LAB SAFETY

Work Plan


Staff or students carrying out experiments should prepare a reasonably detailed written procedure for their experimental work. This should include all the special precautions that may be required for their experiments - e.g. protective clothing (indicating the material type), fume extraction, pressure relief, etc. - and what, if any, precautions will be necessary for others working in the vicinity. Depending on the nature of the experiments, the risk assessment may need to include a simplified hazard and operability study on both the equipment and the experiments. More details on the contents of a work plan are provided here. Specific operations required for dealing with any special wastes generated should also be defined (refer to chapters 1619 and 20 of the HKUST Safety and Environmental Protection Manual for details).

When preparing the work plan, if you are determining the safety implications of a proposed experimental program, you should examine the following classes of hazards:

  • Chemical - toxic, corrosive, reactive (explosive), flammable materials, etc.;
  • Thermal - temperature-resistance, explosion limits and flash points, taking into account experimental conditions (temperature and pressure) , etc.;
  • Physical - pressure stresses and the design of supports, placing of equipment (ergonomics) as well as the materials of construction used, etc.;
  • Electrical - danger of electrocution, sparks and flammability, etc.;
  • Biological - pathogens, genetically modified material, etc.; and
  • Radiation - UV, microwaves, alpha, beta, X & gamma rays, lasers, etc.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) of all chemicals should be read carefully. Relevant hazards and incompatibilities should be summarized in the work plan for all chemicals involved in the experimental program.

Personnel should examine thoroughly all relevant information on the equipment that they anticipate using. This includes, if necessary, being given basic training in its use by our technical staff (where appropriate). Documented proof of the training should be kept. Not only is most analytical equipment very expensive to maintain and repair (both in terms of money and time), it can also be hazardous if operated incorrectly. 

The last page of every work plan should include a standard statement ( Form D: CBE Risk Assessment Audit Declaration Form) that the personnel undertaking the experimental program understand the hazards involved with their work and their responsibilities with respect to the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their work. If the work is carried out under the supervision of a faculty member, the faculty member should countersign the same page to indicate that they have read the work plan and are satisfied that the information is accurate and complete. 

If any of those assessing the work plan are not satisfied with the evaluation, the document is returned with comments for revision. The author may appeal to the departmental safety committee should they feel unjustifiably delayed and the committee's decision will be final and binding. 

Once the work plan has been approved by the faculty supervisor, the supervisor can have two choices: endorse the researcher to start the experimental work without waiting for HSEO review, or to wait for the HSEO review to be received by the researcher before endorsing the experimental work to start. The official work permit will be issued once the faculty approves the work for commencement. Otherwise, the work permit will only be issued after HSEO returns the review back to the researcher. The date stamped work permit will be displayed next to the experimental working area. The work permit should be updated if the experimental program is altered. At the end of a project, the work permit should be returned to the technical staff in charge of the laboratory. Copies of all current work plans are kept as soft files.

Personnel attempting to work without a valid work permit may be considered as endangering their fellow workers and will be treated with the utmost severity.

NOTES:
Each research faculty will appoint a Faculty Lab Representative who will review the work plans of the researchers in the group. Please refer to the link for the flow process for approval of the work plan.

 Form B: Flow Process of Work Plan for approval