The use of warning signs to designate particular hazards is not just a good idea—it's the law. The OSHA Laboratory Standard 29CFR1910.1450 requires that those areas in which particularly hazardous substances (select carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and highly toxic substances) are used be clearly designated. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires the labeling of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
Hazard labeling should not be limited to chemical hazards. Mechanical, Biological, Physical, Noise, Radiation, Hi/Low Pressure, Electrical, and Stress hazards should all be clearly indicated with appropriate signs.
Good signs should go beyond hazards and extend to the facilities and equipment we use to deal with these hazards: emergency equipment and emergency facilities. Take a careful look at your label and see if it can't be improved to make the hazard and the means of dealing with it easier to understand. Are cabinets for corrosive storage clearly labeled? Are the circuit breakers in all your electric panels clearly labeled? Do preserved specimens have the identity of the preservative and appropriate hazard warnings on the labels?
Dr. James A. Kaufman is the founder and president of The Laboratory Safety Institute (LSI) www.labsafety.org, an international, non-profit center for safety in science and science education. LSI provides workshops, seminars, onsite training programs, lab safety program development consultations, facilities inspections and regulatory compliance assistance. Contact LSI with all your lab safety questions: 800-647-1977 or email@example.com.