Certificate of Fitness (COF)

New York City Fire Department (FDNY) requires at least one Certificate of Fitness (COF) holder per floor be present while a laboratory is in operation, including weekends, nights and holidays. Each lab is encouraged to have at least one COF holder to comply with this regulation. The required COF training is available onsite through EH&RS/EH&S. COF training and examination is offered @ CUMC every Wednesday at 12 noon, and at Morningside every 3rd Wednesday at 2:00 PM. Alternatively, laboratory personnel may take the COF training at the FDNY Metrotech Center in Brooklyn.  For more information including training requirements, please go to our website.

Biological Toxins-Regulations/Exemptions

Possession of some commonly used toxins in excess of specific quantity limits requires FBI security clearance, finger printing and CDC or USDA registration.  Regulated toxins and their exemption maximums are: T-2 or diacetoxyscirpenol-1,000 mg; abrin, conotoxin, ricin, saxitoxin, shiga-like ribosome inactivating proteins, tetrodotoxin, C. pefringens epsilon toxin, or shigatoxin-100 mg; Staphylococcal enterotoxins-5 mg; and botulinum neurotoxins-0.5 mg.  Diligent inventory management should, in most cases, allow laboratories to work within these limits without going through the registration process.  If your laboratory will approach or exceed these quantity limits, contact EH&RS/EH&S to initiate registration.  Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) should be used as risk assessment

Shipping of Biological Materials

Given the nature of its research activities, it is not surprising that Columbia University is a potential source of biological materials shipments that would present some level of infection risk in the event of an accident during transport.  EH&RS/EH&S continues to update its safety training programs to ensure that packages leaving the University are classified, packaged and labeled in accord with national and international regulations to prevent such an occurrence. 

Above all else, personnel responsible for these shipments must receive task specific training.  The inability to produce training records is the most frequently cited violation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) when they audit shipping programs.  Fines can range into the tens-of-thousands of dollars; yes-they do check

If you ship any biological materials, you can use of the training module on the University’s RASCAL system.  Select ‘testing center’ in the ‘Compliance’ section and take course TC0022.  Training and other requirements vary depending on the hazard of material shipped.  In most cases, the module will provide the appropriate training information or you will find that your package is exempt from the regulations.  If you are shipping higher-risk materials (as defined in the module) contact EH&RS/EH&S.

Get on the “Train”

Environmental Health and Radiation Safety/Environmental Health and Safety (EH&RS/EH&S) is committed to making Columbia safe for our students, faculty and staff.  One tool we use in pursuit of safety for our laboratory personnel is our safety training.  Through training, we pass on some of our professional expertise to help you to avoid accidents and comply with University policy while working safely in your laboratory. 

One new feature of our program at Morningside, is the introduction of live monthly safety training on the first Friday of the month in 309 Havemeyer Hall, 10AM-12PM. In these sessions, EH&RS/EH&S covers Laboratory Safety, Chemical Hygiene, and Hazardous Waste Management to decrease the chance of an accident, to introduce the research community to some of our department’s sustainability and management programs, and to comply with federal and state environmental regulations.  These are followed by Fire Safety training on prevention, New York City-specific regulations, and response to fires and other emergencies.  The final component is Biological Safety for those working with microorganisms, recombinant DNA, and any potentially infectious materials such as unfixed human or animal tissue.  The same topics are also covered in monthly trainings presented at the Medical Center for personnel working at that campus (see our website for details).

Laboratory personnel working with chemicals must take their first safety training “live”. Refresher training for laboratory personnel is required every three years and can be taken via the live course or online via RASCAL training. Training schedules may be found  on our website.  We look forward to helping you move toward a safer and more environmentally compliant future.  See http://www.ehrs.columbia.edu/TrainingSchedule.html for a complete schedule of Morningside trainings.

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