“Almost event”:  Computer Overheat Incident by Harry J. Oster
A computer fire was recently avoided by a quick thinking employee and thorough investigation by staff. Upon entering the work area, the employee detected an unknown burning odor and immediately called Public Safety, who in turned called EH&S Fire Safety and Facilities to investigate the odor.  The investigation traced the odor back to a desktop computer tower that was emitting excessive heat.
Just then, the unit starting smoking, at which time the unit was unplugged.  Once unplugged, the smoke and heat dissipated.  It was determined that the tower had in the past been  left “on” for an unknown periods of time and not regularly shut down at the end of the work day.


  • If you notice any brown colored heat marks or dust build-up on the rear of your tower, immediately unplug it and call your campus IT office.
  • Keep the immediate area around and above the tower and monitor free of combustible materials (paper, dust etc.).
  • Maintain ample air space on all sides and on top of all computer equipment.
  • For safety and energy efficiency, consider replacing a computer that is out of warranty (typically 3-5 years).
  • Know the location of, and how to use the closest fire extinguisher;
  • Upon smelling any burning odor, immediately call Public Safety.
  • Back up files to a server or portable memory device frequently to help prevent loss of data, should an incident like this occur.
  • Take time to read the manufacturer’s installation and safety guide included with each computer.
  • If using a laptop, insure to use on a flat hard surface to allow proper airflow under the unit.


Brown colored” heat mark (lower left) and build up of dust (top center)


Biological Toxins-Regulations/Exemptions by Paul Rubock

Possession of some commonly used toxins in excess of specific quantity limits requires FBI security clearance, finger
printing and CDC or USDA registration.  Regulated toxins and their exemption maximums are: T-2 or diacetoxys
cirpenol-1,000 mg; abrin, conotoxin, ricin, saxitoxin, shiga-like ribosome inactivating proteins, tetrodotoxin, C. pefringens epsilon toxin, or  shigatoxin-100 mg; Staphylococcal enterotoxins-5 mg; and botulinum neurotoxins-0.5 mg.  Diligent inventory management should, in most cases, allow laboratories to work within these limits without going through the registration process.  If your laboratory will approach or exceed these quantity limits, contact EH&S to initiate registration.  Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) should be used as risk assessment.

Remember to get your Flu Shot — available in October  
from Workforce Health & Safety  OR Student Health Services

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