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Fulfilling OSHA's standards for laboratory safety

Laboratory workers in Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, run the risk of being exposed to carcinogens and other toxins, but they can be protected under OSHA's Laboratory standard. Employers must do their part, though, in fulfilling these standards. It all starts with designating someone as a chemical hygiene officer and having that person develop and implement a chemical hygiene plan.

The plan should make the standard operating procedures clear when it comes to handling hazardous chemicals. It should detail the engineering controls and specific practices that are to be used to minimize exposure. It must include a section about personal protective equipment as well. Other special protections, such as decontamination and waste handling procedures, may also be needed.

Employers must ensure that employees are trained on these procedures and can understand the information provided by safety data sheets. These data sheets should include substances produced in the laboratory as well as the byproducts. Employees must be told about the symptoms of exposure and be encouraged to undergo a medical evaluation if they suspect exposure behind the permissible exposure limits.

It's also essential to monitor exposure levels to see if they exceed the PEL or action level. Employers must keep comprehensive records of monitoring data, training sessions, all medical evaluations undergone and more. The chemical hygiene plan should be updated annually.

Workers who sustain an on-the-job injury or develop a condition as a result of workplace conditions can receive benefits through the workers' compensation program. These benefits can cover a percentage of lost income and all medical expenses. In this state, one can achieve a lump-sum settlement via compromise and release agreement. Either way, the process can get complicated, so victims may want a lawyer by their side. A lawyer might help them mount an appeal if the employer denies the claim.

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