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How To Ensure Worker Safety In Life Science Labs

Worker safety is more than just legal compliance in life science labs.

It is a critical component of maintaining a productive and healthy workplace. However, the path to ensuring worker safety in life science labs has many challenges. Online data sources support this notion, with one survey saying that 45% of the surveyed lab workers have been involved in a lab accident.

The bottom line is that your life science lab needs occupational safety across the board. Safety needs to be ingrained in the work culture, not just a list of rules.

The question is how you can instill this culture throughout the entire operation. Let’s discuss.


6 Ways to Ensure Worker Safety In Life Science Labs

In a life sciences lab, workplace safety is not a one-time task – it’s a continuous commitment. Here are six ways you can do this:

1. Conduct Thorough Risk Assessments

Identifying risks is the first step in reducing them and keeping the workplace free of danger.

There needs to be a thorough risk assessment in your laboratory to find areas where accidents have occurred – or could occur. This means putting every aspect of your lab under a microscope, including all lab activities, materials, and equipment.

Once risk factors are identified, evaluate the severity of these risks, prioritize them, and address them systematically. The most common ways to resolve safety risks involve using engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

For example, dry heat sterilizers can be used as an engineering control to ensure worker safety. They help prevent the risk of bacteria, diseases, fungi, and other hazardous chemicals – especially for equipment that cannot be exposed to moist heat. Material handling carts also offer similar benefits, such as reduced risk of contamination, enhanced worker safety, and easy tech integration.

Avoid relying on temporary solutions – or just “figuring things out as you go”. Thorough risk assessment needs to have a crystal clear process behind it. This lays the foundation for worker safety in your life science labs.

2. Provide Safety Training for Lab Workers

Safety management begins with knowledge. Many employees in life science labs use unsafe work practices because they either lack the necessary knowledge – or are unsure about the effectiveness of current safety measures. That’s where comprehensive safety training programs come in.

Create training programs that cover everything from correctly disposing of lab waste to emergency response procedures. Here are some key factors to consider in your training:

  • Enforce safety protocols strictly.
  • Recognize and reward efforts to improve worker safety.
  • Address any safety violations transparently and quickly.
  • Ask your employees for feedback on your current safety measures.
  • Update your lab workers on new safety technologies, materials, and regulations as often as possible.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We recommend reaching out to a professional lab safety specialist to help you manage this process.


3. Stick to Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are the lifeline of lab safety – especially in environments with chemical hazards. They provide step-by-step guidelines for safely conducting experiments and using lab equipment.

The goal of SOPs is to reduce the likelihood of accidents caused by human error and biological hazards.

Here’s how you can implement SOPs effectively:

  • Team up with your experienced lab workers to create detailed SOPs.
  • Make SOPs easily accessible to all lab workers.
  • Place safety instructions in key locations in clear and bold ink.
  • Regularly review SOPs and make updates to reflect any changes in your lab practices or regulations. This is an easy way to keep your SOPs relevant.
  • Create a checklist or conduct regular audits to see how your lab workers adhere to the SOPs.
  • Conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause in case of an incident.
  • Make the necessary adjustments to SOPs to prevent similar incidents in the future.

When it comes to worker safety, there can be no stone left unturned. It’s recommended to speak with a specialized attorney to make sure you cover all your bases in your SOPs.


4. Don’t Take Shortcuts After Lab Safety Inspections

Regular lab safety inspections from the health administration are designed to help identify and resolve risks before they turn into a disaster.

Here’s how you can inspect your lab’s safety measures:

  • Create a schedule to prepare for safety inspections. Every inspection must cover all possible areas of your lab.
  • Develop a complete checklist that includes safety protocols, lab equipment, PPE kits, and emergency exits. Update it regularly.
  • Allow only trained professionals to help you prepare for your safety audits. It can be your lab managers or in-house safety officers. You can also hire third-party lab safety consultants if needed.
  • Check the condition and availability of your PPE kits, fire safety equipment, and first aid supplies. Keep all of this in good working order and properly installed.
  • Record the results of each lab safety inspection. Note any areas of concern or non-compliance. Take the necessary actions promptly and monitor their effectiveness.

While doing this, your lab needs to be an environment where workers feel comfortable reporting potential safety concerns or violations of safety rules. Address these issues during your inspections. This will help demonstrate your commitment to worker safety in your lab.


5. Comply with Local and International Safety Regulations

Compliance with required safety regulations is non-negotiable in improving worker safety. The first step in this direction would be staying informed of the latest updates.

In Canada, for instance, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) observes various workplace safety regulations through the provinces, territories, and federal governments. Staying informed of the latest updates to local, national, and international safety regulations will help you ensure compliance to the highest level.

Keep detailed records of your safety compliance, including training, changes to the laws, and incident reports. Documentation plays a critical role in establishing your compliance.


6. Practice Safe Waste Disposal

Safe waste disposal is equally critical to ensure worker safety in life science labs. Unfortunately, lab owners and operators often overlook this aspect of lab safety. Be careful when disposing of chemicals, soiled animal cages and racks, and other hazardous waste.

When disposing of lab waste:

  • Instead of pouring chemicals down the sink, use designated disposal bins or containers, such as biohazardous, chemical, and non-hazardous materials.
  • Don’t pour unused reagents back into the bottle. Dispose of them properly.

You can also use automated waste disposal systems to remove hazardous waste. Animal research facilities, for instance, can benefit from automated solutions like the Activ Automated Dump Station (ADS) designed by BetterBuilt.

It can dump and scrap soiled rodent cages without human intervention. Equipment like ADS reduces the risk of contamination and ensures worker safety.


Wrap Up

Ensuring worker safety in life science labs is a task that goes beyond mere compliance and risk management.

It impacts the well-being of your lab workers and the integrity of your research. Ensuring safety requires a multipronged approach which includes attention to detail, comprehensive planning, and a culture of continuous improvement. From risk assessments to safe waste disposal, every element contributes to a safer working environment.

At BetterBuilt, we are committed to advancing the field of life science through innovation, not just in technology – but in safety practices. Our expertise in lab automation provides solutions that enhance worker safety, streamline operations, and support the vital work of scientists worldwide.

Contact us today to place your order or know more about our products.



BetterBuilt is one of the top manufacturers of vivarium washers such as tunnel washers, cage and rack washers, and cage and bottle washers for life sciences, laboratories, and the healthcare industry. We have a strong reputation for quality, durability, and trust within the scientific community over the years.