Chemical Movement About Campus by Greg Kwolek

When was the last time you gave thought to how your chemicals are moved about campus? If you work in a lab at CUMC, Nevis or Lamont Doherty, the vast majority of chemicals are delivered directly to your lab. However, if you work at Morningside, someone from your lab typically retrieves chemicals from one of two store rooms on campus, which means the decisions made prior to and during transport are critical
Take, for instance, a recent incident involving a very large, very odorous spill of 12 liters of mixed flammable liquids near the Pupin loading dock. The spill, which sent one person to seek medical attention due to bodily exposure, closed the loading dock for an entire afternoon, and required over 50 EH&S person-hours to fully remediate, could have been prevented if one or more contributing factors had been more carefully thought out in advance. The contributing factors included far too many materials (chemicals plus dry lab supplies) being transported on a cart not designed for moving chemicals and included a route with a sloping floor. Had the employee decided to make 2 trips, or use a cart with raised sides or placed the chemical containers inside of a secondary container/tote or used an alternate route, which may not have been as direct but did not include a sloped floor, the incident would likely have been averted.
As with all incidents, it is important to put the lessons learned into action to prevent recurrence. To help establish “safer” approaches to moving chemicals around the Morningside campus, EH&S, in cooperation with BioStores and ChemStores, is creating an initiative to loan rolling carts and bottle carriers to individuals making chemical pickups at the store rooms. If you arrive at a store room and don’t have a cart or bottle carrier, you won’t be turned away. Instead, you will be able to borrow a cart or bottle carrier to move your chemicals safely back to your laboratories. All that is asked is that you return the equipment in a timely fashion so that others may take advantage.

Quick Tips:

  • Transporting one bottle? Use a bottle carrier; they offer protection from breakage and an easier to grip handle.
  • Moving a few bottles? Use a sturdy cart with a low center of gravity and raised sides of at least a few inches; the raised sides can keep the bottles from sliding off the cart and serve as secondary containment in the event of an unfortunate incident!
  • Familiarize yourself with the route you’ll be taking; take the path of least resistance! Stay indoors, avoid ramps when possible, and use freight elevators instead of passenger elevators, if equipped.
  • Avoid buying in bulk, order only what the lab will use in the near term. Smaller quantities are safer and easier to transport, and store.

For additional guidance, including the University policy, equipment purchasing advice and other information, please visit … http://ehs.columbia.edu/chemtrans.html

Changes

Maria Taveras, EH&S Radiation Dosimetry Coordinator, has completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing and will be moving over to the clinical scene. Maria’s last day was August 16 – four years to the day that she joined EH&S. We are sorry to see her leave but we wish her much success in her new vocation. Assuming the Radiation Dosimetry Coordinator duties is Cade Register. Cade joins EH&S from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he worked as a radiation safety specialist in LSU’s health physics program. Cade may be reached for all personal dosimetry needs @ 212.305-0303 or via email at badges@columbia.edu

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