There are likely over half a million laboratory workers in Tennessee and across the U.S., according to OSHA, and these workers face a host of risks, especially from the use of hazardous chemicals. This is where the OSHA Laboratory Standard comes in. Fulfilling this standard is essential to protecting employees in non-production labs.

Perhaps the first step that employers should take is to designate a qualified individual to be a chemical hygiene officer, who has control over those procedures that have an impact on workers’ health and safety. For example, the CHO will determine what personal protective equipment is needed for a job and what engineering controls should be in place to minimize exposure to carcinogens and other toxins. All of this comes together in a chemical hygiene plan.

Employees must be thoroughly trained as well. The training should explain what chemicals employees might be exposed to, what the permissible exposure limits are for these and what the symptoms of exposure are, among other things. Employers must make sure, via monitoring, that the limits are never exceeded.

Chemicals must be properly labeled, and safety data sheets must be thorough, including substances produced in the lab and their byproducts. Employers are to keep accurate records of training sessions, monitoring results, medical evaluations and so on.

When employees develop a condition because of regular exposure to harmful chemicals, then they may have grounds for a workers’ compensation case. They do not have to prove that the employer or anyone else was negligent in order to be eligible for benefits, but they may have their claim denied by the employer if there is evidence that the victims themselves were at fault. Workers may want a lawyer to evaluate the case and assist with the filing or the appeal.