5 Risk Management Issues for Labs
When it comes to the chemical industry, proper risk management is absolutely crucial. In industries with a higher degree of risk, it’s essential that any prospective issues are identified and prepared for in advance. This way there are proper strategies in place should a problem occur. Here are five of the most important considerations for chemical risk management.
1) Storage of chemicals
One of the biggest risks for companies that use chemicals is that of incorrect chemical storage, spillage and cross-contamination. It is imperative that staff are fully trained in which chemicals can be stored together, and which must be kept separate. It’s also important that they are aware of optimum storage conditions for all chemicals. This should be marked on all storage containers and in all storage areas. It is in this area that many accidents occur, as many problems are not discovered until it is too late.
2) Health and Safety
Ensuring proper health and safety measures are in place is another consideration when it comes to minimising risk in your chemical handling company or laboratory. This is to ensure that all staff are aware of how to handle dangerous chemicals, and what to do if there is an accident. This is also key to safeguarding your company against being sued, as if the proper policies are in place there should be no call for a liability case. This is particularly important for companies who handle chemicals, as any incidents could be both serious for the individual and costly for the company involved if proper documentation is not available to staff.
3) Compliance Law
In terms of ensuring everything is properly run and above board, it’s important that your company is fully compliant in all areas, whether it’s ensuring proper use of a Hazchem plate (for the safe transportation of hazardous substances – this instructs the fire brigade of proper procedure should there be an incident), or applying the proper EACs set out under the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2011. Ensuring that all activities are fully compliant is important for the safety of both your staff and the general public, and without proper compliance should there be an accident, your company could not only be liable, but may also have been acting illegally.
4) Emergency Planning
Making appropriate plans for emergency situations is another method of safeguarding your staff, your facility and the general public. By ensuring that staff members are aware of the best course of action in a specific situation you can protect against blunders. If such a situation should occur your aim is to minimise the impact it has, and make it safe as quickly as possible. Set out the plans, notify staff of them and ensure that staff have access to these plans in each laboratory. This way, even if a procedure is forgotten it can easily be checked and you’ve done all that you can to keep people safe.
5) Layout assessment
Another area that can be assessed for risk is the layout of all areas in any company buildings. Ensuring labs, storage areas and transportation channels are well designed is a key way to minimise the risk of spillage, cross contamination and other accidents. For example, storage areas should be designed with the specific chemicals your company uses in mind. These should be clearly marked, making it easier for staff to store each one correctly than incorrectly.
Assuming the worst of staff is the best policy when it comes to assessing risk; we all have off days, so it’s best for your layout to be fool-proof. Your laboratory should be clutter-free and purpose built for your particular needs. This means ensuring there are no trip hazards etc. This is also a key consideration for effectiveness as by assessing the placement of each piece of equipment you can save time for your laboratory staff. It’s also the safest method.
Lastly, the route for transporting chemicals should be checked to ensure that there will be minimal contact with other members of staff, and so that if absolutely necessary this action can be carried out by just one person. This again protects your company against worst case scenarios.
In conclusion, risk is a huge area for any company, and even more so for one that handles chemicals on a day-to-day basis. By ensuring your business has carried out a proper risk analysis, making sure it is fully compliant and that safety strategies are in place, you can protect both the business and your staff against any problems that might occur.
Written by Katharina John, a consultant working in the Health and Safety industry for 3 years. She writes on issues such as industrial health and safety and project management in health and safety.
Image of chemicals by Easternblot