Several universities in the northwest have been subjected to unannounced regulatory inspections recently by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by the Washington State Department of Ecology. At least one university received a fine for non-compliance worth tens of thousands of dollars.
During 2018's National Biosafety Month, you are encouraged to focus attention on biosafety policies and practices. Investigators and laboratory managers can raise biosafety awareness, discuss the importance of safety, and seek input on ways to strengthen biosafety in their labs. This year, EH&S is focusing on ways you can promote a culture of safety.
1. Know your responsibilities as a principal investigator (PI).
Has an EH&S representative visited your lab lately? If not, chances are good that one of our safety ambassadors will visit soon to review the Laboratory Safety Checklist, a list of 78 questions addressing a variety of topics including chemical safety, training of personnel, personal protective equipment and emergency preparedness.
Many laboratories use hazardous chemicals that are purchased in large quantities and then transferred into smaller secondary containers (e.g., vials, flasks or bottles), or prepared as diluted solutions or mixtures for use.
If your laboratory uses secondary containers filled with chemicals, the secondary containers must comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard for Labels and Pictograms.
A Tacoma woman died from asphyxiation and her daughter-in-law is in critical condition after riding in a car with containers of dry ice. Even at normal room temperatures, dry ice will warm and release carbon dioxide gas, which can displace the oxygen inside a small, enclosed space.
Dry ice is commonly used in UW research. Its properties allow for rapid cooling of materials, but also pose unique worker safety hazards.
On June 1, 2018, a UW employee was releasing chains holding a 20-foot shipping container on a trailer when the cheater bar on the lever load binder sprang loose with excessive force. The employee received a minor head injury.
When 9-1-1 is called on the UW Seattle campus, UW Police and Seattle Fire Department emergency vehicles will use designated fire lanes to get to the scene of the emergency quickly. It is critical that campus fire lanes are kept clear at all times to avoid emergency responders losing time getting to someone who needs help.
Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body and damages the nervous system and causes blood disorders. Faculty, staff and students using metallic lead in a lab, shop or other workspace could be at risk for toxic lead exposure.
All quantities of metallic lead (e.g., metallic lead like bricks, buoy weights, window weights, lead sheeting, or solder) must be recorded in MyChem. MyChem is the UW’s chemical inventory management system and helps maintain our compliance with environmental and occupational health requirements.