• Who Is In Charge of Lab Health and Safety?

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Who Is In Charge of Lab Health and Safety?

Apr 10 2021

From epidemiology to cancer research, occupational health and safety (OHS) should be front and centre in any laboratory. Without the right protocols in place research teams are directly at risk. So, who is in charge of laboratory health and safety? Below we define what OHS looks like in laboratories and who is responsible for keeping teams safe.

Defining health and safety

Occupational health and safety is a complex and multidisciplinary term that describes the overall health, safety and wellbeing of employees. As well as physical safety, OHS is also concerned with issues such as stress and mental health.

Read on to find out more about who is responsible for maintaining good OHS practices in laboratories:

Principal Investigators

Most laboratories are overseen by a Principal Investigator who is responsible for planning, overseeing and executing projects. Principal Investigators may also be referred to as supervisors, managers and team leaders.

They are personally responsible for all laboratory personnel working within the research facility and deal with anything from accidents and injuries to workplace bullying and harassment. As well as managing employees, Principal Investigators are responsible for maintaining laboratory equipment and developing sterilisation protocols, certifying instrument performance, developing troubleshooting procedures and more. All play an important role in keeping laboratory personnel safe at work.

Health and Safety Executive

Every workplace in the UK must adhere to government-enforced health and safety regulations and laboratories are no exception. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive is responsible for promoting, regulating and enforcing workplace health and safety. Other countries have similar departments dedicated to OHS.  

Chemical hygiene officers

In many laboratories chemicals and toxic substances are the biggest threat to health and safety. Chemical hygiene officers are employed to help develop policies and practices that safeguard both employees and the general public. This can include strict labelling and storage processes, as well as responsible waste disposal methods.   

Individual team members

While managers, supervisors and team leaders have heightened responsibilities, ultimately laboratory safety lies in the hands of individual employees. Every team member should have a good understanding of best-practice laboratory behaviours designed to keep themselves and others safe. This includes correctly labelling substances, wearing suitable clothing and adhering to hygiene and social distancing rules. Everyone contributes to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.

Sterilising laboratory equipment plays a key role in protecting the health and safety of employees, a concept that VÍctor Lázaro explores in further detail in ‘Decontamination methods for Bio Safety cabinets.’

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