New Building Code, New Fire Code..... New Laboratory Rules

Effective July 1, 2008 New York City launched a new Building Code and a new Fire Code.  The new Fire Code has some rule changes that will affect the storage, handling and use of chemicals in the laboratory and in chemical storage rooms.  The FDNY Inspector has informed us that these new codes will start to be enforced this fall.

One of the most notable changes concerns the number of required Certificate of Fitness (COF) – C-14 holders.  The old code required one COF holder per floor when any lab was in operation, but the new Fire Code requires one per lab unit when the laboratory is in operation.  Each lab will be required to have at least one Certificate of Fitness holder present when the lab is in operation (including evenings, nights, weekends and holidays).  To acquire a Certificate of Fitness please visit our website at

Other changes from the new Fire Code include:

  • Black-out curtains and drapes used in laboratories must be flame-resistant
  • Compressed gas cylinders may not be located in areas that could prevent safe egress in event of accidental release of cylinder contents (e.g., near an exit from the lab).
  • Numbers of compressed gas and cryogenic cylinders stored in labs may be affected—the Fire Dept. is in the process of clarifying specifics..
  • Chemical fume hoods must be provided with a means of preventing overflow of a spill of 2 liters of liquid
  • Incompatible materials must be separated while in storage.  FDNY will clarify new requirements.
  • Flammable quantities for new labs will be based on size of lab and presence of a flammables storage cabinet.
  • New chemical storage rooms may not contain a maximum of either  300 gallons of chemicals or 5 gallons per square foot of floor area.

EH&S continues to meet with the FDNY Deputy Chief Inspector of Laboratory Units to get further clarification of these new rules.  For any questions concerning the new Fire Code or any laboratory fire/life safety issues please email:

Hazardous Waste Compliance Remains a Focus for EPA

BackgroundFor five years, (2000 – 2004) EPA maintained a high profile in colleges and universities in Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands) performing inspections primarily focused on hazardous materials/waste management.  During that period, EPA assessed (after negotiated settlement agreements) close to $4 million in penalties to those and universities subjected to their unannounced enforcement inspections (  Since 2004, the Lamont and Morningside campuses have been operating under the structure of an EPA-mandated Environmental Management System (EMS).  The EMS provides the framework for the University’s environmental compliance commitments with a goal of continuous improvement.  As part of the EMS, policies, procedures and guidance on proper practices have been developed for all of Columbia’s campuses to assist in meeting compliance obligations. 

Upcoming Audit

The University performs periodical internal evaluations of its environmental programs.  This fall, the University is also planning a multi-campus environmental program review by an external consultant. As the summer wanes, please take a few minutes to review your environmental performance in relation to the EMS and its components, particularly in the areas of chemical handling and hazardous waste management. 


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