While electrical safety should be a key priority in every workplace, it’s simply essential in clinical laboratories, where high-stakes research is carried out using often volatile chemicals and valuable equipment. Although checking how electrically sound your equipment is may seem like a chore when you’re faced with a busy work schedule, it’s easy to keep on top of electrical safety – incorporate these simple but necessary checks into your everyday processes and you’ll reduce the risk of loss, wastage or accidents in the lab:
Plug sockets – Because the vast majority of lab equipment (including chemical storage refrigerators) is powered by electricity, even a brief electrical failure can be financially catastrophic and unsafe for lab workers. A simple way to avoid this is regularly checking all connections, outlets and plug sockets in the environment – make sure you test outlets and plug sockets regularly and replace any cracked or damaged casing immediately. Keep a special eye on outlets positioned near sinks or other sources of moisture and ensure that these have ground-circuit protection
Circuits – Regularly check that all fuses and circuit breakers in the lab are present and in good working order to maintain electrical safety and avoid power outages. The nichrome wire found in many pieces of laboratory equipment is vulnerable to electrical surges, so ensure that you regularly use a handheld current tester to check on circuits in the lab – failing to do this could lead to expensive equipment replacement and maintenance fees. Where possible, make sure that electrical equipment is switched off and unplugged when not in use.
Equipment quality checks – Conducting regular risk assessments of your operations and workplace (every 6 months to a year at minimum) can go a long way in reducing the risk of electrical emergencies in the lab. This includes removing and replacing any damaged equipment and ensuring that any maintenance work is carried out by a qualified electrician. When it comes to disposing of electrical waste and buying new lab equipment, try to be as eco-friendly as you can.
Emergency procedures – To avoid potential injury and ensure that things go according to plan in the case of an emergency, make sure that your staff have been trained in the proper emergency procedures. This could include how to shut off power or break circuits in the case of fire or an electrical accident, where to locate the main switchboard and where fire safety equipment and relevant PPE is located in the lab.