Study H and P phrases

Instruct all staff who are going to work with dangerous substances to study the most common H and P phrases and, if still applicable to the packaging, the R and S phrases. These are stated on the packaging, on the material safety data sheet or in the of dangerous substances register. Also instruct them to study the comprehensive information about the risks and the measures outlined in the material safety data sheet that comes with the substance. Material safety data sheets can be found in the dangerous substances database. Of course, as a manager you must also be aware of these matters.

NFU dangerous substances database.

Effective organisational measures

The organisational measures form the basis of a safe workplace. Therefore, take the following measures for your department:

  • Establish clothing procedures;
  • Draw up cleaning procedures;
  • Carry out periodic inspections and checks;
  • Provide personal protective equipment;
  • Take additional measures you consider necessary to ensure a safe workplace.

Also ensure that clear instructions are given in the workplace during (continuous) experiments and investigations with equipment and dangerous substances without expert supervision. This is important in order to be able to sound an effective alarm in the event of a malfunction. Think of data such as:

  • Nature of the work;
  • Risks associated with the substances used;
  • Measures to be taken in the event of malfunctions;
  • Names and telephone numbers of the responsible staff;
  • Any other information you consider important for specific activities.

Appropriate technical facilities

Appropriate technical facilities also contribute to a safe and healthy work environment. Matters such as the ones below require good care and close attention:

  • Construction and fitting-out of the workplace;
  • Physical containment of the source (separate, confined spaces);
  • Air management and ventilation rate;
  • Storage facilities;
  • Decontaminability.

The following requirements apply to the technical facilities:

  • Fit out areas where dangerous substances are used especially for this purpose in accordance with all the prescribed requirements. Examples of these rooms and areas are laboratories, cytostatics preparation and administration rooms, medicine rooms, radionuclide rooms, GMO rooms (ML laboratories), operating theatres, sterile units, engineering workshops, waste areas;
  • Regular work with extremely toxic substances or carcinogenic mutagenic substances should wherever possible be performed in a specially designated (or sufficiently protected) room. Allow only limited access to such a space;
  • Make sure people work in a well-functioning fume cupboard or provide effective local extraction if dangerous gases, vapours, mists or dust can be released during work;
  • Avoid recirculation of locally extracted air when handling substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic or, if inhaled, sensitising properties. Avoid disturbance of the air balance. Therefore, keep doors closed as much as possible;
  • If there is a risk of leakage, work with proper tools: drip trays, funnels, etcetera;
  • Install safety alarms.

Clear labelling

Everyone is obliged to label bottles, jars and drums containing dangerous substances when they are filled in the workplace for their own use or when composite solutions are made for their own use. The following suffices:

  • User name;
  • Creation date;
  • Name of the substance;
  • Hazard class;
  • Hazard pictogram.

Glassware or tools on/in which constantly changing dangerous substances are used must state, in clear and comprehensible terms, the common name or the dangerous components if it is a compound. The above is not mandatory if staff use the glassware for short-term duties and clean or dispose of it immediately afterwards.

Hygiene precautions

Care, orderliness and cleanliness are keywords for working with dangerous substances. Instruct staff and ensure that they comply with the following hygiene precautions:

  • Do not store food in areas where dangerous substances are used. It is not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, prepare food, apply cosmetics, put in contact lenses and the like there;
  • Minimise paperwork in areas where dangerous substances are used. Do not under any circumstances carry out paperwork on work tables;
  • Provide an easy-to-clean workplace and put as few items as possible on the work table;
  • Wash your hands when leaving the room and after contamination of the hands;
  • Tie up long hair;
  • Avoid ingestion and inhalation of vapours during pipetting. Pipetting tools such as a pipette balloon or an automatic pipette can be used for this purpose;
  • Clean the workplace and equipment contaminated with dangerous substances after work;
  • Prevent aerosol formation of high-risk substances. This includes venting syringes, transferring liquids and spraying alcohol during disinfection. Take protective measures if necessary;
  • Prevent evaporation of volatile organic compounds and spread of dangerous substances as much as possible. Keep containers closed wherever possible. The deliberate evaporation of dangerous substances in order to discharge them in this way is not permitted;
  • Do not use flammable liquids near an open flame or ignition source;
  • Keep the amount of substance to be handled as low as possible and limit the duration of exposure;
  • Always wear protective clothing when working with dangerous substances. Other work clothing can, if necessary, be supplemented with an apron;
  • Do not wear the coats or overalls outside the designated work areas;
  • Put on clean, protective clothing regularly;
  • Wear safety goggles or a face shield if there is a risk of eye damage during work;
  • Use suitable respiratory protective equipment when handling volatile, toxic or health damaging substances to which one may be exposed. Store respiratory protective equipment in a designated place and ensure that it is checked after each use;
  • Use appropriate gloves where necessary to prevent hand exposure;
  • Change disposable gloves regularly to prevent penetration and contamination of the environment;
  • When gloves are spilled on, they should be replaced immediately;
  • In the event of skin lesions (wounds, cracks and cuts on the hands), use a water-repellent plaster, in combination with a glove if necessary.

Inspection and maintenance

For the purposes of a safe workplace, the manager is also responsible for periodic inspections and maintenance:

  • Equipment used to handle dangerous substances;
  • Refrigerators;
  • Biosafety cabinets;
  • Emergency showers;
  • Eye showers;
  • Safety devices;
  • Safety aids and personal protective equipment.

The manufacturer's manual explains how the equipment should operate and what it should be checked for.