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Laboratories are prevalent throughout a variety of workplaces, from universities to manufacturing facilities to research and development. They can be one of the most exciting, yet hazardous places to work. Laboratories can have regulations at the local, state, and federal level, but over the years, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, has created the baseline standards for laboratory awareness and workplace safety.
Hierarchy of Controls
Occupational Health and Safety Professionals use a template called the Hierarchy of Controls to select and understand the best ways to deal with workplace hazards. The hierarchy provides a priority list for the intervention strategies that can be employed.
One of the most obvious hazards in a laboratory, and probably the one most people think of first, are chemicals. These are present in every laboratory and based on their state and exposure, can have varying degrees of potential risk. Laboratory chemicals can include a wide variety of safety hazards.
In many laboratory settings, employees may be exposed to biological hazards. These hazards can be present in a variety of forms but include bloody and body fluids, culture specimens, body tissue and cadavers, laboratory animals, and even other employees.
Along with the exposure to chemical and biological agents, laboratory employees can also be exposed to many physical hazards. A few examples of these include ergonomic, ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation, and noise hazards.
Employers must always assess potential workplace hazards and provide the proper personal protective equipment to protect against those exposures. In a laboratory setting, this typically includes hand protection to protect against sharp instruments and potential thermal burns. A few examples could include oven mitts, steel mesh or cut-resistant gloves.