With these liability risks, it’s imperative for labs to employ adequate key control measures to prevent dual-use chemicals from falling into the wrong hands.
Unfortunately, they don’t always secure the chemicals as tightly as they should. In recent years, several chemical thefts have made headlines:
- At a community college in Pittsburgh, the door to a lab was found propped open, and an inventory check revealed that chemicals had been stolen.
- A University of Saskatchewan student was suspended for having in his home chemicals stolen from a university lab.
- The FBI is investigating a University of Texas student who was caught stealing chemicals from a lab after researching antidotes to a fatal toxin.
These stories reveal the need for better access controls for chemicals. So what can you do to improve security in your lab?
Address Key Control Problems
There is a manageable solution for addressing key control problems. For one, you should keep all keys in a single area, which reduces the chance of them being lost or stolen. Also make sure keys are secured properly. Instead of hanging keys on a pegboard, secure them in an electronic drawer or locker panel that physically locks down key tags.
To keep track of who is using keys, you can implement biometric authentication protocol, making it nearly impossible for a criminal to pose as authorized personnel. For instance, KeyTrak Guardian electronic key control systems utilize biometric fingerprint readers to ensure the integrity of the audit trail, so you know exactly which person signed into the system and which keys they accessed.
Some key control systems — including KeyTrak Guardian — even give you the option to be immediately notified by text or email if an employee doesn’t return a key by a certain time or if an unauthorized person attempts to break in to the system.
By taking adequate measures to protect the areas in which dual-use chemicals are stored, you can protect your lab from theft and maybe even save some lives as well.
To read more about how electronic key control can help keep your chemistry lab secure, check out our post “The Art of Asset Management for Higher Education Institutions.”