General Laboratory Safety Rules
Page Contents (Page 1 of 2)
Include: Segregation of activities | General behaviour |
Secure storage of personal items |
Food and drink consumption etc | Smoking, applying cosmetics etc | Laboratory
gowns or labcoats | Safety
glasses | Disposable laboratory gloves
Page 2 ~ Includes: Hand washing | Clothing, footwear and hair | Mobile phones | Musical devices in the Department | Avoid ingesting microorganisms | Pipetting | Syringes and needles | Use of aspirators | Hazardous chemical/biological spills | Faulty equipment | Corridors and exits | Reporting accidents and incidents | Bench work | Bacteriological loops | Fungal spores | Petri dishes | Tissue grinders and homogenisers | Workstations/computers in laboratory areas
Segregation of activities
Laboratories must have written documentation in the form of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that details the clear segregation of activities in laboratory areas in the department. This involves the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and rulings on eating and drinking in offices that open into laboratories or communal research areas. This SOP will designate where PPE must and must not be worn, where food and drink can and cannot be stored and consumed, and what laboratory and other activities may be carried out in the different laboratory and office areas used by a particular research group. This SOP will also contain valid risk assessments that support the rulings, and will contain details of any signage that is required to communicate the rulings.
No running or "horse play". Report all potential hazards and problems immediately. Try to anticipate potential problems.
All staff and students will be provided with secure storage for personal items such as wallets, handbags, mobile phones, other electronic devices and laptop/notebook computers. In most cases, access to a locker will be provided, but lockable desk drawers may be sufficient. The lockers are usually located in the foyers adjacent to the toilets at the eastern end of the building. There may be a need for additional lockers to be located in the corridor but these will be sited where they do not cause obstruction of emergency evacuation, and will be fastened to the wall to prevent toppling.
Alternatively, lockers for valuable items only may be located in laboratories: the storage of food, drinks, cosmetics is not permited in these lockers.
As the Department is open to the public, the safety of unsecured attractive items cannot be assumed. The University provides no insurance for theft of personal property and it is the responsibility of staff/students to ensure that personal items are stored in a secure place.
Food and drink consumption and storage in laboratories, laboratory-like areas, and offices
Food, drink, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are not to be stored in, or consumed within laboratories. Mugs, water bottles, cutlery, crockery, and food storage containers, are not to be taken into laboratories even if they no longer contain food.
Offices which have connecting doors through to laboratories, are considered part of the laboratory: no items for human consumption can be taken into these offices.
This is in accordance with the regulatory requirements for working in Microbiology Laboratories (Aust/NZ Standard AS2243.3) and working with genetically modified microorganisms (OGTR).
Fridge and cupboard space is provided for the storage of food and drink in the Department tearoom.
Food and drink may be stored or consumed in offices or seminar rooms that open directly off the corridor and which do not have direct access to laboratory space.
Food and drink may also be stored within personal lockers in the corridors or in the foyers outside toilets.
No items are to be left on the floor outside laboratories, on the tops of lockers in the corridors, or on tables or benches in corridors, as these areas have a constant traffic of biohazardous material.
Smoking, applying cosmetics, etc
No smoking is permitted anywhere in the building and in some designated (with signs) areas close to the building. Chewing gum, sucking confectionary, and applying cosmetics are governed by the same rules as eating and food storage.
Laboratory gowns or labcoats
Laboratory gowns or coats must be of sufficient length to protect the worker (i.e., down to about the wearer's knees), have long sleeves, and elastic or restricted cuffs. They must close at the back or, if front-closing, have enough overlap at the front to prevent gaping.
Approved laboratory gowns must be worn in all laboratories and laboratory-like areas at all times. This is an absolute requirement for work in OGTR labs (OGTR regulations) and is a minimal concession to conform in part to AS 2243.3. It is a requirement for all people working in any laboratory or laboratory-like area in this department to be wearing an approved gown, except at approved writing areas. Laboratory gowns must be removed before entering "clean areas", eg., the tea room, stores, media, toilets, library, office areas, etc.
We recognise that some people have writing areas in laboratory spaces. In most cases it would be more hazardous to wear a laboratory gown at these after working at the bench than not to wear a laboratory gown. Each desk should be assessed individually, so that specific hazards are identified. A risk assessment and the segregation of activities SOP will document that this has been done.
Suitable precautions should be formulated, documented, and adhered to. A valid SOP and risk assessment would include advice like: the need for hand washing, no gowns/gloves, clear separation of activities, etc.
Safety glasses must be worn for all activities in the laboratory, unless a risk assessment for that specific activity shows that the risks associated with not wearing them are acceptable. Safety glasses and face shields must conform to AS 1337. Prescription glasses that are not too small may suffice in most cases, but a pair of safety glasses should be worn in addition when carrying out hazardous activities. Prescription glasses do not offer side protection and may not be strong enough, and so do not offer the same degree of protection as safety glasses do. Remember, an accident may occur in another part of the room, and still affect you. Full face shields must be worn for all work involving corrosive or toxic liquids, ultra-violet light, liquid nitrogen, or when disposing of broken glass into the waste bins outside the loading bays.
The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences has stipulated that safety glasses must be worn at all times in all laboratory areas where hazardous chemicals are used or stored. The Faculty Safety Officer has advised that a choice to make this optional requires that risk assessments are made of all activities in that lab, showing that the risk of eye injury (including incidental injury arising from the activities of a third party) is acceptable. A generic assessment cannot be made of the risk of not wearing safety glasses; instead, each hazard has to be assessed in the context of not wearing safety glasses. So, each activity has to be assessed with the appropriate PPE and precautions, including the hazard of injury to a person in the room who is not wearing safety glasses. It is the responsibility of the supervisor who approves the protocols that are developed from the risk assessments. It is probably easier to wear safety glasses at all times while working in the laboratory.
Some people have writing areas in laboratory spaces. It is uncomfortable to wear safety glasses while writing or working at a computer, and the practice could lead to vision problems. The best way out of this is to assess the work at the lab desk as part of the assessment for lab gowns. Each desk should be assessed individually, so that specific hazards that could lead to eye injuries are identified (for example, nearby equipment and procedures). A risk assessment will document that this has been done. It may be easier to change the location of equipment and procedures, than to make someone wear safety glasses all the time.
Disposable laboratory gloves
Disposable laboratory gloves are not to be worn in communal areas. Door handles, telephones, computer keyboards and mice (except in clearly labelled circumstances), lift buttons, etc. are not to be touched with gloves. If needed, wear one glove and use the un-gloved hand to open doors, operate lifts etc. Rubber or disposable gloves should be worn when handling/working with:
- human blood or other body fluids
- dangerous chemicals
- infectious, or potentially infectious materials
- U/V light boxes
- radio isotopes