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Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/11/2008 3:05 PM

I need some help with safety rules (personal protective equipment) in a lab. If you have experience or insight I would appreciate your input.

The Lab in question has general policy requirements to wear a lab coat, safety glasses and steel toe shoes at all times. There is an additional requirement to wear nitrile, latex or rubber gloves when handling samples. Handling samples is defined as picking up a sealed jar delivered for analysis, opening and preparing samples and working around apparatus that may have chemicals on the areas touched and the disposal of the chemicals. There is very good acceptance, understanding and compliance

The specific question involves when "chemical goggles" are required when working with strong acids and strong bases.

Because someone was observed pouring a strong acid with glasses and not goggles we reviewed the policy and found some deficiencies.

We implemented a policy that required goggles when handling acids and caustics. The wording may be too restrictive and cause unnecessary use of the goggles.

Two feedback responses were

  1. Handling includes steps that goggles should not be required. Many samples are brought in sealed jars and not opened. They are visually inspected and stored until consumed then disposed.
  2. The policy now covers all acids and bases. Highest is 98% sulfuric and strong acetic, hydrochloric, and 40% caustic. Some apparatus use very weak acids, buffers and bases that are not as bad. Our chemist would say no worse than a soft drink or lemon juice.

My questions are:

  1. Do other labs define when the exposure risk exists and goggles would be required? Example: When a sealed sample container arrives in the receiving window, everyone in the lab must wear goggles. Or Goggles must be worn by the technician from the time the seal is broken until the time the contents are contained or neutralized.
  2. What is the method or reference to determine the concentration that the strength would be a risk where goggle use is appropriate? Our feedback is that the pH is not a good indicator and may not protect in cases when needed and force goggles in cases where they are not needed.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Paddler

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#1

Re: Goggle use in lab with acids and caustics

08/11/2008 3:49 PM

One idea is - If in doubt, mandatory safety gear when in certain areas or doing certain jobs (such as the area for pouring chemicals), regardless of sample concentration. This ensures that a safety routine is maintained and becomes, well routine practice (and hopefully second nature), rather than leaving it up to the judgement of the technician. This way also protects the technicians if the sample is mislabeled and what they assume to be lemon juice is in fact concentrated sulphuric acid.

Making it mandatory (to say wear safety glasses) is a lot easier to implement and enforce than trying to perform risk assessment and define what level of pH is safe.

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#2

Re: Goggle use in lab with acids and caustics

08/11/2008 5:23 PM

OSHA guide lines is if you recognize that there is a hazard then the employer should take all steps necessary to eliminate it.

In the working with some of these chemicals you realize the need to protect your employees from accidental contact with the chemicals.

You are asking to balance a fine line between personal protection and personal comfort. The effect of a chemical on different people can vary. So to put percentages of solution on it may cause harm. To allow individual discretions then you have the problem with risk takers.

What if the accident that these PPE are to protect them from is bad enough to splash in to another's eyes that is not handling then. Say just was walking by at the wrong time.

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#3

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/11/2008 11:53 PM

Would it be permissible that you change the goggle requirement to facial protection? A face shield is often more comfortable and easier to use than goggles are.

Requiring that jars be unsealed and analyzed while in a hood, or at least behind a splash shield could go even further.

As there is always the potential for dropping jars, splashing, etc, some level of eye protection is well advised.

I don't think the strength of the acids or bases is a good arbiter of whether to wear the glasses. Many chemicals which pose no corrosive problem are quite harmful to the eyes. Over time, even the fumes of some chemicals are going to prove to be harmful.

Considering that your employees are issued no spare eyes, but can be issued goggles, face shields, etc, I would err on the side of caution. If there are chemicals open, then everyone in the area should be wearing protection. Spills and splashes can affect folks other than the experimenter themselves.

Going further, moving towards enclosed work areas, which eliminate the possibility of splashing would allow your employees more comfort and safety. Also reworking tasks to minimize handling and to standardize movement as much as possible could help.

I would suggest involving the lab workers in the decision to some extent for two reasons. One is to get more ideas on how to do it, and the second is to get the buy in that you will need to implement the rules.

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#4

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 12:57 AM

History says that in the areas that exposure can happen, then protection must be used.

Our paint store and mixing area requires eye protection for all people always. So, even if I go in to do an audit on the maintenance records, I must wear protection. You never know when an accident will happen.

Our toolroom operators must always wear safety boots. You don't get advance notice of a large piece of metal falling towards your foot. (Or leastways not enough to go and put on your safety boots and come back.)

Our electronics operators must always wear ESD protection (to protect the integrity of the product) even though only a small proportion of the components actually need protection.

You safety protocols need to be a SYSTEM and not some ad hoc arrangement left to the intuition of the operators.

Maybe though, you could split the workplace so that all materials are treated as "hazardous" until determined otherwise and then those that are not hazardous could be removed to a "low risk" processing zone where other controls could be defined.

Regarding your prescription of multiple choice gloves, this should maybe be a little more defined. Nitrile (for instance) is not suitable for long term (15 minute) exposure to certain solvents. (Thus a technician could be wearing nitrile, complying to your requirements and still be at risk.)

My opinion however is that gloves should be worn in the cases that you have indicated, since you don't know what contaminants are potentially on the outside of the containers. Even water samples from cooling towers and waterways can have some prety nasty bugs in them.

Safety ALWAYS. Partition the workspace to isolate the risk, (fume cabinets, interspace partitions, bunded containers while moving materials around, wheeled trolleys if moving more than a few meters) good alarms, good ventilation and good first aid available at all times.

As someone else said. "Only one pair of eyes per operator." No spares, no repairs, just pain when it happens.

Yes, PPE is a burden on th etechnicians, but consider the alternative.

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#5

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 5:30 AM

Must be terrible living in the colonies. Need to make contact with the old world.

I specialise in chemical safety and for operations which handle a multitude of chemicals which presents its own problems - as you seem to be aware. Because of the variety this means that small operations of this sort can present a bigger problem to than in the larger operations who can be putting one or few chemical into one end and getting one out of the other

I don't know how it goes in the States but in Europe all chemicals should be labelled, Here in South Africa (another colony) we have regulations to protect animals but not people so labels are dodgy. In our industry (Paint & Allied) we looked at the US HMIS (hazardous materials identification system) and produced one we thought was more suitable for our labour force. Look at my website www.hazman.co.za.

That only takes one so far and so we need to lay down concepts. So, in the case of aggressive materials, if there are aggresive fumes eg Hydrogen chloride then you need goggles but as there is also a splash problem then a face shield is also required but not instead of! As even the smallest quantity represents a splash problem to eyes & skin a face shield would be a minimum requirement. If the fumes were excessive then a suitable respirator would be needed. A full-face respirator or hood would also serve if the fumes were excessive, aggresive and not in a fume cupboard. If a substance such as caustic soda was to be used - no fumes - but aggressive - especially to eyes!

In the case of all dusts are problematic but some are also toxic as well as a nuisance. IN paint factories the presence of dust and solvent in the air complicates life and in such cases a respirator with a dust filter should be the norm. Same applies to paint spraying -aerosols present both a dust and a fume problem.

The Safety Data Sheet would also be a guide as to which materials were needed for gloves &c.

There is only one answer and that lies in a proper understanding of the subject and no-one should be allowed into a chemical handling zone without proper instructions and suitable equipment to cover the chemicals present. Proper Safety Data Sheets should always be available and read, as in the case of labels, before there is a problem not when all else fails.

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#6

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 7:46 AM

You have already got some very good answers (and I rated a few as such), so only some small additions here. If the material is KNOWN, there will be an MSDS for it that will specify what PPE is needed. Follow that guidance. If the materials are UNKNOWN, use the most conservative PPE available for anticipated potential hazards.

In NO event can any of the PPE items be considered operator-optional. The lab staff need to understand that this is for THEIR protection, and there are plenty of training resources available to demonstrate what can happen to unprotected people in the event of an emergency. OBTW, the reason they are called "emergencies" is because they EMERGE unannounced.

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#13
In reply to #6

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 6:56 PM

I am of the opinion that any pre-set standard is the result of a committee. I have a strange committee phobia. I feel that a 10-20% addition to safety regulations are more than in order.

I point you to Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. The levees were designed to handle a category 2 storm. Unfortunately, by the time Katrina hit New Orleans, it was a monster category 5 storm. In fact, it set a new record for Cat 5 storms. Had the levees been built to withstand a Cat 5 New Orleans would have faired much better. To make matters worse, New Orleans saw what happened to Florida during and after Hurricane Andrew, so no one can claim "they didn't know". How many lives were lost and /or destroyed because the government tried to save a penny or two and, instead, of setting up the levees correctly?

I happen to speak from experience on this one. I lived through Hurricane Andrew. These are sobering things. You can't imagine them. You have to live through them before you truly understand and, by then, it's too late.

Use the 10-20 rule and you have a 75-80% chance of avoiding 'accidents'.

I realize that using Hurricanes to illustrate safety regulations might seem extreme but is lose of limb or life any less extreme because it only happens to one person and only effects a small circle of friends?

/Ari (Orpheuse)

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#7

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 7:51 AM

Depending on your safety committee, it may also be permissible to wear clear face shields OR safety glasses with side shields on the glasses. The face shield would give additional facial protection, but aware that splashed chemicals can get under the face shield. For those of us that wear eye glasses out of necessity, be sure the glasses are polycarbonate or similar unbreakable lenses, and wear side shields for additional eye protection. There are also portable safety shields that can be used in front of bottles, reactors, etc on bench tops or in the hood.

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#8

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 8:35 AM

Plenty of good advice.

The strong chemicals should only have the seal broken while at a fume hood.

While working at the hood, the requirement should be to have the goggles on, nitrile gloves, etc..

Otherwise, Your question 1) "When a sealed sample container arrives in the receiving window, everyone in the lab must wear goggles." NO, its sealed, and why everyone need goggles? whats the risk? Or Goggles must be worn by the technician from the time the seal is broken until the time the contents are contained or neutralized. WHen working on the sample in the hood, goggles should be worn. If the sample is not reactive enough to require working in the hood, than no goggles or face protection requirement is compellingly obvious.

2)"What is the method or reference to determine the concentration that the strength would be a risk where goggle use is appropriate?" MSDS sheet gives protection advice and hazard codes should be sufficient.

STANDARDIZED WORK should be documented for each and every routine analysis performed. and in the safe job procedure call out the means of assuring worker safety.

Did you look at the ANSI Standard ANSI Z87.1-2003? http://www.safetyequipment.org/eyeface.htm

Supplemental guide: http://www.safetyequipment.org/efguide.htm

You sound like you are genuinely concerned, rather than an enforcement drone, and I am sure that your employees will pick up on that.

Two other points

1) Ban contact lenses in the laboratory. see http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2005-139/

2) MAKE SURE that Goggles for "Splash Protection" are of the indirect venting type.

Additional RESOURCES:

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/chemical-safety/default.html

milo

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#9

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 10:32 AM

Thank you for the great responses and interest.

To respond to some comments:

All samples are labeled and will not be accepted into the lab without a label.

(the labels include what it is, what methods to be performed, and the hazardous property identification, date, time and who delivered it).

There are MSDSs in the lab (E copy and hard copy) of all samples brought to the lab.

The workforce is experienced (5/6 have over 20 years in this lab)

We may do a gas or liquid chromatograph on acetic and acrylic acid. This would involve sample preparation and handling of some "bad actors".

There is mandatory safety glasses and contact lenses are not allowed at all times.

The work is 12 hour shifts in the lab with breaks out (lunch and bathroom)

As a policy we do not consider safety glasses with side shields appropriate protection for any fumes or splashing. (only for impact protection)

The containers used are shatterproof and "acid bottles"

The seal is broken it is under a hood with a sash. ( although the sash is not always a a splash guard pending height of tech and height of apparatus)

There are many times where other people may be in the same area of the lab. I will look closer at the opportinity of a bystander being exposed.

We have tried the top 6 styles of goggles and have provided the most comfortable for each tech. these are still difficult to wear and uncomfortable for extended periods of time (> 4 hours).

I am interested if the use of a face shield would be an option.

Any other comments are appreciated.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 11:12 AM

Repeating - look at the limitations of each. Goggles protect the eyes, the most vulnerable, from particulates, but some fumes can bypass them as they generally have to be ventilated. If there are fumes then there must be respiratory aspects and so ?? use a respirator. PPE must be used if the problem of fumes cannot be engineered away - a properly designed fume cupboard in a lab, proper extraction in the work place. A face shield is not too difficult to use and gives protection against splashes. If the material is not too aggressive or particulate then eye-shields or safety glasses could be adequate for visitors. In most factories safety glasses are all that is required. Goggles can be effective for irritant fumes as they would lessen, not remove, the problem. They, not safety glasses, could be of use at low levels of irritation with a face shield. Goggles are probably the answer for dusts. If splashing of aggressive materials is a problem then a face shield, full face respirator or air-fed hood would be the route to go.

Remember the risk= hazard X exposure (time/concentration)

In the end PPE use falls into the common sense bracket - there is no time to read MSDSs you must rely on warnng labels - if in doubt - make your own - see HMIS in USA or you can use ours, it is simpler as it has to cater for a lower education level.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 12:33 PM

A full-face shield is definitely an option - provides eye protection at least as good as splash goggles, plus also protects the rest of the face. And usually better view field, too. Comfort is a consideration; if the PPE is TOO restrictive, people will find ways to not have it on. And that will happen exactly when they'll need it most. Uncle Murphy says so...

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#12

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/12/2008 6:32 PM

Dear Paddler,

Our paths haven't crossed before. I'm Orpheuse, welcome to CR4.

Please take this message knowing that it is sent with the best intentions - I'm not just writing for you but for whomever may ask this question. As a general rule:

If you have to ask that question, then I would have to answer, yes - you must wear your HAZMAT equipment when working with acids and bases, unless, of course, the purpose of the lab is to watch your as hand dissolves or going blind from a stray droplet.

Rule # 1: Do no harm.

Rule # 2: Stay safe.

/Ari (orpheuse)

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Goggle Use in Lab With Acids and Caustics

08/13/2008 2:48 AM

RULE 1 - UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM

RULE 2 - IF YOU DON'T KNOW FIND OUT - DON'T GUESS. In safety matters experience wins over experiment every time.

In other words a chemical operation of any sort is no place for amateurs, there is no substitute for proper training.

The original enquirer at least shows the sense to find out the facts and limitations.

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