power or water pressure, and other emergencies. Such a central office should also make all laboratory workers familiar with applicable laws as well as the institution's policies and plans so that considering emergency response becomes a natural aspect of experiment planning for all laboratory workers. Many institutions that have worked with their local response agencies (e.g., hospital emergency rooms and fire stations) have found that such planning helps all parties develop a better understanding of the requirements for effective emergency response and a clearer appreciation of the potential magnitude and likelihood (or frequency) of the services that might be needed. These policies should include the broad types of emergency response mentioned above, as well as the maintenance of, and training in the use of, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, spill cleanup kits, eyewashes and safety showers, self-contained breathing apparatus, and so forth.

It is also the responsibility of the institution to determine the level of documentation appropriate for different laboratory operations, including experiment planning, as mentioned above, as well as emergency response planning. In some instances, minimum standards have already been spelled out by regulatory agencies, and the institution must ensure compliance. In other circumstances, such as for emergency response planning, it may simply be a good idea to establish laboratory standards for documenting the location of flammable solvent storage, the best routes for laboratory and building evacuation, the decision trees specifying the contact person, and so forth. Prudence also requires that appropriate levels of documentation be provided to emergency responders. Although some regulatory environments may specify that all facilities that handle chemicals must provide local response agencies with complete lists of chemical storage by location (with accompanying Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)), this type of detail is rarely appropriate for a laboratory where small quantities of thousands of different chemicals (many new and/or not yet fully characterized) are used. Even if a laboratory were able to comply with such a stipulation, the local response agency could easily be inundated with the enormous volume of paperwork and be unable to easily find the needed information in an emergency. A multipage inventory of complex names and structures of research chemicals, many of which never have been published in the literature, would be of little value to a public safety response team facing a laboratory fire. In planning for emergencies, therefore, the actual needs of the responders should be the highest priority, and the appropriate level of information should be provided to ensure effective emergency response.

Finally, some institutions, particularly those in private industry, require extensive documentation of the planning process for all experiments, while others do not. Similarly, undergraduate teaching laboratories often require detailed written experiment plans before work can commence, whereas this level of written experiment planning is much less common in graduate research programs. In the end, the extent of documentation is probably much less important than establishing a culture in which workers think through the potential hazards of experiments they plan to conduct and seek out the resources necessary to ensure that experiments are conducted safely. Documenting the experiment planning process is one tool that may help to build this proactive safety culture, but it will probably not be sufficient to ensure safe work if other drivers for prudent practices are absent.


One mechanism to facilitate effective planning is to consider the steps of an experiment in a flowchart. When the fundamental steps in the research process and the flow of work through each step are understood, the critical issues for laboratory work can be addressed in the sequence in which they are likely to be encountered. Once the goals and objectives of the experiment have been clearly formulated, the planning can begin. Consideration must be given, in turn, to risk assessment, acquisition and storage of chemicals, handling of chemicals and equipment, and disposal of waste. Other customized flowcharts, with more or less detail, should be considered by laboratories that employ different procedures or use only a few of these steps.

The general steps a laboratory worker must consider in planning an experiment are highlighted in the following paragraphs. The actual execution of each step is discussed in much greater detail in the following chapters.

Just as a clear understanding of research goals and objectives is an essential part of any scientific investigation, so also is a clear understanding of the goal of "safety first," and how it meshes with the research goals and objectives, an essential part of planning. The research goals and objectives should be stated clearly in order to generate unambiguous data and to facilitate consideration of such matters as source reduction and the substitution of benign alternatives to some reagents. Pollution prevention methods, in turn, can minimize exposure to hazards and the potential risk to the researchers while also minimizing the cost and waste disposal requirements associated with the experiment.

Following the philosophy described in Chapter 1, the development of a laboratory culture that empha-

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