Developing a Safe Scientific Workplace
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Published: Wed, 11 Apr 2018
In a scientific workplace there are many various aspects that enable workers to do their job safely knowing they are protected from various precautions and laws. These aspects can be split up into the following sections: hazard symbols and hazcards, risk assessments, protective clothing and equipment, COSHH, CLEAPSS and HSE, general laboratory practises and quality standards.
- Hazards symbols and hazcards
This is a substance that will most likely cause harm to the body if it comes in contact with the skin or ingested. An example of a harmful substance is chloroform, for the safety in a work place this substance would be stored in a tightly close and sealed container in a well-ventilated room as it can give off harmful fumes.
This is a substance that combusts with a lot of energy when exposed to heat or a flame. An example of a substance that is explosive is ammonium nitrate, explosive substances must be stored in a durable box with a tight lid away from any heat source, as well as this is must be stored low down in case it is an impact explosive.
Oxidising is a substance that do not burn by themselves but they provide oxygen for flammable substances to burn. An example of a substance like this is potassium nitrate, for oxidising substances like this they must be placed in a tub/bottle with a lid on and store away from any flammable materials for the safety of people working with this product.
A flammable product is when a substance is subjected to a high heat it produces a flame. An example of a flammable substance is gasoline/petrol which is highly flammable in liquid and vapour form. To store this and many other flammable substances it must be placed in preferably a durable metal container with a tight lid on so no substance or fumes will be let out, it also must be kept away from high heat or any source of flame.
A corrosive substance has the ability to deteriorate and burn away a surface, this is usually the skin in a science workplace. An example of a corrosive substance is hydrofluoric acid, this is a liquid as are most corrosive substances so they are stored in similar ways, they must be stored in unreactive plastic containers that have a tight lid on to avoid spillages.
An irritant substance closely relates to harmful but doesn’t cause as much harm, an irritant causes irritation to the surface of the skin therefor can cause red marks. An example of this is acetone, this must be stored in a tough bottle with a safety lid that is usually stored on a shelf or in a cupboard.
Toxic is labelled to substances that if exposed to it can cause death if enough is in contact with the body. An example of this would be ricin which is extracted from a bean off a plant, it is usually in powder form. For this particular substance and many other toxic substances it must be stored in a container with a secure lid and store in a locked cupboard, safe or room.
A biohazard is used in the labelling of biological materials that carry a significant health risk to humans. An example of this would be carmine which is a natural red pigment. To store biohazards they must be stored in a bottle or tub with a safety lid on which is locked away from humans and non-workers.
A radioactive substance emits energy as electromagnetic waves or moving subatomic particles causing ionization. An example of a radioactive material is uranium, all radioactive material must be stored within a radioactive proof area like in lead which stops radioactive particles from passing through, keep in a safe which also stops radiation.
Environmental hazards can cause harm to the environment meaning both plants and animals. An example of this would be mercury, mercury is a highly toxic metallic liquid. To store this place in a plastic bottle with a secure cap on top, as well as this keep it away from any drainage source as well as animals, plants or the outside.
- Risk assessments
There are 3 categories under risk assessments, these are chemical hazards, physical hazards and biological hazards. Risk assessments are usually taken before an experiment, practical or before a job is undertaken. The following example risk assessment of the 3 categories is from when I completed the preparation of aspirin.
Chemical hazards are chemicals that can cause harm to the body if exposed to the skin or ingested. An example of a chemical hazard would be a corrosive burn from concentrated sulphuric acid, this would be a high risk and as a precaution you should wear gloves and carefully use, make sure to use in fume cupboard to avoid spillages on work surfaces, wear lab jackets too to protect core body, wear safety glasses to protect eyes. This would be the same for another chemical hazard which is irritation for ethanoic anhydride which unlike sulphuric acid is a low risk. In the case of the substance being in contact with the skin wash off quickly and put the area affected in ice or cold water.
Physical hazards are something that can cause harm to the body excluding chemicals or biological substances. For example slipping on water spillages, this can be seen as a moderate hazard if equipment isnt set up correctly or if carelessness occurs. To avoid this make sure apparatus is in the middle of a flat bench and make sure if it uses water to connect it properly so avoid leaks, in the case of a spillage simply mop up using paper towels, if the slipping occurs then if injured get a first aid officer to check you. As well as this another example could be cuts from glass breakage which is once again a moderate risk if not properly cleared up, to avoid this make sure to handle equipment carefully, do not grip too hard or too little to avoid shattering, place in the middle of benches to avoid knocking off, keep a brush and glass bucket in case of breakage. In the case of cuts happening wash the wound and cover in a plaster, if deep then go to hospital to get stiches.
A biological hazard is a substance that causes a threat to the health of a person, in the practical I did there was only one biological hazard which was the product aspirin itself, it caused a low risk but a moderate risk if ingested as we made it ourselves. To avoid this make sure to wear disposable gloves in case the product gets on your hands, if products gets on skin wash off and to no put product in the mouth. In case any of it is ingested you must go hospital as it wasn’t commercially made.
- Protective clothing and equipment
Protective clothing equipment more commonly known as personal protective equipment is pieces of clothing or equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety gloves, eye protection such as goggles, visors and glasses, safety footwear and lab coat.
A lab coat is made out of cotton which absorbs the chemicals spilt onto the coat, because of this it is used to protect the core body and arm and stops yourself from being damaged in many different laboratory situations.
Protective gloves are worn when there is a chance if a substance can harm your hands, the gloves are made out of neoprene or latex that are resistant to chemicals and are used to protect your hands when using something potentially harmful.
These are used to give extra protection to the eyes, it covers all of your eyes including top bottom and sides, they have a PVC frame with polycarbonate lenses giving it strength whilst protecting eyes at it is unreactive.
These are used to cover whole of the face when using something potentially reactive/explosive, like the goggles they have a PVC frame with a polycarbonate visor giving it strength and protecting the whole face from chemical splashed due to the unreactive nature.
Used to cover the front of the eyes and are used in all experiments as a safety precaution, like the previous two protective equipment, they have a PVC frame and polycarbonate lense giving strength and an unreactive ability.
Used to protect your feet when working around heavy objects that can potentially fall, safety boots are made out of leather and have steel toe caps, leather as a high resistance to chemicals, heat and flames and steel has a high breaking strength protecting the toes.
- COSHH, CLEAPSS and HSE
COSHH, CLEAPSS and HSE are all laws that enable working in a scientific workplace to be carried out safely.
COSHH is a law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. Most businesses use substances, or products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substance which could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people so must be disposed of properly.
CLEAPSS is an advisory service providing support in science and technology for a consortium of local authorities and their schools. The law includes: Independent schools, post-16 colleges, teacher training establishments and curriculum developers. CLEAPSS stands for Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Equipment.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness. It acts in the public interest to reduce work-related death and serious injury across Great Britain’s workplaces. The Act makes sure to secure the health, safety and welfare of persons at work, for protecting others against risks to health or safety in connection with the activities of persons at work.
- General laboratory practises
General Laboratory Practice includes a set of codes that provides an outline within a laboratory in which studies are planned, performed, monitored, recorded, reported and archived. These studies are undertaken to help assure regulatory authorities that the data submitted is a true reflection of the results obtained during the experiment/practical that has been completed and can therefore be relied upon when making assessments. This is part of a quality assurance procedure which is aimed at ensuring that products are consistently manufactured to a quality appropriate to their intended use. They provide guidelines for quality control and assurance in testing laboratories.
- Quality standards
Quality standards look into all ranges of care, these can include examples like public health, healthcare, social care. Evidence relating to effectiveness and cost effectiveness, people’s experience of using services, safety issues, equality and cost impact are also considered. Although some standards are area-specific, there will often be substantial overlap across areas and this is considered during building of the standard. Where appropriate referrals are combined and developed as a combined quality standard. Many of the quality standards are started by the international standards organisation. Other commonly known organisations originating from the international standards organisation include: British Standards which is mostly used in the UK and Europe.
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