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Good Laboratory Safety Practices

written by: weborglodge•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 5/19/2010

For quality control and safety purposes, it is imperative that good laboratory practices are developed and followed by all laboratory staff. These practices will ensure that there is a standard method of operation which is understood by all employees.

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    Routine Maintenance

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a set of standard operating procedures as part of the Good Laboratory Practices (GLPs) program. Information regarding the proper handling and maintenance of laboratory equipment can be found within these SOPs.

    For example, the SOPs recommend that instruments are calibrated and standardized to ensure accurate data collection. This measure is especially important in laboratories which conduct test studies for human medical purposes.

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    Laboratory Safety

    For the safety of all staff, proper dress code is required. Staff should always wear shoes which cover the entire foot for protection in the event of a spill or dropped item. When working with any chemicals, safety goggles must be worn.

    As a general rule of good laboratory practices, any chemical used in the lab should be viewed as potentially hazardous. Therefore, you should not taste, touch, or smell any chemical. To prevent accidental contamination, eating and drinking should not be permitted in a laboratory setting.

    In the controlled setting of a laboratory, chemicals and equipment can be handled safely. However, nothing should ever leave the lab because of the potential risk for injury or environmental damage.

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    Laboratory Conduct

    Because of the possible hazards, all staff should conduct themselves in adult manner while in the lab. Likewise, all technicians should be familiar with any emergency plans as well as emergency safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and eyewash stations. Any delay in handling an emergency situation could mean the difference between a minor incident and a serious injury.

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    Environmental Management System

    Some laboratories may deal with potential hazardous or infectious materials. If the possibility exists, a laboratory should develop an environmental management system or EMS. An EMS is a set of pre-defined procedures of which the purpose is to minimize the lab's environmental impact.

    As part of good laboratory practices, the EMS should address the proper storage and disposal of chemicals and other materials. An EMS can also address the correct procedures to follow in case of an accident.

    The EMS will also include an audit procedure to make sure those lab guidelines are being followed and that new staff members are trained to follow the outlined procedures.

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    Disposal of Materials

    As part of the lab practices, you should know how to dispose of materials safely. Do not pour any chemical down the sink to avoid contaminating drinking water sources. For materials such as needles, place labeled containers in the lab to ensure these things are disposed of correctly.

    Much of the sound lab practices are merely following common sense. Their purpose is to protect your safety while in the laboratory. Above all, the lab and all its equipment should be treated respectfully and carefully. You should only dispose of waste and other materials as directed.

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    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Good Laboratory Practices - Standard Operating Procedures

    University of Queensland: Occupational Health and Safety in the Laboratory