More than 500,000 workers are employed in laboratories in the U.S. The laboratory environment can be a hazardous place to work. Laboratory workers are exposed to numerous potential hazards including chemical, biological, physical and radioactive hazards, as well as musculoskeletal stresses. Laboratory safety is governed by numerous local, state and federal regulations.
Over the years, OSHA has promulgated rules and published guidance to make laboratories increasingly safe for personnel. This document is intended for supervisors, principal investigators and managers who have the primary responsibility for maintaining laboratories under their supervision as safe, healthy places to work and for ensuring that applicable health, safety and environmental regulations are followed.
Worker guidance in the form of Fact Sheets and QuickCards™ is also provided for certain hazards that may be encountered in laboratories. There are several primary OSHA standards that apply to laboratories and these are discussed below.
There are also other OSHA standards that apply to various aspects of laboratory activities. The Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories standard (29 CFR 1910.1450) was created specifically for non-production laboratories.
Additional OSHA standards provide rules that protect workers, including those that who in laboratories, from chemical hazards as well as biological, physical and safety hazards. For those hazards that are not covered by a specific OSHA standard, OSHA often provides guidance on protecting workers from these hazards.
These Free Lab Safety Guidelines from OSHA is designed to make employers aware of the OSHA standards as well as OSHA guidance that is available to protect workers from the diverse hazards encountered in laboratories. The extent of detail on specific hazards provided in this document is dependent on the nature of each hazard and its importance in a laboratory setting. In addition to information on OSHA standards and guidance that deal with laboratory hazards, appendices are provided with information on other governmental and non-governmental agencies that deal with various aspects of laboratory safety.
The Free Laboratory Safety Guidance booklet deals specifically with laboratories within the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA. There are twenty-five states and two U.S. Territories (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) that have their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health standards, which may be different from federal standards, but must be at least “as effective as” the federal standards. Contact your local or state OSHA office for further information. More information on OSHA-approved state plans is available at: www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html