Ready References: FAQs and Wall Guides 

Ever wonder how to obtain additional Hazardous Waste labels?  Can’t seem to figure out all the rules for that rDNA research proposal?  Lost the phone number to contact Facilities Operations?  Chances are you’re not the first. The newly-added Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) area of the EH&RS/EH&S website and the newly-updated Emergency Response and Waste Disposal Wall Guide contain answers to these questions and more.
From Asbestos to Xylene, FAQ’s are a comprehensive list of questions and answers covering some of the most commonly requested information about health and safety issues in and around the laboratory. To take a look at the FAQ’s, please visit:  The Wall Guide is that handy flip chart posted by your lab’s phone.  It contains important first-response information in the event of a fire, spill, or personal injury.

For a replacement Wall Guide, please contact EH&RS/EH&S.
Information found under the FAQ’s and in the Wall Guide barely scratches the surface however, when it comes
to the unpredictable world of research. If you are unable to find the answer you’re looking for, please do not
hesitate to pick up the phone, or send us an email.  We are happy to assist!

Safety Training: Where do you stand?

EH&RS/EH&S is committed to ensuring students, faculty, and staff have a safe work environment. One of the most important tools used to accomplish this is training – How can anyone be expected to follow the rules and guidelines if they don’t know what they are? EH&RS/EH&S offers monthly, classroom-based safety training programs in Laboratory Safety, Hazardous Waste, Bloodborne Pathogens/Biological Safety, Laser Safety, and the Safe Use of Formaldehyde and Xylene. Are you current on your safety training?

Are your coworkers?  After all, their accidents are your exposures.

Aside from providing valuable information on safe work practices, training meets a major regulatory requirement. Institutions and individuals can be fined if regulators discover employees have not been properly trained. Laboratory Safety, Hazardous Waste and Laser Safety trainings are mandated every three years;

Bloodborne Pathogen training and training on the Safe Use of Formaldehyde and Xylene are required annually for those employees working with these specific materials.  When was the last time you attended training? If you’re unsure or are due for training, just come to the next live training (no pre-registration required) or complete an online RASCAL course. Information and schedules can be found at

Everything Costs More in the Long Run

In addition to the obvious risk of personal or environmental injury, improper management of hazardous waste may also result in monetary fines and incarceration. The EPA recently issued a $250,000 fine to a Pharmacology professor at a west coast university for a June 2006 incident in which the professor was found to have knowingly poured ethyl ether and ethanol down the lab drain. Both compounds are EPA characteristic flammable hazardous wastes due to their flashpoints. The professor also faces up to five years in prison and will be sentenced in June 2007. 

What is even more shocking than the disregard for environmental safety and hazardous waste management was the
blatant disregard for personal safety as
they punctured three cans of ethyl ether with an axe. In addition to being extremely flammable, ethyl ether is potentially explosive.

The only explanation offered was that the lab did not want to pay for the cost of proper waste disposal. This cost obviously pales in comparison to the cost of losing a job (and possibly your career), not to mention the stiff financial penalties and the prospect of a five year prison sentence. 

Columbia has several programs in place to ensure hazardous waste management is simple and accessible to all labs:
* Disposal service for all routine hazardous waste generated in the labs is provided at NO CHARGE to
   individual labs.
1 Hazardous Waste Management training programs are provided by EH&RS/EH&S to support Columbia’s commitment to safe and compliant hazardous waste management.


2 Periodic hazardous waste inspections are performed by EH&RS/EH&S personnel and waste pick-up
   services are provided to ensure hazardous waste is appropriately handled.
3 Columbia contracts with several licensed and permitted hazardous waste disposal firms for the proper treatment and disposal of hazardous waste. 

Please ensure you and your colleagues have been trained in and are following proper procedures for managing hazardous waste.  If not, please visit
for the training schedule and/or contact us for a customized training for your lab or department.


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