OSHA's Laboratory Chemical Hazards Standard

April 24, 2018 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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Working in a laboratory presents a myriad of chemical-related risks, including damage to skin and eyes, respiratory illnesses, and fires. To ensure that laboratory workers are protected no less comprehensively than workers in any other setting, OSHA in 1990 issued a regulatory standard called Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR § 1910.1450).

Better known as the Laboratory Standard, the standard requires laboratories—including hospital, clinical, and research labs—to have a written CHP in place, among other provisions (29 CFR § 1910.1450). The Laboratory Standard is not to be confused with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), which were passed by Congress in 1988 to establish quality standards for all laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of patient testing. For a further discussion of CLIA, see the guidance article The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments.

OSHA's rule itself is broad, for good reason. Because a wide range of activities take place in laboratories, and a variety of substances are used, creating a standard to address every type of chemical-related work that could be done in a laboratory would be impractical, if not impossible. Thus, OSHA considers this rule to be a "generic laboratory standard" that outlines good practices for all laboratories to follow. (OSHA "Occupational Exposure")

Complying with OSHA's laboratory standard is important first because it can help keep employees and patients safe. Complying with the standard lets employees know that the organization is committed to keeping them safe. Laboratories are hazardous environments, and workers know this. Recognition of the risky nature of this work by leadership will not go unnoticed by employees.

Compliance will also help protect a facility against easily avoidable financial penalties. Fines related to the Laboratory Standard are not among the penalties most commonly applied against healthcare or social assistance organizations (OSHA "NAICS"). For more on the frequency of OSHA violations, see the sample tool...

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