Spotlight on Safety by EH&S

In this edition of Spotlight on Safety, G. Michael Purdy, Executive Vice President for Research, shares his insights on the importance of safety in research. Several quotes from Dr. Purdy’s video are highlighted below and the full video can be viewed @
Dr. Purdy: “Ultimately, we cannot practice world class science without a world class commitment to safety.”
Dr. Purdy: “I ask for you lasting commitment to take a Safety Always approach in your research endeavors…”
Dr. Purdy: “We are building on and improving the safety culture here every day. Please join me in being an active champion for safety.”
Dr. Purdy

Hand Hygiene in Tissue Culture Rooms by Christopher Aston, Senior Biological Safety Officer

Disposable gloves should always be worn when working in a biosafety cabinet for two reasons. Firstly, to provide a protective barrier between the skin and any infectious agents that may be handled, and secondly, to prevent contamination of cultures from microorganisms present on the skin. The practice should extend beyond work with known infectious agents or clinical specimens, to any kind of tissue culture work, since even cell lines can harbor endogenous retroviruses. Gloves should always be removed and hands should be washed with soap and water before leaving the tissue culture area or touching any surfaces such as the door handle. Particular attention should be paid to washing the wrists, which are more likely to have had exposed skin.

Dedicated tissue culture rooms with a hand washing sink are ideal, but we all know that space is at a premium at Columbia and tissue culture may be practiced in repurposed space or in a location not equipped with a hand washing sink. In that case, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer provides an acceptable and effective alternative to soap and water, provided that proximal access to a sink for hand washing upon exit of the room or area is available. Repeated (>4X) application of hand sanitizer leads to an accumulated emollient residue that, although not detrimental to further application of the product, should be removed by hand washing. Tissue culture rooms without a hand washing sink should be equipped with this important sanitizer.

You may have spoken recently to members of the EH&S Biosafety team performing an outreach campaign on good tissue culture practices. If not, keep an eye out for them. EH&S is also available to provide consultation to any laboratories on disinfection products and procedures; email

Fire Doors by John LaPerche, Director of Fire Safety

Corridor doors, stairway doors and entrance doors to rooms off of a corridor serve as important containment barriers to flames, smoke and hazardous gases in the event of a fire and should be kept in the closed position at all times. Recent inspections by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) have resulted in violations issued for doors being unsafely held in the open position or not being able to fully close and properly latch.

Remember, as stated in Fire Safety drills, Laboratory Safety Training, and Certificate of Fitness courses, the “C” in “RACE & PASS” stands for “Confine,” which can be accomplished by closing doors as you leave a fire area.

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