Laboratory safety - general information

General laboratory practice

Do not encroach on or litter the lab space of others without prior agreement.

Reagents and solvents must be returned to a safe storage location after use.

Do not store solvents or reagents on benches.

Communal equipment must be returned to its central location after use.

Do not store communal equipment in personal drawers or take it out of the lab.

Experiments using water should not run overnight because of flooding risk.

Solid and liquid spillages must be cleaned up immediately.

Lab benches must be tidied at the end of the day.

All sample containers must be labelled (name, contents, date).

Never use materials labelled for the specific use of others.

General laboratory safety

You must wear labcoats, glasses and gloves at all times.

Do not bring friends into the lab (excepting arranged tours or visits).

Never eat or drink in the lab (including chewing gum).

Do not use a mobile phone or in-ear music device.

Secure all long hair or loose clothing while in the lab.

Do not leave packing materials on the laboratory floor.

Laboratory safety - specific information

Safety department links

Laboratory safety

Departmental contacts

Useful information

HSE laboratory safety advice


Risk assessments - general information

The terminology of risk

Hazard: is the potential for something to cause harm, e.g. substances, machinery, energy or a particular operation.
Risk: is a combination of the likelihood or probability that the hazard will cause actual harm and the severity of the consequences.

Risk assessments

Risk assessment is a careful examination of the premises, processes and work activities to identify what could cause harm to people and to enable decisions to be made as to whether sufficient precautions have already been taken or whether further controls are needed.

Please note that a risk assessment must be completed for each laboratory or workshop task or procedure. The risk assessment need only be completed once per task assuming all users follow the same procedure. However, if the procedure changes a new risk assessment must take place.

Risk assessment training (RAFT) is mandatory for every new member of staff joining the College since 01 May 2009 - if they have line management, area, equipment or process management responsibilities, and are therefore required to conduct risk assessments.

Risk assessments are carried out electronically. The relevant electronic form can be found on the ESE SharePoint site.

The questions to be asked

- What are the hazards?

- What are the sorts of circumstances that can be realistically expected to occur which are capable of leading to injury or ill health?

- When are the circumstances likely to arise?

- Who are the people who might be at risk?

- Are some people likely to be at particular risk (e.g. pregnant workers, young persons, workers with disabilities and lone workers)?

- What severity of outcome is likely to be in terms of injury or ill-health to those at risk?

- What is the nature and extent of the risk(s)?

- What are the existing precautions and are they appropriate and adequate?

- Are we fully complying with the law?

- If not, what action is required to control the risks?

Probability of risk

Whilst risk assessment is a subjective process, it can be conceptually useful to consider risk as the product of the likelihood (probability) of an occurrence and the severity of the outcome:

Risk = Likelihood x Severity

A numerical range can be assigned to the probability (i.e. 1 = very unlikely to 10 = almost certain). The same numerical range should then be used to assess the severity of outcome. The result can then be used to inform the decision making process. After any control measures have been implemented, the risk can be reassessed.

An example is where it is unavoidable that a poisonous substance is used in an investigation. If the poison is used in solution form, it may be possible to use a quantity and concentration such that the total amount of poison that the laboratory is exposed to is less than a toxic dose. This is an example of reducing the severity. Similarly, by working with a spill tray in the fume hood, if the worst case does happen, the toxin is contained and the likelihood of exposure is greatly reduced.

Useful information

HSE - The five steps to risk assessment