3. Important OSHA Definitions in Understanding Laboratory Safety
For classroom science teachers to work successfully in the safety arena, they need to understand how OSHA definitions apply to the laboratory. OSHA definitions are key to developing chemical hygiene plans. They help to foster understanding of standard operating procedures. This in turn helps science teachers better plan and work toward securing and maintaining a safer work environment in the laboratory for all occupants.
Working definitions include the following:
Action level means a concentration designated in 29. CFR part 19.10 for a specific substance, calculated as an eight (8)-hour time-weighted average, which initiates certain required activities such as exposure monitoring and medical surveillance.
Chemical hygiene officer means an employee who the employer designates, and who is qualified by training or experience, to provide technical guidance in the development and implementation of the provisions of the chemical hygiene plan. This definition is not intended to place limitations on the position description or job classification that the designated individual shall hold within the employer’s organizational structure.
Chemical hygiene plan means a written program developed and implemented by the employer that sets forth procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment and work practices that are capable of protecting employees from the health hazards presented by hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace.
Designated area means an area that may be used for work with “select carcinogens,” reproductive toxins or substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity. A designated area may be the entire laboratory, an area of a laboratory or a device such as a laboratory hood.
Emergency means any occurrence such as, but not limited to, equipment failure, rupture of containers or failure of control equipment that results in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical into the workplace.
Employee means an individual employed in a laboratory workplace who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the course of his or her assignments.
Explosive means a chemical that causes a sudden, almost instantaneous release of pressure, gas and heat when subjected to sudden shock, pressure or high temperature.
Hazardous chemical means any chemical that is classified as health hazard or simple asphyxiant in accordance with the Hazard Communication Standard (§1910.1200).
Laboratory means a facility where the “laboratory use of hazardous chemicals” occurs. It is a workplace where relatively small quantities of hazardous chemicals are used on a nonproduction basis.
Laboratory scale means 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. “Laboratory scale” excludes those workplaces whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.
Laboratory-type hood means a device located in a laboratory, enclosure on five sides with a movable sash or fixed partial enclosed on the remaining side; constructed and maintained to draw air from the laboratory and to prevent or minimize the escape of air contaminants into the laboratory; and allows chemical manipulations to be conducted in the enclosure without insertion of any portion of the employee’s body other than hands and arms.
Walk-in hoods with adjustable sashes meet the above definition if the sashes are adjusted during use so that the airflow and the exhaust of air contaminants are not compromised and employees do not work inside the enclosure during the release of airborne hazardous chemicals.
Laboratory use of hazardous chemicals means handling or use of such chemicals in which all the following conditions are met:
- 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.
Medical consultation means a consultation that takes place between an employee and a licensed physician for the purpose of determining what medical examinations or procedures, if any, are appropriate in cases where a significant exposure to a hazardous chemical may have taken place.
Mutagen means chemicals that cause permanent changes in the amount or structure of the genetic material in a cell. Chemicals classified as mutagens in accordance with the Hazard Communication Standard (§1910.1200) shall be considered mutagens for purposes of this section.
Organic peroxide means an organic compound that contains the bivalent -O-O- structure and that may be considered to be a structural derivative of hydrogen peroxide where one or both of the hydrogen atoms has been replaced by an organic radical.
Oxidizer means a chemical other than a blasting agent or explosive as defined in § 1910.109(a), that initiates or promotes combustion in other materials, thereby causing fire either of itself or through the release of oxygen or other gases.
Physical hazard means a chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer pyrophoric, unstable (reactive) or water-reactive.
Protective laboratory practices and equipment means those laboratory procedures, practices and equipment accepted by laboratory health and safety experts as effective, or that the employer can show to be effective, in minimizing the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Reproductive toxins mean chemicals that affect the reproductive capabilities, including adverse effects on sexual function and fertility in adult males and females, as well as adverse effects on the development of the offspring. Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins in accordance with the Hazard Communication Standard (§1910.1200) shall be considered reproductive toxins for purposes of this section.
Unstable (reactive) means a chemical that is the pure state, or as produced or transported, will vigorously polymerize, decompose, condense, or will become self-reactive under conditions of shocks, pressure or temperature.
Water-reactive means a chemical that reacts with water to release a gas that is either flammable or presents a health hazard.