For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Laboratory Safety Officer. http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/LabAssignment.html
As an aid to laboratories in avoiding FDNY Notices of Violation (NOV), EH&S distributes monthly FDNY inspection findings which resulted in an NOV citation to an actual CU laboratory on either the Morningside or Medical Center campus. These real life scenarios are meant to assist you in ensuring that such conditions do not exist in your laboratory.(Please see previous scenarios below.)
#68 - Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation to a lab for having compressed gas cylinders that were not strapped or secured to a wall or benchtop. One of the three unsecured cylinders was also uncapped while not in use. Had the cylinder fallen over and the valve been damaged, a significant release of pressure could have occurred, causing potential for devastating injury to people, and damage to property.
Please note, the FDNY Laboratory Safety Unit is on-site at the Morningside and Medical Center campuses each week. For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Research Safety Specialist.
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories the FDNY fire inspector
issued a violation to a lab for observing an open bottle of tetrahydrofuran (THF), a peroxideforming
chemical, which had been open for greater than six months. The container was not
labeled with an FDNY-required test date to verify no peroxide formation. Current FDNY
regulations require that THF and all other peroxide-forming chemicals be tested within six
months of opening and used or disposed of within 12 months after opening. THF is a timesensitive
chemical that, over time, can form explosive peroxides when exposed to oxygen, heat,
or ultraviolet light.
*Not all of these options will work in every lab, but finding the management strategies that work for you is important for safety in your lab, and compliance with FDNY.
Time sensitive chemicals have a complex chemistry and safety profile as the rate of peroxide formation varies among them. For more information on safely managing peroxide-forming chemicals, consider the following resources:
Please note, the FDNY Laboratory Safety Unit is on-site at the Morningside and Medical Center
campuses on each week on Mondays and Wednesdays, respectively. For a consultation before
the FDNY inspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact
your Research Safety Specialist.
Remember that safety begins with you. Environmental Health & Safety has developed a label
printing system to easily print and label containers. The system can be accessed through the
#64 – Safe Passage: Hallways and Means of Egress
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation to a lab for obstructing a means of egress; large shipping crates containing microscope components were found to be blocking fire exits in a corridor. Obstruction of means of egress is a serious life safety issue that could result in injury or death in the event of an emergency. Keeping means of egress freely passable is important to ensure safe evacuation during emergencies, as well as safe access to spaces by first responders.
New York City Building Code stipulates that the minimum corridor width shall be no less than 44 inches; in a laboratory, 36 inch aisle clearance is required. Additionally, combustible materials are not permitted to be stored in a corridor at any time. Excessive storage of combustible materials in a laboratory may also result in a violation. If receiving a large item for delivery in the corridor or laboratory, please ensure that it is promptly unpacked and stored in its proper location. Arrangements for set-up of such equipment should be coordinated well in advance with delivery personnel, service technicians, movers and Facilities. Empty boxes, crates, and palettes must also be removed as soon as reasonably possible.
Please note, the FDNY Laboratory Safety Unit is on-site at the Morningside and Medical Center campuses on a weekly basis. For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your laboratory, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Research Safety Specialist: http://ehs.columbia.edu/LabAssignment.html.
Please use this link for more information about Fire Safety at Columbia, including the FDNY Certificate of Fitness program: http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/fs.html
#63 – Fire and Ice: How to Safely Store Flammable Materials
#62 - Compressed Gas Safety: Too Many Bottles May Earn You a Tick
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation to a laboratory for exceeding their hazardous compressed gas storage limit. Specifically, the inspector noted that the laboratory was storing too many 14.1 ounce propane cylinders – the type used for torches. The inspector considered these containers to be lecture bottles, or small compressed gas cylinders of about 13 inches in length and 2 inches in width. The FDNY limits each laboratory to 25 lecture bottles.
With the complexity of the regulations governing chemical storage in laboratories, even a trained and certified C-14 holder might not know if they are doing the right thing with hazardous compressed gases. Fortunately, EH&S regularly advises laboratories on gas storage issues. As general guidance, all laboratories should follow these 3 steps to remain safe and compliant:
Please note, the FDNY Laboratory Safety Unit is on-site at the Morningside and Medical Center campuses on a weekly basis. For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your laboratory, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Research Safety Specialist:
#61 - FDNY Permits Posted in Laboratories
During a recent visit to a Columbia University laboratory, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector issued a violation to a lab for possession of flammable materials in excess of the laboratory’s permit. An FDNY permit is required to maintain or operate a non-production chemical laboratory or storage room in which more than 1 gallon of flammable or combustible liquid or 75 standard cubic feet (SCF) of flammable gas are handled, stored, or used in testing research, experimental or instructional work. These permits are issued by the FDNY and maintained by Columbia University EH&S.
Every permitted space has limits for hazardous materials (enforced by the FDNY) based on the type of permit issued. In order to better provide laboratories with FDNY permit information, permits have been posted at all lab entrances at the Morningside Campus, and beginning in January, 2014, will be posted at all CUMC labs; in the meantime, contact email@example.com with questions about your lab’s permit.
The permits will look similar to those shown below, and contain information on the lab type and corresponding maximum allowable storage quantities of flammable materials, oxidizing materials, and unstable reactive materials. Older permits (Figure A) will display a Lab Type: 1, 2, 3, or 4, and have storage limits based on the fire rating of the room and the presence or absence of sprinklers. Newer permits (Figure B) will be labeled with the Lab Type: Class B or Class D, and have storage limits based on the size of the permitted space. Please note, waste materials are included in calculations of on-hand materials.
For questions related to your lab’s permit, Type, or possession limits, or additional fire safety related information please visit EH&S Fire Safety at http://ehs.columbia.edu/fs.html, or contact a Fire Safety Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#60 - Pull the Pin, Call It In!
During a recent visit to a Columbia University laboratory, the FDNY Inspector issued a violation upon observing that a lab’s fire extinguisher had been discharged, but not replaced. During follow-up, the EH&S Research Safety Specialist and Fire Safety Officer were told by the lab staff that a fire occurred previously in the space, and that the extinguisher was used to put the fire out.
Please note, the FDNY Laboratory Safety Inspection Unit is on-site at the Morningside and Medical Center campuses each week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, respectively. For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Research Safety Specialist listed above.
#59 – Extension Cord Use in Research Laboratories
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation to a lab for improper use of an electrical extension cord, after observing a laboratory refrigerator connected to an extension cord, rather than directly into a wall outlet. When working in a laboratory in New York City, the use of extension cords and power strips is limited to portable devices and equipment only. Examples of portable devices include computers, bench top lab equipment such as microcentrifuges, and other small appliances. All stationary equipment, including refrigerators and incubators, must be plugged directly into a wall outlet, and never connected via an extension cord or power strip.
#58 – Weekend FDNY Certificate of Fitness Inspections
Saturday Fire Safety inspections have arrived! Effective immediately, FDNY inspections may take place at any time, including Saturdays, in Columbia University labs at both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses. In order for a lab to be in operation at any time, a person with a Certificate of Fitness card must be present. Training classes for the Certificate of Fitness for Supervision of Chemical Laboratories (also known as a CoF or C-14 card) are offered at both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses at no charge to the individual. In order to qualify to sit for the class, one must possess either:
Individuals without a Bachelor’s degree are still eligible to obtain the Certificate, but must go to FDNY headquarters, located in Brooklyn, to sit for the exam.
The Certificate of Fitness class is held during the following dates and times:
For more information about the Certificate of Fitness card and what paperwork should be filled out prior to the class, please visit http://ehs.columbia.edu/cof.html.
#57 - Safely Managing Peroxide Forming Chemicals in New York City
During weekly laboratory inspection rounds, the FDNY Fire Inspector observed a bottle of diethyl ether, a chemical that can degrade dangerously over time and which must periodically be tested for safety, in a laboratory storage cabinet. The Inspector issued a violation to the laboratory for possession of a time-sensitive chemical without proper documentation of the chemical’s shelf life.
Certain chemicals, many of which can form potentially explosive peroxides after exposure to oxygen and prolonged storage, garner special attention from the FDNY. The FDNY requires that these chemicals be dated at the time of opening, and then tested for safety within 6 months of the opening date.
Chemical manufacturers, such as Sigma-Aldrich, are good resources <http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/chemistry/solvents/learning-center/peroxide-formation.html> for chemical testing information.
After testing, if a laboratory deems the chemical safe for continued use, the lab may write the test date on the chemical container and retain the chemical for an additional 6 month period, but never to exceed 12 months from the original opening date. If a lab determines that a chemical is no longer safe for continued use, or the chemical reaches its expiration date, it must be disposed of as a hazardous waste by submitting the online Chemical Waste Pickup Request <http://vesta.cumc.columbia.edu/ehs/wastepickup> form.
For a summary of chemicals that require special attention, and additional information about safely managing these chemicals in New York City, please see the Environmental Health & Safety website <http://ehs.columbia.edu/tsc.html>.
#56 - Storing Chemicals in a Non-Functional Fume Hood
During weekly laboratory inspection rounds, the FDNY Fire Inspector issued a violation to a laboratory for storing chemical bottles in a fume hood that was not properly functioning. The fume hood had a sign issued by EH&S cautioning laboratory members not to use the fume hood.
Whether operating properly or not, fume hoods are not to be used as a permanent storage location for chemicals; containers must be removed and returned to secure storage upon completion of an experiment. Your fume hood should have a face velocity ranging from 80-120 linear feet/minute, and a minimally obstructed surface to allow smooth directional airflow. Excessive storage of bottles and other items can interfere with this flow.
Please visit our website to review our fume hood safety policy:
#55 - Chemical Segregation within Research Laboratories
#54 - All chemical containers must be properly labeled
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation upon observing several chemical containers in the laboratory without proper labels. In accordance with New York City Fire Code, all chemical containers must be labeled to indicate the container's contents.
As a best practice, laboratories should spell out the chemical name, and not use chemical formulas or abbreviations to label containers. For light sensitive chemicals wrapped in aluminum foil, a label must be affixed on the outside of the wrapping. Hazardous waste storage containers must be labeled with the words "hazardous waste" and the names, and quantity (percent) of the principal chemical constituents. Containers must be labeled immediately after accumulation begins. All containers must be in good condition and writing should be legible.
Clear, accurate chemical labeling is an important means of hazard communication and can help EH&S and first responders in the event of an emergency. Please help keep yourself and your lab safe by ensuring that all chemicals in your lab, even non-hazardous materials, are clearly identifiable as to their contents
#53 - Chemical Fume Hoods in the Laboratory
During a regular weekly inspection of a Columbia University laboratory, the FDNY inspector issued a violation for excessive materials storage in a chemical fume hood. Chemical fume hoods (CFH) are a critical piece of laboratory equipment. As an engineering control, they serve as the “first line of defense” against potential exposures to volatile chemicals. It is essential that CFH are in proper working order at all times.
#52 - Proper Chemical Storage in the Laboratory
#51 - Violation Prevention Measures
#50 - Violation Prevention Measures
#49 - blackout curtains in the laboratory
#48 – Safe Chemical Segregation
#47 – Nitric acid, which is a highly reactive chemical, MUST be stored separately from all other acids and chemicals.
During several recent Columbia University laboratory inspections, the FDNY fire inspector issued violation orders for improperly storing nitric acid. Proper storage of chemicals in laboratories is a critical safety concern for both the university and regulatory agencies.
Nitric acid, which is a highly reactive chemical, MUST be stored separately from all other acids and chemicals. This strong oxidizer should be physically placed in a chemically resistant secondary container within an acid cabinet and should be the only acid in that secondary container. The secondary container can be made of polyethylene, PYREX or Nalgene. It can also be stored in its own acid cabinet if feasible.
Below are a few other important safety tips to remember when storing nitric acid:
Follow good storage practices no matter what chemicals your lab is storing and remember that nitric acid has special storage considerations.
#46 – Laboratory doors must close automatically.
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued a violation to a laboratory when he observed the automatic door closing device disconnected from a laboratory entrance door.
Several laboratory entrance doors were recently observed with automatic door closing devices disconnected or inoperable. The devices were disconnected to allow the doors to be more easily kept open, facilitating movement of people and equipment between laboratories. Unfortunately, while this may be convenient, it also compromises the fire safety integrity of the laboratory.
All laboratory doors that lead to a corridor require a self-closing device in order to keep a fire confined to the laboratory or room of origin. Remember the RACE and PASS Fire Safety procedures: “C” stands for “Confine.” A closed door allows more time for occupants of the floor to evacuate without being exposed to heat, smoke and flames. Keeping the door closed also prevents fire from spreading out of the room or lab into the corridor and possibly into other rooms, allowing firefighters to extinguish a fire in one room or lab, rather than one that has spread out of control.
Don’t wait for a fire to appreciate the worth of your lab’s fire doors! Keep them closed, and ensure the automatic door closing devices remain connected and operable. If an automatic door closing device in your lab is disconnected or inoperable, please call Facilities at 4-2222 (Morningside) or 305-HELP (Medical Center) to have the repair made and fire protection restored.
#45 – Emergency Eye Wash kept clear and accessible
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued a violation to a laboratory when he observed that its emergency eye was blocked by lab equipment and inaccessible.
Laboratory personnel had placed lab equipment on the sink counter, blocking access to the emergency eyewash. Furthermore, since the eyewash was “out of sight, out of mind” for so long, it failed to work adequately upon testing by the FDNY inspector. Had a true emergency occurred here, such as a chemical splash to the eyes, the risk of permanent eye damage would have greatly increased, as lab members scrambled for an alternative emergency flushing source.
It is the lab’s responsibility to test all emergency eyewashes weekly. Failure to perform these tests may hide problems, such as a drop in water pressure from a steady flow to barely a trickle, or a sudden elevation in pressure, which might actually increase the risk of physical damage to the eyes. Like a sink faucet that is rarely used, the eyewash may also become clogged with dirt and debris, preventing any water from escaping, or the water may be brown and odorous; unsafe conditions as well.
Don’t wait for an emergency to find out the emergency eyewash is blocked and/or not working. Test the eyewash at least weekly and keep a log to ensure it is maintained. To help you remember, use the eyewash to rinse your glassware. If the water pressure is too low or high, clogged, dirty, or not working at all, place a Facilities service request to repair.
#44 - Fire Extinguishers
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued violations to separate laboratories when he observed that access to the fire extinguishers was blocked. In one instance, the extinguisher was mounted over a bench, at a height of 6-feet, making it difficult for most lab personnel to reach the unit. The second violation was issued because the laboratory had positioned a new piece of equipment in front of the extinguisher.
#43 - Housekeeping in shared spaces
During a recent laboratory inspection, the FDNY fire inspector issued a violation order in a Columbia University building for obstruction of a service corridor. The basis of the violation was simply the presence of too much clutter, specifically, boxes, carts, and cryogenics dewars, among other materials. Obstructing a service corridor presents a serious danger to all building occupants in the event the corridor is needed for emergency egress or response, and also makes difficult the efficient utilization of the space (which is always at a premium).
#42 - Compressed Gas Cylinders
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued a violation to a laboratory for failure to segregate incompatible compressed gas cylinders.
#41 - Portable Liquid Nitrogen
All emergency showers and drenching devices such as flexible deluge hoses must remain unobstructed at all times. Even objects that are on wheels or only kept in place temporarily, such as lab carts or liquid nitrogen tanks, are FDNY violations and serious safety hazards. Please ensure that your emergency shower or deluge hose remains unobstructed at all times.
#40 - Compressed Gas Cylinders
#39 - During regular weekly rounds, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector noted the lack of an oxygen sensor in a common equipment room in which over 60 gallons of cryogenic materials were stored. The Inspector wrote a violation requiring the installation of an oxygen sensor. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that a -80° freezer had been repositioned in the room, blocking access to an existing wall mounted oxygen sensor.
#38 - During regular weekly rounds, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector noted a total quantity of flammable liquids present in a lab, including wastes, in excess of the laboratory’s permitted limit. As a result, a NOV was written for failure to adhere to flammable materials storage requirements.
#37 – Fire Extinguishers: Pull the Pin...Call it in!
During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued a violation to a laboratory when he noticed that its fire extinguisher did not have sufficient pressure needed to discharge its contents (the pressure gauge arrow was in the “red zone”).
When questioned, the laboratory personnel informed EH&S that the fire extinguisher was used briefly two weeks prior to the inspection and was not reported because its contents were not fully discharged. A fire extinguisher must be replaced after each use regardless of the amount of material discharged. Whenever the lever is squeezed, it will gradually lose pressure over time and will not be effective for use when needed.
While fire extinguishers are maintained and inspected monthly by EH&S at Morningside and Facilities at the Medical Center campus, it is the responsibility of laboratory personnel to contact the appropriate department for replacements whenever they are used.
#36 - Certificate of Fitness (C-14)
A recent inspection of a Columbia University Laboratory led to a Notice of Violation when the FDNY inspector found that no Certificate of Fitness (C-14) holders were present. During FDNY lab inspections, the inspector will always request to see the credentials of a Certificate Fitness for the Supervision of Chemical Laboratories. In this lab comprised of six individuals, three were C-14 holders, but each were absent at the time of the inspection.
According to the NYC Fire Code, each laboratory must be under the direct supervision of a C-14 COF holder when in operation. Laboratories are encouraged to have as many people as possible apply for a Certificate of Fitness to ensure that there will be coverage at all times in the case of absences. For more information about obtaining the COF, please visit http://ehs.columbia.edu/COFreq.html.
#35 - Extension Cords
Recently the FDNY Inspector, during his weekly inspection, found multiple cases of improper extension cord use resulting in the issuing of violations. In one instance, the inspector discovered that the lab had run an orange extension cord from inside the laboratory, along the floor, and eventually to the outside corridor to power the group’s coffee maker. Another lab had an extension cord running up along one wall, across the ceiling, and back down along another wall to power a refrigerator. A violation was written in both instances for improper extension cord use.
34 – During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector observed a researcher drinking a cup of coffee while working at his desk next to his lab bench. The inspector reminded the researcher of the sign on the lab door which prohibits eating, drinking and smoking in the lab, and the researcher was asked to remove his drink from the lab. The FDNY inspector issued a violation for the non-compliance.
Food and drink are not allowed in the laboratory as a measure to prevent ingestion of contaminated food/drink and maintain compliance with University policy. In a laboratory space, desks that are adjacent to laboratory benches or even located in the same room are considered part of the laboratory unit. Food and drinks are to be consumed in designated areas only, not in any area of the laboratory.
#33 During his regular rounds, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector attempted to activate the laboratory’s eyewash/deluge hose to ensure its proper function. The eyewash/deluge hose did not produce water as required. He asked the lab personnel when the eyewash/deluge hose was last tested. No one in the laboratory could remember. As a result, a violation was written.
#32 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector issued a violation to a laboratory for failure to produce documentation/evidence from a New York City Certificate of Fitness Holder (C-15) demonstrating that the blackout curtains being used in the laboratory were “tested and certified” as either inherently flame resistant (IFR) or flameproofed, as required by the recently revised Fire Code.
When a laboratory purchases blackout curtains, the curtains must meet new Fire Code requirements, including documentation from a C-15 holder that the curtains were “tested and certified”. EH&S strongly advises laboratories to purchase IFR curtains for use in the laboratory because once “tested and certified” by a C-15 holder, these curtains do not require any additional testing or maintenance.
If your laboratory needs to purchase blackout curtains, Columbia University’s approved vendor will be able to provide IFR curtains, along with proper documentation from a C-15 holder demonstrating that the curtains were “tested and certified”, as required by the Fire Code. Refer to the link below for more information on blackout curtains.
#31 – Cryogenic storage and oxygen sensors
#30 - Chemical Segregation using secondary containers
#29 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector observed several cylinders of cryogenic materials in storage in a hallway outside a laboratory. The inspector issued a Violation Order (VO) for improper storage of liquid cryogenic containers.
Storage of liquid nitrogen cylinders in corridors, whether temporary or permanent is prohibited by the FDNY. Please properly store all liquid nitrogen tanks inside labs whether they are empty or full, and arrange for vendors to remove them directly from inside the lab or storage area. If more than 60 gallons of cryogenics are present, there must be an oxygen sensor installed and a G-97 Certificate of Fitness holder present. For information on obtaining a G-97 Certificate of Fitness, please visit http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/Firecodes.html#g97.
# 28 – During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector found a bottle of 2-Propanol without an opening date but DID NOT issue a violation as he normally would.
# 27 – During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector examined the contents of a chemical storage cabinet and noted that Hydrochloric Acid was being stored alongside Acetic Acid in the same secondary container. The inspector issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for improper segregation of hazardous chemicals.
# 26 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector examined the contents of a cold room. Inside the cold room, a spray bottle containing 70% ethanol was found. When lab workers were asked about the container, they stated “it was used to decontaminate the bench top and equipment inside the cold room”. The lab was issued a Notice of Violation (NOV).
# 25 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector examined the contents of a chemical storage cabinet and noted that a lecture bottle of propane gas was being stored alongside acids and flammable liquids. The inspector issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for improper segregation of hazardous chemicals.
Small cylinder gases, such as lecture bottles, can never be stored in the same cabinets with any liquids, such as flammables, acids, and bases. Ensure that all chemicals in your laboratory are stored safely and segregated according to hazard class. For more information about proper segregation, refer to our chemical segregation chart (http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/chemSegChart.pdf).
# 24 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, an FDNY Inspector observed several glass bottles of various chemicals stored on the floor of a laboratory. The inspector issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for improper storage of hazardous materials.
Hazardous materials including flammable, corrosive or toxic chemicals must be stored safely, in such a manner as to prevent accidental release. If bottles are stored on the floor, they must be protected by secondary containment measures, such as tubs, constructed of a chemical-compatible material. Please ensure that all chemicals in your laboratory are stored safely. For more information about proper segregation, refer to our chemical segregation chart (http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/chemSegChart.pdf).
# 23 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector found a fire extinguisher that was used to hold open a laboratory door. The inspector issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for failure to maintain a fire extinguisher in the proper location and readily accessible.
# 22 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector examined the contents of a chemical storage cabinet and noted that nitric acid was being stored alongside acetic acid. The inspector issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for improper segregation of hazardous chemicals.
Oxidizers, such as nitric acid, can never be stored near flammable or combustible materials, such as acetic acid. Ensure that all chemicals in your laboratory are stored safely and segregated according to hazard class. For more information about proper segregation, refer to our chemical segregation chart (http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/chemSegChart.pdf).
# 21 - During a regular weekly inspection of Columbia University laboratories, the FDNY inspector examined the contents of a lab freezer. Inside the freezer, a small centrifuge tube containing ethanol was found. When lab workers were asked about the container, they protested stating “it was put into the freezer temporarily to cool it down for an experiment”. The lab was issued a Notice of Violation (NOV).
No matter the quantity, concentration, or duration, no flammable liquids may be kept in refrigerators or freezers that are not either “explosion proof” or “flammable materials”. If your lab does not have the appropriate kind of refrigerator/freezer, a dry ice bath is recommended for temporarily cooling samples of flammable liquids.
# 20 - During a regular inspection of labs at Columbia, the FDNY inspector entered a laboratory with a sprinkler system and noted cardboard boxes and equipment stacked on a shelf touching the ceiling. The inspector issued a Violation Order and informed the PI that laboratories with sprinkler systems are required to have a space clearance of 18 inches from the ceiling.
Each laboratory at Columbia is issued a fire rating based on the composition of the walls and doors as well as the presence or absence of sprinklers. This fire rating is accompanied by a maximum limit for the storage of flammable materials. If you have questions about the fire rating of your lab, contact EH&S. For a consultation before the FDNY inspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Laboratory Safety Officer.
# 19 - During a regular inspection of labs at Columbia, the FDNY inspector had issued an NOV to a laboratory for a refrigerator which obstructed a secondary means of egress, an acid storage cabinet, and the overhead shower. The laboratory quickly resolved the situation by relocating the refrigerator. Weeks later while the FDNY inspector was on the same floor inspecting another laboratory, the Lab Safety Officer noted that the laboratory with the NOV had moved the refrigerator back to the same spot that was in violation. The LSO explained to the lab manager that the FDNY inspector was on campus and that if he was to reinspect, the PI would be subject to court appearance and a fine. (The laboratory quickly relocated the refrigerator to a permanent space.)
#18 - During an inspection of laboratories at Columbia University, the FDNY Laboratory Fire Inspector found one lab in possession of two tanks of liquid nitrogen. The Fire inspector asked the lab personnel if anyone in the lab had a certificate of fitness for the handling of cryogenic materials (G97). Finding none, he issued a Notice of Violation.
Under the new fire code issued by the FDNY, any lab possessing more than one large tank of any cryogenic liquid such as liquid nitrogen must have at least one person present at all times of lab operation in possession of a Certificate of Fitness (G97) for the storage, use, and handling of cryogenic materials. This specialized COF is also known by the code G97 and must be obtained from the FDNY at Metrotech Center.
For additional information about the new Fire Code, click on http://ehs.columbia.edu/NYCFireCode.html
September, 2008#17 - Recently the FDNY Inspector, during his weekly inspection of Columbia laboratories, entered one lab and asked for the C-14 Certificate of Fitness (COF) holder for that lab. He was taken to another laboratory unit on the same floor, and introduced to the COF holder for the floor who worked in another laboratory. The FDNY inspector stated that he wanted to see a Certificate of Fitness holder for the original laboratory as the new Fire Code requires a COF holder for each laboratory effective July 1, 2008. The old Code allowed one per floor, but under the new Code each lab needs to have a COF holder present in the lab whenever the lab is in operation. The FDNY inspector issued an NOV to the first lab he visited.
For additional information about the Certificate of Fitness click on http://ehs.columbia.edu/COFreq.html. For a consultation before the FDNYinspector gets around to your lab, or for any question, concern, or help, please contact your Laboratory Safety Officer.
#16 - During a regular inspection of labs at Columbia, the FDNY inspector found that a lab had placed a liquid nitrogen tank in the hallway. The laboratory personnel protested that the tank was put there only temporarily to await removal by the vendor.
Storage of large objects in hallways, such as liquid nitrogen tanks, is prohibited by the FDNY, even if only kept outside temporarily. Please keep all liquid nitrogen tanks inside labs whether they are empty or full, and arrange for vendors to remove them directly from inside the lab or storage area.
#15 - During a regular inspection of labs at Columbia, the FDNY inspector found a lab storing an excessive amount of cardboard (combustible rubbish) and subsequently issued a Notice of Violation (NOV).
Each laboratory at Columbia is required to keep the amount of combustible materials inside the lab to a minimum. Storage of unused cardboard boxes or any other unnecessary combustible materials inside the lab is considered by the FDNY to be a fire hazard. Please discard cardboard boxes as soon as they are emptied.
#14 - During a routine weekly lab inspection the FDNY inspector found a compressed gas cylinder that was improperly secured.
On further inspection, the compressed gas cylinder was found to be secured by a cylinder clamp to electrical conduit running along the wall. The lab manager was reminded that compressed gas cylinders must be secured to substantial objects such as counter tops, or properly mounted wall hooks. FDNY Rules prohibit the securing of compressed gas cylinders to electrical or plumbing conduits. The Fire inspector issued a NOV for improperly securing a compressed gas cylinder.
#13 - During his weekly lab inspection, the FDNY inspector revisited a laboratory inspected several months earlier. During the previous inspection, he issued a Violation Order (VO) for expired chemicals, specifically 2-Propanol, which had been opened in December 2006. Upon re-inspection he found the lab had the same (or a similar) bottle of 2-Propanol stored in the flammable storage cabinet. He reminded the lab that secondary alcohols that can form peroxides have a shelf life of one-year from date of opening, and then issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the lab.
The lab is now responsible for properly disposing of the 2-Propanol and having EH&S certify the correction and return the paperwork to the Fire Department. Failure to correct and return the NOV to the Fire Department in the allotted time frame (35 days) could result in a mandatory Environmental Control Board (ECB) appearance and a fine.
#12 - During a regular inspection of labs at Columbia, the FDNY inspector found that a lab was in excess of its flammable liquid storage limits and subsequently issued a Notice of Violation (NOV). Each laboratory at Columbia is issued a fire rating based on the composition of the walls and doors as well as the presence or absence of sprinklers. This fire rating is accompanied by a maximum limit for the storage of flammables materials. To find out the fire rating of your lab and its flammable material storage limits, contact EH&S.
#11 - As part of his weekly rounds, the FDNY inspector visited a lab and inspected its chemical storage areas.
FDNY regulations mandate that all acids must be stored with chemical-resistant liners or spill trays, and never on bare metal.
#10 - The FDNY Inspector made a random visit to a lab. Upon entering the lab, he saw a researcher having his breakfast, with a cup of coffee and a bagel on the bench. The researcher continued to drink his coffee and eat his bagel as the FDNY Inspector approached. The inspector asked the researcher if they are aware of the sign on the lab door which prohibits eating, drinking and smoking in the lab. As a result, the researcher was asked to remove his food from the lab and the FDNY inspector issued a NOV.
#9 - As part of his regular rounds, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector visited a small laboratory crowded with research materials. The Inspector noted that cardboard boxes were piled high on laboratory bench shelves, reaching to the ceiling. The Inspector issued a warning to the laboratory that combustible material may NOT be stored closer than 18" to the ceiling in which sprinklers are mounted. When the Inspector returned to follow-up several months later, it was apparent that the lab had not corrected the situation, and a NOV was issued. As a result, the lab was given 30 days to correct the situation, or a summons to the NYC Environmental Control Board (ECB) would be issued.
#8 - While escorting the FDNY Inspector on his regular rounds, EH&S was called to respond to a small fire in a laboratory. Upon reaching the scene, EH&S staff were relieved to discover that the fire was smothered using the fire extinguisher in the lab, that no one was injured, and that there was only cosmetic damage to the facility.
Interviews with laboratory personnel indicated that the fire began when a small, lighted alcohol torch tipped over and spilled its contents, which ignited along with papers on the work surface. Digging deeper into the source of the fire, it was learned that the alcohol torch was being operated without its protective cap in place, which had been lost. Laboratory equipment, if not used properly, has the potential to create hazardous conditions. Always verify the integrity of equipment before beginning work and report any suspected problems to supervisors or EH&S.
#7 - While escorting the FDNY Inspector on his regular rounds, EH&S staff noticed an odd burning odor on a lab floor. Upon investigation, it was determined that a Western Blot, conducted in a cold room, had overheated and melted the plastic buffer tank. The cause of the heat build-up was found to be a stir-plate short circuit, resultant from contact with liquid. The FDNY inspector noted that the immediate danger had passed and continued on his rounds, leaving EH&S to determine the cause of the incident and future prevention measures, and the lab to clean the mess. Interviews with laboratory personnel indicated that crushed ice was placed beneath the stir-plate in an attempt to cool the procedure. Electrical equipment must be protected from contact with conductive liquids (such as water) at all times! Not all hazards encountered in the research environment come from chemicals; physical hazards from electrical equipment, compressed gases, cryogenic materials, and blunt forces must also be considered. For assistance in recognizing and controlling physical and chemical hazards in your lab, please contact your Laboratory Safety Officer.
#6 - While inspecting a laboratory, the FDNY inspector found a bottle of 2-Propanol with an expired shelf life. This chemical is good for only one year from the opening date. The inspector reminded the lab not to store chemicals that are out of date because there is a potential for these to form peroxides which at times might be explosive, and then a Notice of Violation (NOV) was issued to the lab.
#5 - During a weekly random laboratory inspection, the FDNY inspector found a small test tube labeled "70% ethanol in water solution" stored in a regular refrigerator. Alcohol, regardless of the quantity, can only be placed in a chemical storage refrigerator or explosion-proof refrigerator. When questioned, the laboratory researcher explained that the vial was being chilled for use in an experiment that day. The Inspector reminded the laboratory that flammables cannot be stored in an ordinary refrigerator and issued a NOV.
#4 - During a weekly random laboratory inspection, the FDNY inspector noticed a Nitrogen compressed gas tank that was not secured. The strap was hanging loose, and the lab manager stated that the supplier's representative had delivered the cylinder that morning. The Inspector reminded the laboratory that it is their responsibility to make sure all tanks are secured, and issued a NOV.
see attached cylinder photo.
#3 – During a weekly random laboratory inspection, the FDNY inspector asked “who is the Certificate of Fitness (COF) holder for this lab or for the floor”? Turns out a COF holder for the laboratory was not present at the time of the inspection. The Inspector reminded the PI that it is their responsibility to ensure that a COF holder is present on the floor or in the lab when the laboratory is in operation (including weekends, nights and holidays), and then issued an NOV.
To obtain a Certificate of Fitness, visit our website at http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/COFreq.html. FDNY allows EH&S to administer the test onsite to applicants who meet the FDNY educational requirements. EH&S pays the test fee and its renewal every three years. We strongly recommend each lab have at least one Certificate of Fitness holder.
#2 – During weekly laboratory inspection rounds, the FDNY inspector found a chemical bottle wrapped in aluminum foil that he determined to be in violation of FDNY regulations. When the foil was removed, the bottle was clearly labeled as a bottle of glycerol-a relatively benign substance, but still subject to FDNY regulation. FDNY regulations require chemical containers to be clearly and visibly labeled to indicate their contents at all times. While the manufacturer’s label was on the bottle itself, the foil wrapper prevented the label from being seen. The Inspector reminded the laboratory staff that it is their responsibility to make sure all chemical containers are clearly labeled and then issued a Notice of Violation (NOV).
#1 - During a weekly random laboratory inspection, the FDNY Laboratory Inspector found a FuGENE 6 Transfection Reagent kit in a non-flammable, non-explosion refrigerator. According to theSDS (material safety data sheet), the kit contains 1 mL of reagent, consisting of 80-90% ethanol, a flammable. The FDNY inspector reminded laboratory personnel that there is no /de minimis/ quantity of flammable materials allowed in refrigerators not approved for flammable materials storage, and issued an NOV.