5: Standard Operating Procedures

The following basic rules and procedure should be followed in essentially all Biology laboratory-work with chemicals. These generic standard operating procedures (SOP) are relevant to safety and health considerations when laboratory work involves the use of hazardous chemicals. Where the scope of hazards are not adequately addressed by this general document, biology faculty and staff must develop written standard operating procedures for work area specific operations (see Section 13.) Standard operating procedures must be provided to all affected laboratory employees. The Standard Operating Procedures in this document specify minimum regulations and recommendations.

Note: Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals (National Research Council, 1995) was used as the basis for the standard operating procedure guidelines. A copy this book is available in the chemical stockroom (NSC 130) and is highly recommended as a reference to the SOP.

The following guidelines have been established to minimize hazards and to maintain basic safety in the laboratory.

Examine the known hazards associated with the materials being used. Never assume all hazards have been identified. Carefully read the label before using an unfamiliar chemical. When appropriate, review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for special handling information. Determine the potential hazards and use appropriate safety precautions before beginning any new operation.

Be familiar with the location of emergency equipment - fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and emergency eyewash and shower stations and know the appropriate emergency response procedures.

Avoid distracting or startling other workers when they are handling hazardous chemicals.

Use equipment and hazardous chemicals only for their intended purposes.

Always be alert to unsafe conditions and actions and call attention to them so that corrective action can be taken as quickly as possible.

Wear eye- and face-protection when appropriate.

Always inspect equipment for leaks, tears and other damage before handling a hazardous chemical. This includes fume hoods, gloves, goggles, etc.

Avoid tasting or smelling hazardous chemicals.

5.2 Health and Hygiene

The following practices have been established to protect laboratory employees from health risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals:

Avoid direct contact with any hazardous chemical. Know the types of protective equipment available and use the proper type for each job.

Confine long hair and loose clothing and always wear footwear that fully covers the feet.

Do not mouth pipette.

Use appropriate safety equipment whenever exposure to gases, vapors or aerosols is suspected.

Ensure exhaust facilities are working properly.

Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling chemicals, before leaving the laboratory and before eating or drinking.

Contact lenses are prohibited when using hazardous chemicals.

Replace personal protective equipment as appropriate.

Laboratory employees shall be familiar with the symptoms of exposure for the chemicals, with which they work, and use the precautions necessary to prevent exposure.

5.3 Food and Drink in the Laboratory

The accepted practice on food and drink in laboratories and should be followed at all times:

"There shall be no food, drink, smoking or applying cosmetics in laboratories which have radioactive materials, biohazardous materials or hazardous chemicals present. There shall be no storage, use or disposal of these 'consumable' items in laboratories (including refrigerators within laboratories). Rooms which are adjacent, but separated by floor to ceiling walls, and do not have any chemical, radioactive or biohazardous agents, present, may be used for food consumption, preparation, or applying cosmetics at the discretion of the project director responsible for the areas."

5.4 Housekeeping

Safety follows from good housekeeping practices. Use the following guidelines to maintain an orderly laboratory:

All work areas, especially laboratory benches, must be kept clear of clutter. All working surfaces and floors must be cleaned regularly.

Clean spills immediately and thoroughly, as per the established guidelines.

No chemicals should be stored in aisles, stairways, desks, floors, or hallways. Chemicals not in active use should not remain on lab benches or in fume hoods. Instead, place chemicals not in active use in the appropriate storage area.

All chemical containers must be properly labeled with the identity of the contents and the hazards present to users.

At the end of each work day, all chemicals should be placed in their assigned storage areas. The contents of unlabeled containers must be considered as waste and the user must properly place it in a labeled waste container.

Access to all emergency equipment, showers, eyewashes, exits and utility controls should never be blocked by anything, even temporarily by a parked cart.

Inspections: The biology safety committee oversees regular formal housekeeping and chemical hygiene inspections for faculty and student research areas and teaching laboratories. Informal inspections shall be continuous.