Following each inspection, a detailed report is sent to the laboratory supervisor and appropriate administration. Photographs taken during the inspection process can emphasize the critical nature of a violation. Consider giving special recognition to laboratories demonstrating good laboratory practice and those that have demonstrated significant improvements in safety.

2.E.1 Types of Inspection Programs: Who Conducts Them and What They Offer

There are several types of inspection programs, each providing a different perspective and function. A comprehensive laboratory inspection program includes a combination of some or all of these programs.

2.E.1.1 Routine Inspections

Trained laboratory personnel and supervisors should complete general equipment and facility inspections on a regular basis. For certain types of equipment in constant use, such as gas chromatographs, daily inspections may be appropriate. Other types of equipment may need only weekly or monthly inspection or inspection prior to use if operated infrequently. Keep a record of inspection attached to the equipment or in a visible area. The challenge for any inspection program is to keep laboratory personnel continuously vigilant. They need positive encouragement to develop the habit of inspection and to adopt the philosophy that good housekeeping and maintenance for their workspace protect them and may help them produce better research results.

2.E.1.2 Self-Audits

To supplement an inspection program, some institutions promote self-inspections within the laboratories. Laboratory personnel may conduct their own inspections for their own benefit or management may ask them to self-audit and report their findings, using the routine inspections as a check on the self-inspections. This approach can be mutually beneficial, raising awareness, promoting the institutional safety culture, and easing the burden on management.

2.E.1.3 Program Audits

A program audit includes both a physical inspection and a review of the operations and the facilities. This type of audit is generally conducted by a team, which includes the laboratory supervisor, senior management, and laboratory safety representatives, and presents an excellent opportunity to promote a culture of safety and prudence within an organization. The supervisor and senior management have the opportunity to take a close look at the facilities and operations. They can discuss with individual workers issues of interest or concern that may fall outside the scope of the actual inspection. A constructive and positive approach to observed problems and issues fosters an attitude of cooperation and leadership with regard to safety and helps build and reinforce a culture of teamwork and cooperation that has benefits far beyond protecting personnel and the physical facilities.

The audit begins with a discussion of the safety program and culture, and a review of operations, written programs, training records, and pertinent policies and procedures and how they are implemented in the laboratory. A laboratory inspection that includes interviews with laboratory personnel follows to determine the level of safety awareness. An open discussion with key personnel can ascertain how personnel, supervisors, managers, and safety officers can better support each other.

This type of audit provides a much more comprehensive view of the laboratory than a routine inspection.

2.E.1.4 Peer Inspections

One of the most effective safety tools a facility can use is periodic peer-level inspections. Usually, the people who fulfill this role work in the organization they serve, but not in the area being surveyed. Personnel may participate on an ad hoc basis, or the institution may select specific individuals to be part of a more formal, ongoing inspection team. A peer inspection program has the intrinsic advantage of being perceived as less threatening than other forms of surveys or audits.

Peer inspections depend heavily on the knowledge and commitment of the people who conduct them. Individuals who volunteer or are selected to perform inspections for only a brief time may not learn enough about an operation or procedure to observe and comment constructively. People who receive involuntary appointments or who serve too long may not maintain the desired level of diligence.

A high-quality peer-level inspection program reduces the need for frequent inspections by supervisory personnel. However, peer inspections should not replace other inspections completely. Walk-throughs by the organization’s leadership demonstrate commitment to the safety programs, which is key to their continuing success.

2.E.1.5 Environmental Health and Safety Inspections

The organization’s EHS staff, the safety committee, or an equivalent group may also conduct laboratory



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement