Infoscience

Journal article

Using very toxic or especially hazardous chemical substances in a research and teaching institution

Wrong manipulation, storage or disposal of chemicals can cause great damage whether it occurs on industrial plants, in academia or at home. Amongst the numerous reasons, lack of knowledge and haste are the most common ones. Except for a few substances subject to international agreements, the academic world benefits from a great latitude in the use of chemicals. To make colleagues aware of the hazards and risks associated to chemicals, and protect them accordingly, the Occupational Safety and Health service of the School of Basic Sciences (SB-SST) has decided to submit to authorization the purchase and manipulation of very hazardous chemicals. The process starts by a thoughtful discussion with the requester about the substance and whether a less hazardous alternative could be used instead. If the request is validated, the work procedure is analyzed and the protective measures for safe manipulation of the chemical checked. Consequently the SB-SST authorizes or not the personnel to order the compound. This innovative participative risk-management concept is illustrated herein with osmium tetroxide, as an example of a lethal compound used in chemistry, biology and electronic microscopy. The data resulting from the authorization process is recorded in a database and the need to review the associated procedure and/or the authorization itself is performed twice a year during safety audits of the workplaces.

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