Moving dangerous chemicals is a hazardous part of removals, but sometimes a necessary one. The moving of laboratories, whether a part of a scientific research facility, hospital or educational facility, is a tricky and time consuming process. But with the correct planning and safety precautions, it needn’t be an impossible task.
Even more so than with regular removals work, general health and safety has vast importance when moving dangerous chemicals in a laboratory. Correct lifting, knowledge of all emergency escapes and the removal of any obstacles will make the process far less risk for you and for everyone else. Surrounded by so many dangerous materials, working alone is not recommended. It is best to have at least one other person assisting you with removals at all times. Before any removals work of laboratory materials can take place, however, any relevant authorities must have given all necessary clearances. As a part of this clearance, all hazardous waste must have been correctly disposed of; hazardous waste materials must never be disposed of via regular drainage systems or regular refuse. There are specialist companies who can come and remove any hazardous waste before the removal process begins.
As with all other removals jobs, packing is a key element. Yet, when moving dangerous chemicals, protective clothing is recommended. Protective eyewear and lab coats and sensible footwear are all essential. Gloves in particular are useful to act as a barrier for your skin should there be any chemical spills, but the type of rubber used is very important. While natural rubber, for example, may be protective against dilute acids and bases, it will prove inconsequential for most organic substances. The packing materials are also very important when moving dangerous chemicals. Some chemicals might have to be temperature controlled; incubators and fridges become instrumental here. All chemicals must be packed with similar, compatible chemicals – explosions and combustions don’t make for an easy move. Ultimately packing should be done with caution and care, even if the packing process takes longer than expected, since breakages can be expensive and dangerous.
Breakages are always possible. Boxes and plastic bags are good to have on hand for any broken glassware, while there should also be a defined response process for any chemical spills. If the adequate materials to deal with the spill are not available, or you are unsure of the nature of the spill or how to proceed, the best plan of action is to evacuate and close the laboratory, notifying anyone in surrounding rooms and corridors of the situation. No one should enter the laboratory until the spill has been cleared by someone with the correct knowledge and expertise.
When actually transporting the dangerous materials, open containers should never be moved in elevators and neither should any dangerous chemicals be left unattended at any point or in corridors. Particularly odorous materials are best double contained in containers that are well sealed. Highly toxic materials need to be clearly marked as being so in the best suited container to the material. Should any container for a highly toxic chemical be wiped down, the wipe down material should be disposed as hazardous waste. The main item to be transported in nearly every laboratory that requires attention is gas cylinders. These cylinders must only be moved with specially designed dollies, and never rolled, dropped or dragged. Packaging tape can prevent it from falling off, but if any leaks are detected these must be reported immediately and a similar process followed to a chemical spill.
At the new location before anything is unpacked, an inventory needs to be taken. Chemicals then need to be carefully unpacked according to a compatibility plan – care needs to be made that incompatible chemicals are not placed nearby one another. The results of a mistake when moving dangerous chemicals can be fatal.