EHS Essentials for Biotech Start-Ups

  |   February 11, 2020

There are a lot of decisions that go into launching a biotech start-up, but one of the most important for the long-term success of your new company is the decision to establish a culture of safety. This is best done through the clear and intentional development of an environmental health and safety (EHS) program. Not only will an effective EHS program prioritize the safety culture of your start-up, but it is also one of the best ways to ensure your operations remain in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

Biotech Start-Ups: How to Navigate Early EHS Compliance Challenges
 
Of course, it isn’t enough to just create an EHS program — you need to take the necessary steps to ensure its success. While some aspects of your EHS program may be individualized to your specific operations, there are a few components that every successful EHS program should include.
 

6 Necessary Components of an Effective EHS Program

Personal Protective Equipment

This refers to the equipment necessary to keep your workers safe as they fulfill their job functions. However, the proper PPE isn’t something you should guess about or leave to chance. If you aren’t sure what equipment you need to ensure the safety of your workers, you may want to consider bringing in an EHS professional for a consultation.

Safely Moving Out of Your Lab Space
 

Signage

Detailed and regularly maintained safety signage helps inform both the employees at your facility and any visitors of the safety requirements and potential risks of each area in your space. Regulation requirements may also include signs with emergency contact information and the proper PPE for each area. Keep in mind that safety signage isn’t just something you can do once and forget about. In order to stay compliant with regulations, you’ll need to ensure signs stay accurate and up-to-date.

Inspections

Every effective EHS program should include a detailed inspection schedule that is rigorously maintained. By incorporating safety inspections into your daily operations, you can demonstrate to your employees and regulatory agencies that safety is a non-negotiable part of your company policy.

Chemical Usage

The storage and use of any dangerous or hazardous chemicals is obviously an important factor in the safety of your laboratory environment. However, beyond minimizing the possibility of a safety breach, proper chemical and solvent storage is essential to comply with state building codes. You can expect regular visits from the municipal fire department to inspect your storage spaces, so maintaining compliance is essential to avoiding costly fines. Keep in mind that the requirements may change as your company grows and your operations require the use of more chemicals.

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Laboratory Waste Water Disposal

While the process you’ll use for lab waste water disposal depends on a few factors specific to your facility, it is still a crucial component of your EHS program. Depending on your lab waste water discharge permit and waste water treatment system, you may have different testing and maintenance requirements. For instance, if you have a lime chip tank, it will need to be tested regularly. Or, if you have a pH neutralization system, you’ll need to be aware of the penalties for continual pH outside the requirements and high levels of contamination.

Hazardous Waste

Any lab that deals with hazardous waste must have an established accumulation area. In order to maintain safety and compliance with regulations within that area, you’ll need to follow labeling and removal requirements. A dedicated hazardous waste program should include a clear understanding of hazardous waste streams and safe practices for disposal. Consulting with a hazardous waste management company can be helpful to ensure your removal process is both safe and compliant.

However, even if your EHS program has all of the above components, it is much more likely to succeed if it also has the following five elements.
 

5 Essential Elements to a successful EHS Program

Senior Management Buy-In

Without buy-in from your senior management team, your EHS program isn’t likely to be successful or sustainable. Involve key stakeholders in the creation and design of your program so they have a clear understanding of why safety and compliance needs to be a top priority.

Biotech Start-Ups: How to Navigate Early EHS Compliance Challenges
 

Adequate Resources

Maintaining your program will require the right amount of staff members, expertise and support systems. Without these resources, the logistics of running a successful EHS program will be much more challenging.

Effective Communication

Having a clear outline of responsibilities and continued communication helps ensure that all parties involved in our EHS program remain on the same page. By putting proactive communication measures in place early, you can help avoid a miscommunication before it occurs.

Knowledgeable Personnel

It might seem almost too obvious, but the people who are directly involved in overseeing your EHS program need to be knowledgeable, trustworthy and committed to the continued success and safety of your company.

Diligent Training

While initial training on your EHS program is important, it’s the continued training that will help your program succeed long-term. In addition to regular refreshers for your seasoned employees, you also need to ensure each new staff member is properly trained on emergency procedures and hazards before beginning work.

Remember: the best protection against a safety breach is a solid plan. By creating and implementing a successful EHS program, you can launch your biotech start-up under a culture of safety and a commitment to compliance.

Need help planning and designing your EHS program? We can help!

Originally published at MassBioHQ (September 18, 2018)