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The significance of laboratory fume hood safety cannot be minimized. And, when it comes to protecting those who work with volatile or toxic compounds and chemicals, enough cannot be said about following fume hood safety guidelines.

In this article, we observe why accidents happen, steps to take when one does occur, and ways to prevent an accident from happening:

Reasons Accidents Happen

If you search laboratory accidents concerning fume hoods, the results will show that they generally happen for one of the following five reasons:

  • Insufficient supervision
  • Inadequate training
  • Improper safety procedures
  • Lack of proper safety equipment
  • Safety procedures were not followed

Seldomly, there is a problem with the laboratory fume hood, but this is uncommon.

Serious injury or even death can happen in labs where hazardous chemicals are involved.

Steps to Take in an Accident

Step 1 – Respond to Laboratory Accident

First and foremost, it is crucial to take all measures to protect individuals working in the laboratory…contain any spills, put out any fires, attend to the injured, if necessary, evacuate the area, and contact emergency services.

Step 2 – Study the Reason of the Laboratory Accident

It is important to study the accident as soon as possible. This helps to prevent the loss of important information and possible witnesses forgetting vital details. It is imperative to study whether the equipment, such as the chemical fume hood, worked properly, if safety measures were followed, and what aspects may have played a role in the accident.

Step 3 – Prepare Root Cause Analysis

A root cause analysis is a procedure utilized to determine the primary source of a problem. When it comes to laboratory accidents, the procedure would include:

Determining Possible Causes of Accident

Questions to ask would include:

What circumstances let the accident to occur? For instance…Not following safety procedures or proper use of the chemical fume hood.

What series of events led to the laboratory accident? For instance…Step by step activity involving hazardous materials.

What elements co-existed that could have added to the accident? For instance…Improper training on the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses and lab coats.

Determining the Root Cause

Begin with the informal elements above and through trial and error, identify which elements where the actual root cause of the lab accident.

Determining Communication Challenges

Discover how the accident might have been prevented from happening with better communication…safety procedures communication, improved training, as well as feedback from the fume hood manufacturer or maintenance personnel.

Prioritizing Communication Challenges

Communication challenges which made the most impact on the fume hood accident must be addressed first.
Following the completion of the root cause analysis, it is crucial that the information is reported to the individuals who are responsible for the safety of those who work in the lab.

Step 4 – Remedy the Problem

After determining the reason for the accident, measures must be utilized to improve safety in the lab and to prevent similar accidents from occurring again. To ensure that the same issues that resulted in the accident will be fixed, a plan of action must be created. This may include ensuring proper airflow, exhaust velocity, and adequate containment of hazardous vapors within the chemical fume hood.

Step 5 – Test Any and All New Measures 

All new safety measures that have been put in place must be monitored and tested to determine that they are successful safety measures that should be implemented in order to avoid the lab accident again. This could involve testing the performance and functionality of the fume hood components, such as the filter and exhaust system.

By following these steps, lab personnel, including students and chemistry lab workers, can help ensure the safe use of the chemical fume hood and other lab equipment, reducing the risk of accidents and chemical burns.