Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oh dear

For me, it's hard to read this Reddit post without both a bit of recognition from my past, as well as the desire to tell OP to run away quickly...: 
I've just taken over a 'lab', AKA the filthy garage that makes numbers, and want to turn it into a Lab. Halp!
I've just got a job at a waste oil processing plant. It's tiny. 6 people work here in total, with only myself (the new Site Chemist) and one other using the lab. 
Currently, the lab is a tiny cupboard containing an old XRF, KF, balance and a couple of spectrometers. Everything is coated in oil. The 'test methods' are stored in the plant guy's head, and there is basically nothing written down regarding SOPs, methods, calibrations, safety etc. 
As the site chemist, I've been given this cupboard and also the garage that contains the cupboard to turn into a fully functional, legitimate lab. Naturally, the first thing I did was think about safety and, accordingly, I asked the plant guy to stop washing sample jars out using chloroform and disposable nitrile gloves (no, we don't have a fume hood). 
What next? Of course, this is now my job and I do in fact have a plan, but do any of you guys have any tips on setting up a 'new' lab? Any resources I will find useful? I'd just like to make sure I don't miss anything out regarding safety, good practice etc. 
e: For info, I'm also responsible for health and safety for the whole site as well as environmental monitoring of everything we dump. Just trying to get a handle on the lab, which is what I know best, before I start making sweeping changes to everyone else's work areas. The lab is a mess because there was no chemist here before now.
 Yikes, this would not be a good situation to be in...

11 comments:

  1. Okay, not to be a total jack-@ss...but, what are is this person doing in that job? From the questions, they have no experience in setting up a lab, yet are in charge of setting up a lab and all of the procedures? Don't get me wrong, that happens every year in academia, but seems to be way wrong in a business that wants to actually succeed. My suggestion, hire someone that has done this before as a consultant - probably would be more helpful than a Reddit post.

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    1. My bet is that they hired someone straight out of school (ie; cheap). They probably just want the lab passable but not spic and span, so hiring someone with actual EHS/OSHA experience would be detrimental to the cost savings on that end.

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    2. The Iron ChemistMarch 1, 2018 at 8:49 AM

      Or they want a patsy for whenever a regulatory agency comes through.

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  2. I can't help wondering what happened to all the chloroform and junk after the rinsing was completed....

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  3. I am just curious if this lab site is in third World country, or the Europe, the US?

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    1. Depends... when they say "cupboard" do they mean cabinet or closet/small room? The latter would imply UK.

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    2. It says the UK in the reddit post I believe

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  4. Was there previously a Site Chemist? If not, then there's something positive: management looked at the lab and decided to hire a chemist (vs. having Plant Guy run it). If so, then... [shudder] the previous chemist must have run it like that.

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  5. This sounds like a disaster in the making. I share the concern of Anonymous (Feb-28 9:20 a.m.). I would suggest starting by 1) getting the requirements from whatever government agency has legal jurisdiction, 2) getting MSDS sheets for all their materials and 3) making certain they had proper storage and disposal procedures set up and the appropriate personal protective gear. In most first world countries not having at least this much done could result in a fine that would close a small to moderate business. The next order of business would be to generate standard test procedures with control samples. Without these they have no idea how reliable their results are. I also wonder if their insurance carrier ever visits - The carrier that insured the lab I retired from would have dropped us if we were that shoddy

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  6. I don't know anything about law in the UK, but I would be very worried about the potential for personal exposure to prosecution or fines when filling so many roles at this company

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