To minimize the risk of eye injury, USC policy requires that all personnel, including visitors, wear eye protection at all times while in the laboratories. This eye protection policy is necessary in order that the University comply with both South Carolina and Federal law (e.g., Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, Section 1910.133). Eye protection is required whether or not one is actually performing a "chemical operation", and visitors should not be permitted to enter a lab unless they wear appropriate eye protection. Groups that handle chemicals should provide a supply of safety glasses at the entrance of each laboratory for the use of Physical Plant Services personnel and visitors.
Safety glasses must meet the American National Standards Institute standard Z87.1-1989 that specifies a minimum lens thickness (3 mm), certain impact resistance requirements, etc. Ordinary prescription glasses do not provide adequate protection against injury, and their use should be limited to providing minimal protection when you are present in the laboratory but not carrying out a chemical operation. Safety glasses with side shields also do not provide minimally acceptable protection. Although these safety glasses can provide satisfactory protection against injury from flying particles, they do not fit tightly against the face and offer little protection against splashes or sprays of chemicals. Other eye protection (goggles) is therefore required for all workers in the laboratory whenever a significant splash hazard exists (see below).
Contact lenses offer no protection against eye injury and cannot be substituted for safety glasses and goggles. Contact lenses worn by persons working in laboratories can increase injury from chemical splashes because the wearer may not be able to remove the lenses to permit thorough irrigation and a person giving first aid may not know that contact lenses are being worn or how to remove them. Many physicians believe that the substitution of contact lenses for spectacles in industrial workers is contraindicated in workers whose eyes may be exposed to dusts, molten metals, or irritant chemicals. Small foreign bodies, which normally are washed away by tears, sometimes become lodged beneath contact lenses, where they may cause injury to the cornea. Similarly, chemicals splashed into the eye may be trapped under a contact lens and cause extensive corneal damage before the lens can be removed and the eye adequately irrigated. Furthermore, soft lenses can absorb solvent vapors even through face shields and, as a result, adhere to the eye. Since removal of a contact lens for urgent irrigations after injury is made so difficult by spasm of the eyelids, the contact lens wearer is in even greater need of protection than his/her counterpart who does not wear contact lenses, if the job carries high potential risk of eye injury. Contact lenses are not in themselves protective devices and in fact may increase the degree of injury to the eye.
Goggles provide the minimal level of acceptable protection when working in a chemical laboratory. Goggles should be worn when carrying out operations in which there is reasonable danger from splashing chemicals, flying particles, etc. For example, goggles are required when working with glassware under reduced or elevated pressures (e.g. sealed tube reactions), when handling potentially explosive compounds (particularly during distillations), and when employing glass apparatus in high-temperature operations. In some instances "safety shields" should be set up around experiments for additional protection. Since goggles offer little protection to the face and neck, full-face shields should be worn when conducting particularly hazardous laboratory operations. In addition, the use of laser or ultraviolet light sources requires special glasses or goggles that have been approved by EHS (777-5269).
B. Protective Apparel
The choice of protective apparel is determined by the specific hazardous substances being used in an experiment. However, certain general guidelines should be observed at all times in the laboratory:
1. Skin contact with any potentially hazardous chemical should always be avoided. Any mixture of chemicals should be assumed to be more toxic than its most toxic component, and substances whose hazards have not been evaluated should be treated as hazardous. Long pant and a long sleeve shirt (or lab coat instead of long sleeve shirt) must be worn in all labs at USC.
2. As discussed in Parts VI and VII, work with certain chemicals and classes of chemicals requires that protective apparel such as a lab coat or chemical-resistant apron be worn.
3. Sandals, bare feet in shoes, or open-toed shoes should be avoided. Long hair and loose clothing should be confined when present in the laboratory. More stringent rules may apply when working with hazardous substances (see Part VI.C.2).
4. Suitable gloves must always be worn when working with hazardous substances. Choose gloves made of material known to be (or tested and found to be) resistant to permeation by the substance in use. In some cases two gloves should be worn on each hand to ensure that no exposure will occur in the event of damage to the outer glove. Always inspect gloves for small holes or tears before use. In order to prevent the unintentional spread of hazardous substances, always remove gloves before handling objects such as doorknobs, telephones, pens, etc. Even silicone grease leaves an undesirable sticky residue behind if a door is opened or a telephone is answered using a grease-contaminated glove.
Respiratory hazards should be controlled at their point of generation by using engineering controls and good work practices. In keeping with this goal, the use of respirators as the primary means of protecting employees from airborne hazards is considered acceptable only in very specific situations and only with prior approval from the Departmental Safety Committee and Environmental Health & Safety. The routine use of respirators as a means of primary control is strongly discouraged.
Approval may be granted only for such situations as short-time temporary experiments where engineering controls are not feasible, and situations in which the use of respiratory protection is an added or supplemental control. The following guidelines must be followed when using respirators:
1. Before anyone can wear a respirator, the conditions of the OSHA Standard on Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134-135, see Part XIII) must be met as discussed below with respect to (a) medical approval, (b) training, and (c) fit testing.
2. Federal regulations require a medical evaluation of all personnel intending to use a respirator. Appointments for medical evaluations can be arranged by calling Occupational Health Services at 777-3472. After an examination, the physician will issue a "respirator-user permit". Training and fit testing will be conducted by the Industrial Hygienist prior to the medical evaluation.
3. The type of respirator to be used will be selected in consultation with EHS (777-5269). Respirators can be purchased only after such consultation, and are assigned to individuals for their exclusive use.
4. Personnel must participate in a Respirator Training Program prior to using a respiratory device. This training is provided by qualified personnel specified by EHS and includes discussion of the proper use, maintenance, testing, cleaning, and storage of respiratory equipment.
5. All users must undergo fit testing when a respirator is first issued and subsequently as required by OSHA regulations.
6. EHS (777-5269) will maintain records of respirator users.