Update: Controlled Substances in Research by Christopher Pettinato

In the winter 2010 edition of Safety Matters, we reviewed the University’s Policy for the Acquisition, Use and Disposal of Controlled Substances in Research.  Since that review, EH&S has received numerous inquiries from laboratories seeking guidance and assistance with issues of applications, storage, recordkeeping and disposal.  As noted in the Policy, new applicants may be subject to an on-site inspection by the New York State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement (NYSDOH BNE) before being issued a NYS license.  Not knowing what to expect from an inspection, several laboratories have contacted EH&S to request our participation in their scheduled inspection.  Of course, EH&S is always happy to assist.  In fact, participating in such inspections affords us an opportunity to not only get better acquainted with the inspectors and the types of issues they tend to focus on, but it also gives us an opportunity to assess how these individual inspections affect the general direction of our guidance documents and compliance assistance. 

Thus far, the focus of the NYSDOH BNE inspections has been to verify that the license applicant has established adequate controlled substance security/storage measures and to review the recordkeeping documents the applicant intends to use.  In instances where the applicant reviewed the Policy and guidance documents in advance of the application and inspection, they had an unremarkable inspection and were informed that their application would be forwarded to the NYSDOH BNE central office for approval, as expected.  Properly installing an acceptable double-door, double-lock cabinet and utilizing the recordkeeping template documents available on the EH&S website should yield a similar, positive inspection result every time.  If your lab is planning to conduct research with controlled substances, or is currently doing so, and you have not yet reviewed the Policy and the associated Appendices, Resources and Reference Documents, it is never too soon nor too late to do so.  In fact, we continue to improve the reference documents/templates, so we encourage all affected parties to check back often for the most current information.     

Dress Appropriately for Work – Especially in the Lab! by Kevin McGhee

Nearly all occupations involve some form of dress code, and this is no different for laboratories.  In the case of labs, the required attire is mandated not just to encourage a presentable appearance, but to ensure safety for workers and students in a hazardous setting.  This includes not only the special personal protective equipment that is kept in the laboratory, but also the regular clothes that are worn from home.

Summer can bring about a special challenge for laboratory workers, with the temptation to wear lighter clothing such as sandals and shorts.  As uncomfortable as it may be, hot summer weather is no excuse for wearing this type of clothing in a laboratory; closed toe shoes must be worn year round, and shorts are not permitted.  While shorts and sandals are comfortable to wear outside the lab during a hot summer day, they afford no protection against chemical exposure inside the lab.  If space allows, you may want to keep your long pants and closed toe shoes in your desk drawer and change to lighter clothes for trips to and from home.

Unique hazards must also be considered when deciding what is appropriate to wear in the lab.  If your experiments involve special hazards such as pyrophoric materials or operations with large amounts of flammable solvents, avoid highly flammable synthetic clothing and wear a lab coat made of a fire-resistant material such as Nomex. 

Failure to dress appropriately for work in a laboratory can lead to serious injury in the event of an accident.  For specific advice on what kind of basic attire and personal protective equipment is appropriate for your lab, please contact your Lab Safety Officer for further consultation.

Laboratory Emergency Contact Stickers  by Paul Rubock

The ability to quickly and knowledgeably respond to equipment or room alarms may be critical for  the rescue of
irreplaceable materials during an emergency in a way that does not jeopardize personnel safety. EH&S has developed
stickers for critical equipment - especially in common or shared areas and outside of environmental rooms to provide a
24-hour contact number so that University responders can obtain hazard assessment information in the event of an emergency or other type of alarm situation. Stickers will be distributed shortly. You may click this link to download the
stickers if you wish to post them now.  (http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/LabSign.pdf)

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