Keeping Chemical Storage Sites Safe by Neil Mansky
Labs understand the necessity to maximize their limited research space, especially those that have recently shrunk in size. Among the consequences of space constraints is the need to identify safe storage locations that provide adequate segregation of incompatible chemicals. Too often, to the detriment of safety, chemicals may be crammed under the sink, randomly stored together or left ‘temporarily’ in the fume hood*, increasing the risk of personal exposure from the reaction that may occur when incompatible chemicals come into contact.
The restrictions of limited lab space and chemical safety need not be in conflict. The revised FDNY fire code no longer requires separate cabinets or permanent barriers between incompatibles. Rather, these items can be stored on the same shelf or in the same cabinet if they are kept in separate secondary containers, such as plastic bins. EH&S has a limited supply of secondary containment bins, available by request, for labs that need to develop a segregation system.
When planning storage areas, segregate chemicals into the following classes: flammables, reactives (including water-reactives, pyrophorics, and flammable solids), oxidizers and organic peroxides, and corrosives (acids and alkalis). Extremely hazardous chemicals should by stored separate from as many other materials as possible. Store chemical containers in places where they are the least likely to fall or break (not on the floor, where they can be tripped-over or kicked, or under a sink, where they can be impacted by leaks) and always keep hazardous liquids below eye level to minimize the likelihood of exposures to the face and eyes. See the
Segregation Chart on the EH&S website for more information: http://ehs.columbia.edu/chemSegChart.doc.
*Overcrowded fume hoods may result in an FDNY Violation Order. Failure to correct may lead to the assessment of fines and/or require a court appearance. The bargain you get on ordering in bulk will be more than negated by the adverse financial and safety consequences.
Are You Registered? by Christopher Pitoscia
A Canadian research scientist at the University of Saskatoon Cancer Centre recently had his laboratory shut down after a worker reported the lab for conducting unauthorized experiments. An investigation – the full story is from CBC News - revealed that the lab failed to obtain permits for work with an infectious material, listeria, and had also failed to properly register their experiments with the University’s animal care committee. While the national requirements vary from the US to Canada, the incident serves as an important reminder that numerous activities involving biological materials, though seemingly commonplace and innocuous, require administrative notification. For example:
¨ All work with recombinant DNA must be registered with the University’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) via RASCAL (https://www.rascal.columbia.edu). Log on to the RASCAL system and complete Appendix A.
¨ All animal experiments involving the use of hazardous materials, whether potentially infectious, human-derived, or chemical, must also be described in RASCAL appendices attached to your protocol.
Please contact EH&S with any questions regarding research notification and registration requirements.
Near-Miss in Unattended Water Bath by Juliet Ogbonnaya
Prior to the arrival of laboratory staff on a recent weekday morning, Public Safety responded to a smoke alarm at a CUMC laboratory. The smoke condition was caused when a rack of plastic test tubes melted after being left in a water bath overnight. The water bath was left plugged in, with the heat on and its lid off, allowing its contents to evaporate. Once the bath was dry, the plastic test tubes and rack were exposed to the direct heat of the bath. This and other recent incidents (see Oil Bath article, above) illustrate the importance of personally attending and supervising all experiments. EH&S strongly discourages the unattended use, in particular, of electrical equipment with heating elements. For additional information, please see EH&S’ policy statement on the Unattended Operation of Laboratory Equipment - http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/UnattendedEquipment.html