Whether you work in a biomedical, a pharmaceutical, or a research and development lab, you will need an effective lab safety inspection checklist. Every lab is different, so your lab safety audit checklist must be specific to your facility. It must also be engaging so that your workforce will use it faithfully.
Why a Lab Safety Inspection Checklist Is Critical
Before we dive in to discuss how to make your safety checklist effective, let’s review why you need one in the first place. The answer is simple: without one, people may overlook a safety protocol. Complacency is a major contributor to workers not addressing detailed safety procedures.
This is especially true with workers who are more experienced or experts in their field. Such familiarity can lead to overconfidence and rushing through routine procedures. This is when accidents happen. Checklists help people slow down and be more mindful about what they’re doing.
Checklists can appear tedious and nit-picky, but the fact is that they work. So it’s important to have an effective strategy for how to get worker buy-in.
People like to know that what they’re being asked to do is worth their time. Explain why checklists are important and provide examples of when lax behavior by experienced professionals led to a safety calamity. To keep the importance of checklists in the forefront of your employees’ thoughts, include regular reminders in your safety moments.
Key Checklist Development Steps
To get you started, search for a general lab safety checklist. You’ll find many options online. From there, work toward customizing it to address your unique environment. Note that you should develop different checklists to address different situations.
You’ll need an everyday checklist, quarterly or monthly checklists, and checklists that pertain to specific procedures. Here are a few key actions that will get you on your way to making an effective document:
Review and include OSHA or other governmental regulations
Walk all areas of your lab and make notes about potential hazards
Regularly get feedback from employees
Review and update your checklists regularly, especially when changes are made
Group like items together
Regulations and Beyond
Let’s dive into these steps a little deeper. The first item here is an important starting point. This ensures that if and when a regulatory body inspects, you’ll be ready for it. Inspections can be very stressful. Being prepared will help them go smoothly.
But regulations are not enough because they are too general. The ultimate goal is employee well-being, and that can only be achieved if you tailor your checklist to your workplace.
The key element of the above list’s second item is to identify potential hazards. Too often, safety protocols are created in response to an incident. To avoid incidents altogether, it’s important to identify them before they happen.
Of course, it’s also important to learn from past mistakes. To discover when safety has gone wrong in the past, thoroughly review all of your past recordable incidents. Not repeating past mistakes will help keep that all-important TRIR down.
Get Help From the Lab
You must have employee participation to create a comprehensive laboratory safety inspection checklist doc. They’re the ones in the lab, so they’re in the best position to identify hazards. Also, listening to workers reminds them that their safety is your top concern.
People like to know that their well-being is important to management. And, workers are more likely to follow procedures they had a hand in creating. Getting workers involved is a win for everyone involved.
You may want to create a checklist that you can share with some workers. This will allow them to make changes to the checklist as needed. This short video explains how to do this in Google Keep:
Keep It Live
It cannot be emphasized enough: your checklist is a living document. It always needs to be up to date. This is another way to demonstrate that safety is a priority and that the safety management team is on top of its game. If you don’t care enough to keep checklists updated, soon enough your workforce will take the same attitude about following them.
Also, change the order of items in your checklist. If someone is looking at the same document time after time, they’ll be more likely to glaze over. Keep it fresh; you can even add in something fun or playful to keep people engaged.
Keep It Organized
One final consideration when making your laboratory safety audit checklist is to group your tasks. You can either group by location or by category—hazardous chemicals, general housekeeping, equipment, PPE, and so on. This makes your document easier to use.
Acknowledge Your Safer Workspace
When nothing goes wrong, workers get complacent and stop following protocols like checklists to the letter. It’s easy to slip into bad habits when everything is running smoothly.
To keep workers vigilant, be sure to acknowledge that anyone’s efforts to attend to the smallest checklist details are helping to keep everyone safe. If you can provide specific examples, all the better.
Keep employees enthusiastic about using your lab safety inspection checklist to keep them injury-free.