Technology-enabled Safety Management in the Life Sciences Industry
The number of adverse events in the life sciences industry has increased by 20 per cent annually between 2015 and 2021. Some of these safety events were caused by common hazards like trips and falls, electrical or fire hazards, chemical exposures, etc.
But unfortunately, in addition to some of these safety issues, the life sciences industry is also prone to several unique health, safety, and environmental challenges.
Safety Risks Unique to the Life Sciences Industry
The life sciences industry refers to several segments including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and medical technology. Some companies in this sector work with disease-causing germs in an attempt to identify treatments and therapies that can cure and alleviate various disease conditions. As a result, it is common to see life sciences laboratories conducting experiments on pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. This, naturally, poses additional risks to the employees as well as to the environment.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidelines for laboratory safety to help life sciences businesses implement mitigative measures. These risks may cause temporary or long-term health issues to the workers or cause damage to the environment if the guidelines are not adhered to.
In some cases, research and development processes are outsourced to a CRO that has to deal with these EHS hazards.
However, quality and safety continue to remain the sponsor’s responsibility as much as the CROs. This adds complexity and risk to the existing challenges, especially since the CROs may be located in another country. This can make monitoring and tracking of safety practices difficult.
A cloud-based solution like the one from ComplianceQuest can integrate workflows and provide a unified view of processes and workflows (across CRO and the sponsor organization) to ensure adherence to safety norms and policies.
ComplianceQuest EHS is a scalable and flexible solution that can be customized to meet the specific needs of the life sciences industry. Currently, life sciences customers in 1200+ locations have implemented our quality and safety management solutions to streamline and automate a wide range of processes/workflows.
In this blog, we present how CQ EHS can be used to tackle unique challenges faced by companies in this sector.
Challenge #1 – Risks Associated With the Use of Chemicals and Biowaste Hazards
The prolific use of chemicals in the life sciences industries can pose serious environmental, health, or safety hazards. For instance, biohazard waste can contaminate air and water; Inhaling it can be harmful to human beings. It is key to proactively tackle the risks associated with biowaste.
The Solution to this Problem:
The correct handling of chemicals is extremely important:
- First, the employees must be skilled in handling different types of chemicals being used
- Second, the chemicals should be properly labeled and stored
- Third, companies must maintain a chemical list and material safety data sheet (MSDS)
The MSDS should be consulted every time an order for a chemical is placed to ensure that it matches the approved one. If there is no approval, then it must be obtained so that it can be added to the list and the MSDS.
Using CQ Document and Risk Management Solution
The ComplianceQuest EHS provides a document management system where the chemical list and the MSDS can be stored for easy access and reference. The approvals for new chemicals to be added to the list can also be obtained using the system, which enables collaboration and communication between teams across the company and locations.
CQ EHS also comes with an integrated risk management solution, so it’s easy to conduct a risk assessment associated with the usage of specific chemicals.
Challenge #2 – Handling Pathogens
Conducting research for developing drugs, therapies, and medical devices requires handling pathogens. Although gloves may be worn at the time of handling the agents containing the pathogens, eyes and mouth remain exposed (in some cases). This can pose a health hazard and is often missed because the disease may manifest later.
The Solution to this Problem:
The key here is to set up relevant systems and procedures, to ensure employees follow all safety protocols. It requires a robust audit, inspection, and training process, so employee behavior is not just a set of instructions but also a clear set of procedures to be followed.
Using ComplianceQuest solution to streamline Audits, Inspections, and Training
In addition to risk and document management, the solution also automates workflows for conducting audits, inspections, and training. Safety leaders can schedule periodic audits and inspections, document observations, share the findings, and implement mitigation strategies to minimize risks. This also helps to identify gaps and provide appropriate training to empower employees to handle hazardous materials with care.
Challenge #3 – Ergonomics, Injuries, and Illnesses
The nature of research work is such that it involves repeating certain actions or being in one position for a long. This can cause musculoskeletal problems such as backache, wrist pain, the strain on the fingers, and so on.
The Solution to this Problem:
Create awareness and provide training in ergonomics and appropriate case management of ergonomic injuries. Ensuring proper workplace design to minimize these injuries is also important.
CQ EHS for Safety Observations and Incident Management
Not only ergonomics-related injuries and health issues, but the EHS solution also enables reporting observations and incidents for all kinds of injuries, illnesses, and accidents. This can help take prompt action to correct and prevent future events. The reporting and dashboards feature also helps with capturing trends while a 5 Why Root Cause Analysis feature helps arrive at the root of the problem. A Stop Work Authority enables managing the risk and returning to operational safety is ensured.
Further, the software is mobile-ready. Reports, approvals, record views, reviews, alerts, etc. can be accessed on the go, anywhere, anytime, and on any device. This ensures business continuity and improves efficiency, visibility and flexibility.
Challenge #4 – Automating Compliance, Including Laboratory Safety Regulations
Despite warnings about the dangers of working with chemicals or handling pathogens without proper protection and preparation, often employees ignore them and indulge in unsafe behaviors. This increases risks to the environment and employee health.
The Solution to this Problem
Creating a safety culture by bringing in continuous safety training for all employees is crucial. This is especially important for people working in R&D or in the lab. Positive reinforcement of good safety behavior is another area that can strengthen organizational safety and adherence to rules.
CQ EHS to Streamline Safety Compliance
ComplianceQuest EHS can be set up easily to meet all OSHA and regulatory requirements in the life sciences industry. CQ EHS can be seamlessly integrated with the company’s CRM, ERP, PLM, and EQMS, so all processes can be completely digitalized.
This ability to digitally integrate all your people, processes, and systems is critical to improve safety performance and metrics.
In addition to the above, ComplianceQuest EHS also offers a Permit to Work Solution, to ensure the personnel has the necessary permits and licenses to perform specific tasks.
To know more about the ComplianceQuest health and safety management solution, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/work-health-and-safety-management-system
Request a demo: https://www.compliancequest.com/online-demo/