time than the potential value of recovered solvent. For more information about solvent recycling, see Chapter 5, section 5.D.3.2 Before embarking on any pollution prevention program, it is worthwhile to review the options thoroughly with local EHS program managers and to review other organizations’ programs to become fully aware of the relative merits of those options.

Perhaps the most significant impediment to comprehensive waste reduction in laboratories is the element of scale. Techniques that are practical and cost-effective on a 55-gal or tank-car quantity of material may be highly unrealistic when applied to a 50-g (or milligram) quantity, or vice versa. Evaluating the costs of both equipment and time becomes especially important when dealing with very small quantities.

1.F.3 Changes in the Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Changes in the legal and regulatory requirements over the past several decades have greatly affected laboratory operations. Because of increased regulations, the collection and disposal of laboratory waste constitute major budget items in the operation of every chemical laboratory. The cost of accidents in terms of time and money spent on fines for regulatory violations and on litigation are significant. Of course, protection of students and research personnel from toxic materials is not only an economic necessity but an ethical obligation. Laboratory accidents have resulted in serious, debilitating injuries and death, and the personal impact of such events cannot be forgotten.

In 1990, OSHA issued the Laboratory Standard (29 CFR § 1910.1450), a performance-based rule that serves the community well. In line with some of the developments in laboratory practice, the committee recommends that OSHA review the standard in current context. In particular, the section on CHPs, 1910.1450(e), does not currently include emergency preparedness, emergency response, and consideration of physical hazards as well as chemical hazards. In addition, this book provides guidance that could be a basis for strengthening the employee information and training section, 1910.1450(f). Finally, the nonmandatory Appendix A of the Laboratory Standard was based on the original edition of Prudent Practices in the Laboratory, published in 1981 and currently out of print. The committee recommends that the appendix be updated to reflect the changes in the current edition in both content and reference.

The Laboratory Standard requires that every workplace conducting research or training where hazardous chemicals are used develop a CHP. This requirement has generated a greater awareness of safety issues at all educational science and technology departments and research institutions. Although the priority assigned to safety varies widely among personnel within academic departments and divisions, increasing pressure comes from several other directions in addition to the regulatory agencies and to the potential for accident litigation. In some cases, significant fines have been imposed on principal investigators who received citations for safety violations. These actions serve to increase the faculty’s concern for laboratory safety. Boards of trustees or regents of educational institutions often include prominent industrial leaders who are aware of the increasing national concern with safety and environmental issues and are particularly sensitive to the possibility of institutional liability as a result of laboratory accidents. Academic and government laboratories can be the targets of expensive lawsuits. The trustees assist academic officers both by helping to develop an appropriate institutional safety system with an effective EHS office and by supporting departmental requests for modifications of facilities to comply with safety regulations.

Federal granting agencies recognize the importance of sound laboratory practices and active laboratory safety programs in academe. Some require documentation of the institution’s safety program as part of the grant proposal. When negligent or cavalier treatment of laboratory safety regulations jeopardizes everybody’s ability to obtain funding, a powerful incentive is created to improve laboratory safety.

1.F.4 Accessibility for Scientists with Disabilities

Over the years, chemical manufacturers have modernized their views of safety. Approaches to safety for all—including scientists with disabilities—have largely changed in laboratories as well. In the past, full mobility and full eyesight and hearing capabilities were considered necessary for safe laboratory operations. Now, encouraged legally by the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, leaders in laboratory design and management realize that a nimble mind is more difficult to come by than modified space or instrumentation.

As a result, assistive technologies now exist to circumvent almost any inaccessibility, and laboratories can be equipped to take advantage of them. Many of the modifications to laboratory space and fixtures have benefits for all. Consider, as a single example, the assistance of ramps and an automatic door opener to all lab personnel moving a large cart or carrying two heavy containers.

It is a logical extension of the culture of safety to include a culture of accessibility. For information about

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