Staff or students carrying out experiments should prepare reasonably detailed written procedures for their experimental program. They should also determine any special precautions that may be required for their experiments - e.g. protective clothing (indicating the material type), fume extraction, pressure relief, etc. - and what, if any, precautions will be necessary for others working in the vicinity. Depending on the nature of the experiments, the safety analysis may need to include a (simplified) hazard and operability study on both the equipment and the experiments. More details on the contents of a work plan are provided here. Specific operations required for dealing with any special wastes generated should also be defined (refer to chapters 16, 19 and 20 of the HKUST Safety and Environmental Protection Manual for details).
In terms of specific risks to examine in preparing the work plan, any study into the safety implications of a proposed experimental program should examine the following classes of hazards:
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
- Chemical - toxic, corrosive, reactive (explosive), flammable materials;
- Thermal - temperature-resistance, explosion limits and flash points, taking into account experimental conditions (temperature and pressure);
- Physical - pressure stresses and the design of supports, placing of equipment (ergonomics) as well as the materials of construction used;
- Electrical - danger of electrocution, sparks and flammability;
- Biological - pathogens, genetically modified material; and
- Radiation - UV, microwaves, alpha, beta, X & gamma rays, lasers.
should be included in the work plan for all chemicals involved in the experimental program. These should preferably be obtained before ordering and technical staff may request to see the MSDSs before releasing chemicals to end-users.
Personnel should examine thoroughly all relevant information on equipment that they anticipate using - including, if necessary, being given basic training in its use by our technical staff (where appropriate). Documented proof of the training should be kept. Not only is most analytical equipment very expensive to maintain and repair (both in terms of money and time), it can also be hazardous if operated incorrectly.
The last page of every work plan should include a standard statement (html
) that the personnel undertaking the experimental program understand the hazards involved with their work and their responsibilities with respect to the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their work. If the work is carried out under the supervision of a faculty, the same page should be countersigned by that faculty - stating that they have read the work plan and are satisfied that the information is accurate and complete. If the work is not carried out under the supervision of a faculty, the same page should be countersigned by the head of department - stating that they have read the work plan and are satisfied that the information is accurate and complete. The work plan should then be passed to the departmental safety officer (DSO) or the designated deputy DSO who - again, only if satisfied with the assessment - will also sign it.
If any of those assessing the work plan are not satisfied with the evaluation, the document is returned with comments for revision. The author may appeal to the departmental safety committee should they feel unjustifiably delayed and the committee's decision will be final and binding.
Once the work plan has been approved by the relevant personnel, the deputy departmental safety officer will issue a date-stamped work permit
either for attachment to the experimental rig or prominently displayed next to the experimental working area. The work permit should be updated if the experimental program is altered. At the end of a project, the work permit should be returned to the technician in charge of the laboratory. Copies of all current work plans are kept in the laboratory area by the chief technician.
Personnel attempting to work without a valid work permit may be considered as endangering their fellow workers and will be treated with the utmost severity.