Safety in the lab

Feb. 23, 2006
I'm a research engineer in Seoul, Korea.

Previously I worked at an elevator company. There, safety always came first. We had numerous safety manuals. The company is a branch of an American firm, and it had access to manuals that were really nice. I wish I could say the same for the work conditions and environment.

Now, the lab where I am employed uses mechanical instruments and inspection equipment for manufacturing semiconductors and LCDs. However, safety is not a major concern here. We have some basic safety manuals from the university but I don't feel they are specific enough.

Where might I find out about safety standards that would apply in this field? We don't deal with any chemical processes. We are mainly concerned with developing automated inspection systems which primarily consist of big CCD cameras installed on a linear motor drive system and PCbased controllers. The apparatus finds flaws on semiconductor wafers or TFT-LCDs.--T. Kim

When in doubt about where to start, it is usually a good idea to contact the manufacturer of your equipment and ask what standards the equipment was designed to meet. Also contact ANSI (American National Safety Institute), and determine if they have any standards regarding your product line. If so, order a copy of all they recommend for your library. You can find ANSI using a search engine on the Internet.

Perform a hazard analysis on each piece of equipment. Before using or selling the equipment, make sure that you have addressed all of the hazards found in your hazard analysis. Develop a proper and detailed owner/operator/service manual. The manual should be considered part of the machine. And develop a suitable and safe generic lockout/tagout procedure for the equipment. Then when the equipment is installed in it's proper location, a machine-specific lockout/tagout program can be developed using your generic program as a starting point.

If you are concerned about the safety of your facilities, develop an appropriate Job Safety Analysis (JSA) for each task performed there, including the use of your equipment.

Remember that safety, like water, flows downhill. If you cannot sell your management on safety, you are fighting a losing battle. You must convince your superiors that safety pays; it does not cost extra. Once you have passed this hurdle, everything will fall into place.--Lanny R. Berke, P.E., C.S.P.

Lanny Berke is a registered professional engineer and a Certified Safety Professional involved in forensic engineering since 1972. Got a question about safety? You can reach Lanny at [email protected]

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