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The Standards

History of OSHA
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The OSH Act of 1970

Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), the General Duty Clause, requires that employers:

"...shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

This means employers are responsible to protect employees from all workplace hazards they recognize, not just specific hazards or hazardous operations.

For example, best practices that are issued by non-regulatory organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Research Council (NRC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can be enforceable under section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970.

Lab Techniques and Safety

Applicable OSHA Standards

There are several specific OSHA standards that apply to laboratories as well as other OSHA standards that apply to various aspects of laboratory activities.

Employers must be fully aware of these standards and must implement all aspects of the standards that apply to specific laboratory work conditions in their facilities.

1. Which of the following is the category of laboratories to which OSHA's Laboratory Standard 1910.1450 applies?

a. Large non-production laboratories
b. Small non-production laboratories
c. Large production laboratories
d. Small production laboratories

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Laboratory Defined


It’s important to know that not all laboratories are covered by the Laboratory Standard. For example, most quality control laboratories are not covered under the standard. These laboratories are usually adjuncts of production operations, which typically perform repetitive procedures for the purpose of assuring reliability of a product or a process.

On the other hand, laboratories that conduct research and development and related analytical work are subject to the requirements of the Laboratory Standard, regardless of whether or not they are used only to support manufacturing.

Laboratory Use of Hazardous Chemicals

"Laboratory use of hazardous chemicals" means handling or use of such chemicals in which all of the following conditions are met:

  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a "laboratory scale" (i.e., work with substances in which the containers used for reactions, transfers, and other handling of substances is designed to be easily handled by one person).
  • Multiple chemical procedures or chemicals are used.
  • The procedures involved are not part of a production process, nor do they in any way simulate a production process.
  • Protective laboratory practices and equipment are available and in common use to minimize the potential for worker exposure to hazardous chemicals.

The Laboratory Standard consists of five major elements:

  • hazard identification
  • chemical hygiene plan
  • information and training
  • exposure monitoring
  • medical consultation and examinations

2. Which of the following is a condition or characteristic of "laboratory use of hazardous chemicals?"

a. Chemicals cannot be handled by one person
b. Procedures are not part of a production process
c. One chemical procedure or chemical is used
d. Protective laboratory practices are not considered as needed

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Hazard Identification

Hazard ID

Each laboratory must identify which hazardous chemicals will be encountered by its workers. Hazardous chemicals can be serious physical and/or health threats to workers in clinical, industrial, and academic laboratories. Hazardous laboratory chemicals include:

  • cancer-causing agents (carcinogens);
  • toxins that may affect the liver, kidney, or nervous system;
  • irritants, corrosives, and sensitizers; and
  • agents that act on the blood system or damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.

OSHA rules limit all industry exposures to approximately 400 substances.

3. Hazardous chemicals in the laboratory include each of the following EXCEPT _____.

a. food ingredients
b. toxins that may affect body organs
c. agents that act on the blood system
d. cancer-causing agents

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Chemical Hygiene Plan

The standard requires the employer to designate a Chemical Hygiene Officer and have a written Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), and actively verify that it remains effective. The CHP must include provisions for:

  • worker training
  • chemical exposure monitoring where appropriate
  • medical consultation when exposure occurs
  • criteria for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering controls
  • special precautions for particularly hazardous substances
  • a requirement for a Chemical Hygiene Officer responsible for implementation of the CHP

The CHP must be tailored to reflect the specific chemical hazards present in the laboratory where it is to be used. Laboratory personnel must receive training regarding the Laboratory Standard, the CHP, and other laboratory safety practices, including exposure detection, physical and health hazards associated with chemicals, and protective measures. See a sample CHP and more information on CHP elements.

4. Which of the following is one of the required components in a laboratory Chemical Hygiene Plan?

a. A chemical design or redesign procedure
b. A five-point chemical reduction process
c. A Chemical Hygiene Officer
d. An exposure control committee

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Information and Training


Laboratory workers must be provided with information and training relevant to the hazards of the chemicals present in their laboratory. The training must be provided at the time of initial assignment to a laboratory and prior to assignments involving new exposure situations.

The employer must inform workers about the following:

  • The content of the OSHA Laboratory Standard and its appendices (the full text must be made available);
  • The location and availability of the Chemical Hygiene Plan;
  • Permissible exposure limits (PELs) for OSHA-regulated substances, or recommended exposure levels for other hazardous chemicals where there is no applicable standard;
  • Signs and symptoms associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals in the laboratory; and
  • The location and availability of reference materials on the hazards, safe handling, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory, including, but not limited to, Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Training must include the following:

  • Methods and observations used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical (These may include employer monitoring, continuous monitoring devices, and familiarity with the appearance and odor of the chemicals);
  • The physical and health hazards of chemicals in the laboratory work area;
  • The measures that workers can take to protect themselves from these hazards, including protective equipment, appropriate work practices, and emergency procedures;
  • Applicable details of the employer’s written Chemical Hygiene Plan;
  • Retraining, if necessary.

5. Under the Chemical Hygiene Plan, the laboratory employer must inform workers about _____.

a. the content of EPA and OSHA standards
b. the physical and health hazards of chemicals in the laboratory
c. handling large-quantity containers of chemicals
d. results of SDS audits

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Exposure Monitoring

OSHA has established permissible exposure limits (PELs) for hundreds of chemical substances. A PEL is the chemical-specific concentration in inhaled air that is intended to represent what the average, healthy worker may be exposed to daily for a lifetime of work without significant adverse health effects.

The employer must ensure that workers’ exposures to OSHA-regulated substances do not exceed the PEL. However, most of the OSHA PELs were adopted soon after the Agency was first created in 1970 and were based upon scientific studies available at that time. Since science has continued to move forward, in some cases, there may be health data that suggests a hazard to workers below the levels permitted by the OSHA PELs.

Other agencies and organizations have developed and updated recommended occupational exposure limits (OELs) for chemicals regulated by OSHA, as well as other chemicals not currently regulated by OSHA. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as well as some chemical manufacturers have established OELs to assess safe exposure limits for various chemicals.

Employers must conduct exposure monitoring, through air sampling, if there is reason to believe that workers may be exposed to chemicals above the action level or, in the absence of an action level, the PEL.

The employer should notify workers of the results of any monitoring within 15 working days of receiving the results. Some OSHA chemical standards have specific provisions regarding exposure monitoring and worker notification. Employers should consult relevant standards to see if these provisions apply to their workplace.

6. The _____ is the OSHA term describing the chemical-specific concentration of inhaled air a healthy worker may be exposed to daily for a lifetime of work without significant adverse health effects.

a. Lifetime Exposure Limit (LEL)
b. Long-term Permissible Concentration (LTPC)
c. Chronic Inhalation Level (CIL)
d. Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)

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Medical Consultation and Examinations

Medical Exams

Employers must do the following:

  • Provide all exposed workers with an opportunity to receive medical attention by a licensed physician, including any follow-up examinations the examining physician determines to be necessary.
  • Provide an opportunity for a medical consultation by a licensed physician whenever a laboratory worker may have experienced hazardous exposure from a spill, leak, explosion, or other occurrence. The licensed physician must determine whether a medical examination is needed.
  • Provide an opportunity for a medical examination by a licensed physician whenever a worker develops signs or symptoms associated with a hazardous chemical to which he or she may have been exposed to in the laboratory.
  • Establish medical surveillance for a worker as required by the particular standard when exposure monitoring reveals exposure levels routinely exceeding the OSHA action level or, in the absence of an action level, the PEL for an OSHA regulated substance.
  • Provide the examining physician with the identity of the hazardous chemical(s) to which the individual may have been exposed, and the conditions under which the exposure may have occurred, including quantitative data, where available, and a description of the signs and symptoms of exposure the worker may be experiencing.
  • Provide all medical examinations and consultations without cost to the worker, without loss of pay, and at a reasonable time and place.
  • Ensure a copy of the examining physician’s written opinion is provided to the exposed worker.

7. What must the laboratory employer provide if an employee develops signs and symptoms associated with a hazardous chemical?

a. Establish a medical surveillance plan
b. Provide and opportunity for medical examination
c. Reimburse employees for part of the medical fees
d. Provide an opportunity for a medical consultation

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Employers must maintain an accurate record of exposure monitoring activities and exposure measurements as well as medical consultations and examinations, including medical tests and written opinions.

Employers generally must maintain worker exposure records for 30 years and medical records for the duration of the worker's employment plus 30 years, unless one of the exemptions listed below applies:

  • Health insurance claims records maintained separately from the employer's medical program and its records,
  • First aid records (not including medical histories) of one-time treatment and subsequent observation of minor scratches, cuts, burns, splinters, and the like which do not involve medical treatment, loss of consciousness, restriction of work or motion, or transfer to another job, if made on-site by a non-physician and if maintained separately from the employer's medical program and its records, and
  • Medical records of employees who have worked for less than one year for the employer need not be retained beyond the term of employment if they are provided to the employee upon the termination of employment.

Such records must be maintained, transferred, and made available to an individual's physician or made available to the worker or his/her designated representative upon request.

8. Employers generally must maintain worker medical records for _____.

a. for up to 30 years including employment
b. for 30 years
c. for 30 years after the date of hire
d. the duration of the worker's employment plus 30 years

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Roles and Responsibilities

Lab Safety Culture – UCLA

The following are the National Research Council’s recommendations concerning the responsibilities of various individuals for chemical hygiene in laboratories:

Chief Executive Officer

  • Bears ultimate responsibility for chemical hygiene within the facility.
  • Provides continuing support for institutional chemical hygiene.

Chemical Hygiene Officer

  • Develops and implements appropriate chemical hygiene policies and practices.
  • Monitors procurement, use, and disposal of chemicals used in the lab.
  • Ensures that appropriate audits are maintained.
  • Helps project directors develop precautions and adequate facilities.
  • Knows the current legal requirements concerning regulated substances.
  • Seeks ways to improve the chemical hygiene program.

Laboratory Supervisors

  • Have overall responsibility for chemical hygiene in the laboratory.
  • Ensure that laboratory workers know and follow the chemical hygiene rules.
  • Ensure that protective equipment is available and in working order.
  • Ensure that appropriate training has been provided.
  • Provide regular, formal chemical hygiene and housekeeping inspections, including routine inspections of emergency equipment.
  • Know the current legal requirements concerning regulated substances.
  • Determine the required levels of PPE and equipment.
  • Ensure that facilities and training for use of any material being ordered are adequate.

Laboratory Workers

Lab Safety Culture – UCLA
  • Plan and conduct each operation in accord with the facility’s chemical hygiene procedures, including use of PPE and engineering controls, as appropriate.
  • Develop good personal chemical hygiene habits.
  • Report all accidents and potential chemical exposures immediately.

Teachers and Students

You can learn about laboratory safety best practices in the CDC's School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide

9. Under the chemical hygiene plan, workers should _____.

a. report accidents and chemical exposures
b. determine required levels of PPE
c. ensure appropriate storage of PPE
d. enforce good hygiene habits

Check your Work

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