When you're running a lab, you know that safety is always a top priority. Most laboratories deal with caustic chemicals and hazardous materials that can be dangerous when handled improperly. This means that labs, in any industry, require a bit more safety training than a lot of other work environments. Even though you know safety is important, how can you relay that importance to your employees in a way that encourages a healthy, safe, and productive laboratory environment? Here are a few ideas to help teach your lab employees proper safety procedures in a way that ensures they remember them:
Require that all employees read safety handbook
The best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page before you even start offering training courses is to know that everyone's read the safety handbook. Your safety handbook probably does a good job of laying the groundwork for standard safety procedures, and will work to make sure employees have a general overview of how they're supposed to conduct themselves safely within the lab. What's more, your company probably spent a great deal of time and money to have that handbook put together, so you should put it to good use! And while you can't sit and watch employees read the handbook to make sure they've done it, you can offer incentives to employees who can recite certain safety procedures, or offer a short quiz to everyone after giving out handbooks.
Go over in-lab general safety concerns
It's a good idea to find a time to sit down with lab staff and go over general safety concerns and procedures as a group. Studies have shown that an open forum and a relaxed discussion session helps us remember things, and it offers a comfortable setting for employees to ask questions about safety procedures they're not sure about or have found discrepancies with. By getting everyone in a room to go over even the most general safety concerns, like where the eye wash station is and how to use it, can do a lot to encourage a safe lab environment.
Schedule training classes
Even if you know every single one of your safety procedures backward and forwards, it's often helpful to hire a certified training professional to teach your employees how best to stay safe. Training classes are a worthwhile investment and are often required in a variety of industries. If you find it too difficult to get everyone in a room for a training class, you might consider online training courses in your most troublesome or important safety procedures, as well as the trickier to teach ones like first aid.
Review when to order replacement PPE
Every laboratory has a budget for necessary safety equipment, from PPE like gloves and goggles, to supplies and maintenance for your eyewash station. What's important is that your employees know when and how to order more of it. You have the budget, but it doesn't do you much good if you run out of gloves and no one's ordered more. Make sure you have a procedure in place so that employees know who to notify when they're getting low on important personal protection equipment, and how to make sure an order goes through for more. For example, you might have employees notify the lab manager when they only have one box of disposable gloves left or if there are only two pairs of functional goggles left. By placing the order before your lab actually runs out of PPE, you'll ensure your employees are always protected, and you get the replacement stock in on time.
Explain why safety practices are important
You can offer as much training as possible, and most people will go through the motions to get a grasp of it, but a good way to make sure employees are invested in their safety training is to explain why these procedures are important. How do safety procedures help keep employees safe, and how do they ensure that your processes are running efficiently? What would happen if you didn't have safety procedures? By making it clear not only how to function safely in the lab, but also why it's so important, employees will be more invested in ensuring they're following proper procedure.
Deliver incentives for a safe culture
Another good way to get employee buy-in on safety procedures is to deliver incentives for safe environments. Some companies offer incentives like pizza parties or free tacos if the lab makes it a certain number of days without safety incident or injury. Others offer smaller, individual incentives for the shift that follows safety practices the most closely, or the employee who always remembers to close the sash on the fume hood. Whatever you do, make sure you're encouraging safety best practices in a positive way. This will help employees get into the habit of following safety procedures and keep everyone in your lab safe.
Encourage a safe environment Safety starts with management. There are a great number of companies who tell their employees that safety is a priority and offer training courses, but don't actually encourage employees to follow safety procedures in favor of quicker production. If you really want to maintain a safe lab, encourage employees to take all of their breaks, praise employees who follow proper procedure, and make it clear to everyone that safety is your top priority. When employees know that their safety is something management genuinely cares about, they're more likely to take to safe procedure wholeheartedly. By encouraging and fostering a safe environment, you'll be doing a lot to make sure your lab, and your employees, stay safe. If you're working to develop a lab that's safer and more efficient, and are looking for new supplies or materials, be sure to get in touch with Multi-Lab! A custom lab design and manufacturing company, we can offer the safe designs and equipment you're looking for, at a price you can afford. For more information about our custom laboratories and products, give our office a call at (616) 552-4084 or contact us online today!