National concerns have recently been raised about the safety and security of research laboratories using hazardous materials.

One of the best ways to increase security in your laboratory is to develop a written security plan for spaces where hazardous materials are used and stored. The emergency-action/fire-prevention plan should be coordinated with facility-wide plans. Make sure your plan includes a protocol for reporting incidents such as undocumented visitors, unusual or threatening phone calls, and missing chemicals, biological agents, biological toxins and radiological materials.

Review the plan annually and train lab personnel on the safety procedures before they begin work and annually thereafter.

Other recommendations for increasing lab security include:

  • Control access to areas where hazardous materials are used and stored. Laboratory and animal-care areas should be locked at all times. Limit access to visitors, maintenance workers, repairmen and others requiring one-time or occasional entry. Access for lab personnel such as students and visiting scientists and those performing custodial maintenance or repairs should be limited to hours when regular employees are present.
  • Lock unattended storage areas. Freezers, refrigerators, cabinets and other containers that house biological agents, hazardous chemicals or radioactive materials should be securely locked any time the storage area is not in direct view of workers.
  • Know the identity of people entering your laboratory. EH&S personnel, Facilities Services workers, animal care workers and others should all have identification.
  • Know what materials are being brought into the lab area. All packages should be visually searched before being brought into the lab. Packages containing specimens, toxins, or bacterial or viral isolates should be opened in a biological safety cabinet or other appropriate containment device.
  • Know what materials are being removed from the lab. When shipping hazardous materials, be sure to conform to all applicable local, state, federal and international regulations. Biological materials or toxins that will be hand-carried on common carriers must comply with all applicable regulations and permits. Maintain a current inventory of all hazardous biological, chemical and radiological materials stored in the laboratory. In addition, all hazardous waste must be disposed of in accordance with local, state and federal regulations.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013