We intend to start at the top of the building and work our way down. We are going to inspect all the condenser hoses for flood hazard. Hoses must be properly secured using copper wiring and aspirator hoses should be anchored down. Also, remember that, unlike diamonds, tygon and rubber tubing are not forever. You need to check your hoses periodically.
In order to improve the safety performance in this building, the safety committee asks that each research group have their safety representative lead us through your labs. We welcome your suggestions and questions as we tour your area. Here is a list of some of the important items that outside inspectors from a regulatory agency such as OSHA are known to look for:
- Eye Protection: Proper eye protection must be worn by all researchers while in a laboratory where a chemical reaction is in progress. This is one subject that one can never overemphasize.
- Hazardous waste containers: Hazardous waste containers should be properly labeled. The dates of filling should be indicated on the tag. The chemical waste should not be stored for more than 90 days.
- Food/beverages: Food and beverages should be stored away from laboratory chemicals. I suggest a clearly marked designated area for coffee makers and other food preparation as well as "food only" refrigerators.
- Labeling of storage areas: Storage areas should be appropriately labeled as flammables, corrosives, carcinogens, poisons or other appropriate categories. It is equally important that the categories be maintained when items are returned to storage.
As a corollary to this rule, all individual containers must also be labeled. The only exception is a container to be filled and used by the same person in the same shift. This includes reaction flasks and similar "usage" glassware as well as storage bottles. Individual bottles of suspected or confirmed carcinogens must be so designated.
- Gas cylinders: Gas cylinders should be secured at all times. Restraining straps must be fastened securely around the upper third of each cylinder to prevent it from falling. The belt must not loosen if the tank is wiggled.
- Peroxide forming reagents: Many ethers are notorious peroxide forming reagents. (Actually they form hydroperoxides, but the result is the same). Ethyl ether, dioxane, tetrahydrofuran, and the glymes are examples of peroxidizable compounds. All of these should be dated when opened and promptly used or discarded. Outdated containers should be tested for peroxides before use. Be extremely cautious if crystals are noticed in any of these liquids. Do not evaporate these solvents to dryness if peroxides are detected.
- Storage of chemicals: Incompatible chemicals must be segregated. Corrosives should be separated from flammables, acids from bases, strong oxidizers from reducers. Corrosives and other things you really would hate to have spilled all over you should be stored close to floor level to reduce breakage and splashing hazards. Storage containers should be securely closed when not in active use.
- Strong oxidizers: Perchloric acid and hydrogen peroxide are strong liquid oxidizers and should be stored away from metals, organic compounds, strong acids, heat and sunlight. Hexavalent chromium compounds, premanganates and periodates are examples of solid oxidizers that should be similarly segregated.
- Aisles: Aisles should be uncluttered and free from tripping hazards. Storage cabinets should not be blocked by gas cylinders, boxes, etc.
- Fume hoods: Fume hoods should always be kept clean and neat. This encourages their use at all times and also improves the draft in them. Fumehoods used only for storage should be clearly designated as such. The label should also indicate an understanding of the chemical incompatibilities.
The preceding points were noted in numerous laboratories in the ORCBS inspections. Some violations were noted in virtually every lab. Popular opinion does not make such practices safe. Take a few minutes to check and remedy any problems in these areas.