Personal Protective Equipment …What You Need To Know
by Tasha Hightower

Columbia University will soon be releasing an updated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Policy, which will become effective immediately. The Policy outlines the University's approach to the selection, use and maintenance of PPE, as well as laboratory-appropriate work attire, in research spaces where hazardous substances are present. The Policy is accompanied by a PPE Hazard Assessment Tool, designed to assist laboratories in making proper PPE selections.

EH&S’s Personal Protective Equipment webpage provides access to the Policy, PPE Hazard Assessment    Tool, as well as other important PPE information.

Helping to create a safe work environment is EH&S’s primary goal and we are here to assist each laboratory in meeting that goal.  EH&S Research Safety Specialists are available for consultation on specific issues, such as choosing the most appropriate chemical-resistant glove, and other more general laboratory safety concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Radioactive Material Contamination by Marlyn Duarte

Contamination is defined as radioactivity in any location where it is unwanted or unexpected. It can be caused by mishandling of materials containing radionuclides and/or improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).  Since radioactivity cannot be detected by the five senses, accidental spillage of even microliter quantities can result in deposition on bench surfaces, equipment, floors, clothing or exposed skin. If proper precautions are not taken, contamination can spread beyond the immediate work area.

Early detection is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of contamination.  Therefore, it is important to survey your work area before, during and after working with radioactivity.  New York City Health Department regulations require all laboratories to conduct and document a radiation survey at least once a month.  These surveys are designed to detect fixed and removable contamination and areas with excessive radiation levels.  Both types of surveys achieve the same goal – maintain radiation doses as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) by early detection and removal of excessive levels of radioactivity. Doing so helps to reduce or eliminate unnecessary radiation exposure.

Proper selection and use of PPE is also important in preventing contamination of clothing and skin. Lab coats, gloves, closed-toe shoes and eye protection are required when working with radioactivity. Proper disposal of gloves that may be contaminated with RAM prevents the spread of contamination to equipment and tools in the laboratory such as refrigerators, doors and sinks.

EH&S’s Radiation Safety Program works closely with the laboratories to ensure the proper handling and disposal of RAM. Routine audits are performed and if contamination is found, guidelines are offered for decontamination procedures. To read more about RAM usage please visit:    http://www.ehs.

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