Protect your workplace, and the people in it, by focusing on P.R.E.P. (People.Regulations.Environment.Property.) to make safety a habit rather than a concern.

When it comes to health, safety and compliance for your lab, it’s important to adhere to the four principles for preventing risk—People, Regulations, Environment and Property. Remember these essentials of safety with the acronym PREP, which will always remind you to be PREPared.

Prevent work-related injuries and occupational illnesses by providing employees, contractors and temporary staff with safe and healthy working conditions. Accomplish this by assessing the ergonomics of each employee’s workstations and even encouraging stretching exercises for those whose work does not require much movement.

Perform a job safety analysis to ensure that each employee has the proper personal protective equipment by assessing the frequency, probability and severity of any task that they may perform.

Every employee, whether permanent, temporary or contracted, must be provided with safe and healthy working conditions. Management should encourage and empower employees to identify any potential or perceived hazards and keep them informed of corrective action through shift briefing and regularly scheduled safety talks.

All employees must receive the required safety training before performing any task. Manage this training to ensure that they are up to date and current. Well trained employees are well prepared employees.

Be sure to adhere to any and all applicable local, state and federal environmental, health and safety standards (EHS) while also implementing any of your own that would be appropriate for your specific lab operations. It’s important to keep these standards on your radar and remain aware of any regulatory changes occurring at all levels.

Focusing on environmental factors pertains to the natural environment, the people working within the lab as well as the facility itself. It’s important that any decisions that are made and activities pursued decrease any environmental impacts by responsibly managing natural resources and preventing pollution throughout the design, manufacturing and distribution of products.

The proper management of any chemicals used within the lab is not only good practice but also a regulatory requirement. OSHA requires that Safety Data Sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) be sent by chemical manufacturers to those who purchase their chemicals. OSHA says that those who work in a lab where chemicals are used should be aware of SDS and their relevance to health and safety, be aware of how to access SDS, and maintain any SDS that are received with incoming chemical shipments, ensuring that they are readily accessible to lab employees during each shift. Electronic access is acceptable with a printer.

Environmental impact concerns regarding chemical management should address hazardous materials storage, handling and disposal; spill control; and their potential impact on people.

Protecting property can be assured by maintaining the same high standards followed when focusing on people, regulations and environment. Specific procedures should plan for periodic checks of equipment safety devices and maintenance reviews while ensuring that fire protection systems are in place and functioning.

After extensive experience inspecting optical labs and observing oft-repeated errors in how certain aspects of the work environment are managed and maintained, it’s clear that the electrical and equipment are two specific areas that should be of primary focus for those responsible for environmental, health and safety standards.

Extension cords should never be used as permanent wiring. OSHA requires that extension cords be visible at all times. Extension cords should not be used in a series, and power strips should not be used for high amperage items such as microwaves, as this can exceed the power rating of the cord. There should be no blank spaces in electrical panels or junction boxes. The risks of not following these rules are fire and electrical shock, and exposure to electrical parts increases the potential of being electrocuted.

Follow LOTO, or lock-out tag-out safety procedures to ensure that dangerous equipment and machines are properly shut off and not started up and to control the release of stored energy prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing work. Management/supervision must conduct an annual audit of each LOTO procedure to make sure that the procedures are still effective and that the LOTO authorized personnel are proficient.

To protect equipment operators as well as anybody near or passing by, guards and panels should always be properly placed and maintained around equipment such as drill presses, abrasive wheels and all machines with moving parts. There should never be missing maintenance panels on any machinery, and personal tools brought in for use in the workplace should be thoroughly inspected for safety guards and panels.

”What is your why?” is a question that should be asked of each employee. One answer might be, “The reason why I follow safety procedures is because my family needs me.” Your Why? is what keeps you safe. Your Why? is what encourages you to follow safety procedures. Making it personal promotes safety awareness throughout the workplace as well as in home.

Joey Lowery is EHS manager, general services, Essilor of America. After serving 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, he became an OSHA compliance officer and stormwater compliance manager for the city of Dallas before joining Essilor.


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