Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals.
Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals.
In the early 1980s, the National Research Council (NRC) produced two major reports on laboratory safety and laboratory waste disposal: Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (1981) and Prudent Practices for Disposal of Chemicals from Laboratories (1983). To provide safety and waste management guidance to laboratory workers, managers, and policy-makers that would be responsive to knowledge and regulations in the 1990s, the NRC’s Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology initiated an update and revision of the earlier studies.
After extensive consultation with members of the broad chemistry and laboratory communities, the full committee was appointed in September 1992. It first convened in November 1992 and held five additional meetings during the next two years. Several highly specialized areas were addressed by the appointment of several subcommittees, which met in conjunction with the full committee or independently as appropriate.
The Committee on Prudent Practices for Handling, Storage, and Disposal of Chemicals in Laboratories and its subcommittees were charged to:
• establish the scope of changes and new material required to update Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983,
• evaluate recent developments and trends in the scientific communities and regulatory areas,
• develop strategies for implementing safety programs, which include risk assessment methods in planning laboratory work with hazardous chemicals,
• develop a follow-up plan for training aids by obtaining consensus on the report and reviewing suggestions, and
• address such topics as procurement, storage, and disposal of chemicals; hazards of known chemicals; handling of chemicals; work practices; generation and classification of chemical waste; off-site transportation and landfills; and incinerators and small-scale combusters.
Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983 were conceived during the late 1970s in recognition of growing public expectations for health and safety in the workplace, protection of the environment, and the responsible use of hazardous chemicals. Since their original publication in the early 1980s, these reports have been distributed widely both nationally and internationally. In 1992, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and the World Health Organization published Chemical Safety Matters, a document based on Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983, for wide international use.
The original motivation for drafting Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983 was to provide an authoritative reference on the handling and disposal of chemicals at the laboratory level. These volumes not only served as a guide to laboratory workers, but also offered prudent guidelines for the development of regulatory policy by government agencies concerned with safety in the workplace and protection of the environment. Pertinent health related parts of Prudent Practices 1981 are incorporated in a nonmandatory section of the OSHA Laboratory Standard (29 CFR 1910.1450; reprinted as Appendix A). OSHA’s purpose was to provide guidance for developing and implementing its required Chemical Hygiene Plan.
Now, after nearly a decade and a half, the present volume (Prudent Practices 1995) responds to societal and technical developments that are driving significant change in the laboratory culture and laboratory operations relative to safety, health, and environmental protection. The major drivers for this new culture of laboratory safety include the following:
• The increasing regulatory compliance burden and associated time and financial penalties for noncompliance;
• The OSHA performance-based Laboratory Standard that places responsibility on individual laboratories to develop site-specific laboratory health programs, including certain elements such as written procedures, a designated coordinator for the written procedures, employee information and training, and compliance with OSHA-specified exposure limits;
• An increasingly litigious society and the growth of tort law;
• The increase in “public interest” groups and the realization by laboratory operators that operation of a laboratory is a privilege that carries a responsibility to go beyond mere compliance to “doing what is right” in the eyes of fellow workers and society;
• The myriad technical advances in our understanding of hazards and risk evaluation, improvements in chemical analysis, improvements in miniaturization and automation of laboratory operations, and the availability of vastly improved safety equipment, atmosphere-monitoring devices, and personal protective equipment; and
• A greater understanding and acceptance of the critical elements necessary for an effective culture of safety.
After careful consideration of these technical, regulatory, and societal changes, the committee chose to rewrite, rather than simply revise, much of the material in the previous two volumes and to condense them into a single one. In this 1995 revision, the committee has sought primarily to describe this new laboratory culture, identify its key elements, and provide certain information and procedures that have been developed within that culture. To ensure prudent handling in a coordinated manner from “cradle to grave,” this new volume incorporates much material from the Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983 volumes.
In addition, in response to users of Prudent Practices 1981 who have emphasized the value of the information on how to handle compounds that pose special hazards, the committee has compiled Laboratory Chemical Safety Summaries (Appendix B) that provide chemical and toxicological information for 88 substances commonly found in laboratories. Although most of the information provided for these compounds will maintain its value, data on some properties, especially toxicological ones, should be updated frequently. Accordingly, the most recent Material Safety Data Sheets provided by the manufacturer or other updated sources should be consulted before work is done with hazardous compounds.
At every stage in the development of this book, the committee has maintained a close dialogue with the community of expected users through discussions with experts, participation of observers at committee meetings, and presentations to various professional organizations. In addition, subcommittees of experts were appointed to provide advice in several specialized areas. The goal in these discussions with authorities and with the general community of industrial and academic researchers and teachers has been to determine what are considered prudent practices for laboratory operations.
“Laboratory” means (following the OSHA Laboratory Standard) “a workplace where relatively small quantities of hazardous chemicals are used on a non-production basis.” Through definition of the corollary terms “laboratory scale” and “laboratory use,” OSHA expanded on this definition to encompass additional criteria: a laboratory is a place in which (1) “containers used for reactions, transfers,
and other handling of substances are designed to be easily and safely manipulated by one person,” (2) “multiple chemicals or chemical procedures are used,” and (3) “protective laboratory practices and equipment are available and in common use to minimize the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals.” The definition excludes operations (1) in which the procedures involved are part of or in any way simulate a production process or (2) whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.
Dialogue with the chemical community has shown that there are many effective ways in which institutions can organize for safety in the laboratory when there is a sincere commitment to safe practice and institutional support. Accordingly, a single organizational model of institutional safety cannot be proposed as being typical. The aim throughout has been to offer generally useful guidelines rather than specific blueprints.
Public support for the laboratory use of chemicals depends on compliance with regulatory laws as a joint responsibility of everyone who handles or makes decisions about chemicals, from shipping and receiving clerks to laboratory workers and managers, environmental health and safety staff, and institutional administrators. This shared responsibility is now a fact of laboratory work as inexorable as the properties of the chemicals that are being handled. The use of chemicals, like the use of automobiles or electricity, involves some irreducible risks. However, all three of these servants to humankind have demonstrated benefits that enormously outweigh their costs if they are handled sensibly. The passage of time has demonstrated the value of Prudent Practices 1981 and Prudent Practices 1983 not only as guides to safe laboratory practice but also through their influence on the drafting of reasonable regulations. The committee hopes that its efforts will have a comparable beneficial impact as chemistry continues its central role in society.
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