What is the OSHA Laboratory Standard?

OSHA Laboratory Standard

The OSHA Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratory Standard, commonly known as the OSHA Laboratory Standard, is designed to protect workers from hazards posed by harmful chemicals. The OSHA laboratory standard is discussed in greater detail below. 

What are the Requirements of the OSHA Laboratory Standard?

Under the OSHA Laboratory Standard, employers must designate a Chemical Hygiene Officer, and have a written Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). Employers must actively verify that the plan remains effective. The CHP must contain a series of required components. These include:

  • Provisions for employee training;
  • Chemical exposure monitoring, where appropriate;
  • Medical consultation after exposure occurs;
  • Criteria for the selection and use of personal protective equipment (PPE); 
  • Use of engineering controls that protect workers, by removing hazardous conditions, or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard (examples of engineering controls include local exhaust ventilation to capture and remove airborne emissions); and
  • Special precautions for particularly hazardous chemicals.

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Under the OSHA laboratory standard, the CHP must be tailored to reflect the specific chemical hazards present in the laboratory where the CHP is to be used. Under the OSHA lab safety standard, specific hazardous laboratory chemicals include:

  • Oxidizers (e.g., sodium nitrate, sodium iodate);
  • Oxidizing acids (e.g., nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide);
  • Flammable liquids (e.g., methanol, ethanol);
  • Basic flammable liquids (e.g., triethylamine, diethylamine);
  • Inorganic bases (e.g., metal hydroxides such as sodium and potassium hydroxide);
  • Organic bases (e.g., amines such as ethanolamine or tributylamine);
  • Acidic flammable liquids (e.g., acetic acid, formic acid);
  • Organic acids (e.g., butyric acid, pentanoic acid);
  • Inorganic acids (e.g., hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid);
  • Toxic metal salts (e.g., silver chloride, cadmium sulfate);
  • Cyanides (e.g., sodium cyanide, potassium cyanide);
  • Sulfides (e.g., lead sulfides, iron sulfides);
  • Pyrophorics (e.g., methyllithium, diethylzinc); and
  • Water-reactives (e.g., alkali metals such as sodium, lithium, and potassium).

In terms of training, laboratory personnel must receive training regarding the OSHA laboratory standard, the Chemical Hygiene Plan, and other laboratory safety practices, including exposure detection, physical and health hazards associated with chemicals, and protective measures.

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What is the OSHA Laboratory Standard Exposure Determination?

Under the OSHA laboratory standard, employers must measure (monitor) an employee’s level of exposure to any substance regulated by a standard that requires monitoring, if there is reason to believe that exposure levels for that substance routinely exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL). If, upon initial monitoring, there is reason to believe that exposure levels for a substance routinely exceed the PEL for that substance, the employer must continue to perform periodic monitoring, in accordance with the exposure monitoring provisions of the relevant standard. Monitoring may only be terminated when the termination criteria for a particular standard (e.g., the formaldehyde standard) are met.

Whenever monitoring is performed, an employer must, within 15 working days after the receipt of any monitoring results, notify the employee of these results in writing, either individually or by posting results in an appropriate location that is accessible to employees.

What are Air Contaminants?

Many hazardous chemicals are inhaled through the air. A number of chemicals commonly used in