Over the past several years, there have been a number of high-profile accidents in U.S. laboratories. For example, a scientist in Menlo Park, California was recently killed when he mixed chemicals that caused an explosion. More recently, a student at Yale University, working in a laboratory, died when her hair got caught in a wood lathe machine.
On October 13, 2011, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released new guidance materials on laboratory safety. The materials are intended to assist laboratory managers with the protection of their workers from exposure to chemical, biological and physical hazards. OSHA’s new materials provide guidance on a wide variety of safety issues, including the use of dangerous laboratory equipment, the labeling and transferring of chemicals and working with animals. The new materials can be found at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/laboratories/index.html.
OSHA’s issuance of new guidance on laboratory safety indicates that employers in the pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences industries may be subject to increased scrutiny by the agency due to their laboratory operations. Employers with lab workers should carefully review the new materials with particular attention to the standards that apply to their workers.