by Sydney Harris
Industrial Hygienist

Chemicals, whether natural or synthetic, play an important role in our daily lives and are largely unavoidable for personal use and in the workplace. With all the information and protections we have in place to mitigate chemical exposure, you might be shocked to learn that most of the 80,000+ chemicals currently used in the United States have not been adequately tested for their human health effects. Laboratory employees are particularly vulnerable to hazardous chemical exposure through their daily operations. Exposure to hazardous chemical substances in laboratories and the lack of appropriate control measures can lead to catastrophic events, precipitating serious injuries and even fatalities, thereby underscoring the importance of chemical safety on the employer and user end.

One of the primary responsibilities for employers engaged in laboratory operations involving hazardous chemicals is to develop and implement a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). CHPs are primary components of chemical and laboratory safety across sectors and industries such as universities, hospitals, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and more. The Chemical Hygiene Plan is a written program developed and implemented by the employer which sets forth procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and work practices that protect employees from health hazards presented by hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace. CHPs are a required element of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Laboratory Standard (29 CFR 1910.1450) for laboratories working with hazardous chemicals on a laboratory scale (i.e., small quantities and not part of a production process).

Required elements of the CHP can be found on OSHA’s Fact Sheet and include standard operating procedures, control measures and verification of their function, circumstances requiring prior approval, responsibilities of those involved in the implementation of the CHP, provisions for additional worker protection with particularly hazardous substances, and training requirements. Medical exams and consultation are also required under various circumstances.

Chemical Hygiene Plans play a vital role in comprehensive understanding of chemical safety across all laboratory workers and those who, to a lesser degree, will also be associated with the lab at some point or another (i.e., contractors, visitors, etc.). Development of CHPs can often be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially with limited resources. Large and small companies may benefit from outside resources and The EI Group, Inc. (EI) offers a variety of services to help ensure OSHA compliance and your dedication to laboratory safety. EI is available to assist in writing, implementation, and review of your CHP. We also provide supporting laboratory services such as training; personal exposure monitoring; chemical, physical, and biological hazard assessments; ventilation and air quality assessments related to chemical fume hoods and pressure verification of biosafety level 3 laboratories; and more.

If you have any questions regarding chemical and laboratory safety, please feel free to reach out to Sydney Harris at 919-280-4855 or [email protected].