for should include incorrect fittings (incompatible materials), installation errors (e.g., excessive tightness), and defective or missing regulators, flow controls, and monitoring devices. Also check for leaks in inert gas systems to avoid the cost for "lost" gases.
Check proximity of flammable materials to any potential ignition sources. Open flames and devices that generate sparks should not be near flammables. Pay special attention to devices placed in fume hoods that do not meet National Electrical Safety Code (U.S. DOC, 1993) Division 1, Group C and D explosion-resistance specifications for electrical devices. Stirrers, hot plates, Variacs, heat tape, outlet strips, ovens (all types), refrigerators, flame sources (e.g., flame ionization detectors (FIDs) and atomic absorption spectrometers), and heat guns constitute the majority of devices that do not typically conform to these code requirements (see section 8.C.6.1).
Check guards for rotating machinery and heating devices as protective measures for mechanical and thermal hazards. Test safety switches and emergency stops periodically. Inspect setups for unattended operation, shielding of high-pressure and vacuum equipment, and any other equipment hazards. Compliance with OSHA "lock-out/tag-out" regulations (29 CFR 1910.147) also needs to be verified.
Periodically test and inspect emergency devices (e.g., safety showers and eyewash stations) and safety equipment (e.g., fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and first aid and spill control kits) to make sure they are functional. Inspectors need to verify that workers are using personal protection and safety equipment appropriately in their day-to-day work.
Keep aisles and emergency exits free of obstacles. Unused supplies and equipment should be stored so as to avoid blocking exits.
Carefully examine any documentation required by the institution. Such documentation, which should be made readily available, may include experiment plans, training plans and records, chemical and equipment hazard information, operating plans, and an upto-date emergency evacuation plan. An emergency plan should always be prepared for the contingencies of ventilation failure (resulting from power failure, for example) and other emergencies, such as fire or explosion in a chemical fume hood.
The easiest inspection program to implement requires laboratory supervisors to inspect their own work space and equipment on a periodic basis. These individuals are the "first line of defense" for a program of safety excellence. They need to note items such as open containers, faulty faucets or valves, frayed wiring, broken apparatus, obstructions on floors or aisles, and unsafe clutter. They also need to follow through to make sure that any problems receive prompt resolution.
General equipment inspection should also be done fairly frequently. 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.
The challenge for any inspection program is to keep laboratory workers continuously vigilant. Workers need positive encouragement to develop the habit of inspection and to adopt the philosophy that good housekeeping and maintenance for their work space protect them and may help them produce better results for their efforts. Incentive programs may stimulate workers to pay closer attention to the condition of their equipment and work space.
Probably the most traditional type of inspection is that conducted by the laboratory supervisor. This form of inspection presents an excellent opportunity to promote a culture of safety and prudence within an organization. The supervisor gains the opportunity to take a close look at the facilities and operations. He or she also can discuss with individual workers issues of interest or concern that may fall outside the scope of the actual inspection. Again, a constructive and positive approach to observed problems and issues will foster an attitude of cooperation and leadership with regard to safety. It can help build and reinforce a culture of teamwork and cooperation that has benefits far beyond protecting the people and physical facilities.
The International Loss Control Institute (ILCI), a private organization contracted to assess safety standards at industrial facilities, recommends a monthly inspection of industrial laboratory facilities and equipment by supervisory personnel. Some institutions may deem this frequency unnecessarily high. Supervisors should probably make inspections no less frequently than once per quarter.
More senior staff should be encouraged to inspect facilities periodically, too. In most cases, these inspections should occur at least annually. They offer the added benefit of providing a senior leader with a good overview of the condition of the facilities, the work conducted in the laboratories, who does what work, and how people feel about their work. In essence, these kinds of inspections supplement the normal practice of "management by walking around"