workforce safety in your preclinical laboratory, you must create and maintain good clinical laboratory practices that will ascertain all personnel’s proper health and safety. Emidence helps employers minimize risks and manage compliance to create safer workplaces. With Emidence, you can manage incidents, workers’ compensation cases, industrial hygiene, safety investigations and audits in a comprehensive unified system.

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