Are Schools Required to Have Lab Safety Plans?

School Lab safety Plans

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The vital hands-on learning experiences provided by school laboratories cannot be replicated by a lecture or textbook. While these learning spaces are essential, they do require proper precautionary measures in the form of lab safety plans to remain safe. Flammable liquids, corrosive materials, and other potentially hazardous chemicals required for experiments must be stored and handled safely and in accordance with applicable regulations.  

The Public Employees Operating Safety and Health (PEOSH) Laboratory Standard includes requirements for Chemical Hygiene Plans that can keep your lab safe and in compliance with state regulations. The problem is, many school districts are unaware that these regulations exist and may apply to their laboratories.

Why is it important to follow PEOSH Laboratory Standards?

While these PEOSH requirements do not apply to all school laboratories, they are likely to apply to laboratories using wet methods. A Chemical Hygiene Plan establishes safe handling and operating procedures that reduce the risk for injuries and spills, helping to keep both students and staff safe. 

Here is what is included in a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) 

  • Standard operating procedures
  • Exposure control measures that include engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), and personal hygiene practices
  • Requirements for properly functioning fume hoods and other protective equipment
  • Provisions for medical consultation and medical examinations
  • A designated chemical hygiene officer
  • The creation of a chemical hygiene committee, a hazard identification system, and a recordkeeping procedure

When is a school required to follow the PEOSH Laboratory Standard?          

Regulations state that the PEOSH Laboratory Standard applies to labs that are using hazardous materials on a laboratory scale. Laboratory scale is defined as “work with substances in which the containers used for reactions, transfers, and other handling of substances are designed to be easily and safely manipulated by one person.” Most high school science labs fall under the PEOSH Laboratory Standard.

The following are considered a laboratory use of hazardous materials

  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a laboratory scale
  • Multiple chemical procedures or chemicals are used
  • The procedures involved are not part of a production process, nor in any way simulate a production process
  • Protective laboratory practices and equipment are available and in common use to minimize the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals

In addition to the Chemical Hygiene Plan requirements under PEOSH, it is important to regularly dispose of chemicals that are expired or no longer being used. Many school laboratories have chemicals that have been there for decades, and some of them may pose substantial health risks, such as mercury and cancer-causing compounds. When doing a lab cleanout or disposing of any chemicals, it is imperative to follow all applicable disposal regulations. Many chemicals must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

It is important that all school labs are run in accordance with a well-thought-out safety plan. If your school is unsure of its obligations under the PEOSH requirements and you need guidance, it is important to contact a professional. For further information reach out to LAN’s Environmental Health & Safety Department to help you get started.     

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