“5 L’s” of Hazardous Waste Management

EH&RS/EH&S uses the 5 L’s as a tool to ensure environmental compliance for the proper storage and management of hazardous waste.  The 5 L’s stand for: CoLLect, Label, Lid, Locate, and Leaks.  All hazardous waste should be CoLLected-never treated on-site or drain disposed.  Once the first drops of waste are added to a container, a Label must be affixed to the container.  The Label must always have the generator’s name and proper names of all components-never abbreviations or formulae.  Containers must be closed with a Lid at all times, except when actively adding waste to prevent a spill should the container be knocked over.  Hazardous waste must be Located in the room of its generation and may not be moved through any doorways.  Containers should be checked for Leaks at least weekly.  Leaks can be prevented by storing waste in compatible containers (acids corrode metal) or mitigated by keeping containers inside secondary containers such as plastic trays.  If a Leak is found, contact EH&RS/EH&S for assistance in containing and managing the spill.  The 5 L’s provide the basics for hazardous waste management and we are here to help you with any issues you may have.

Chemical Tracking System (CTS) at Columbia

The Morningside campus’ Chemical Tracking System (ChemTracker) is the essential web-based management module allowing for the storage of detailed information about every substance in the system. This detail provides the foundation for regulatory compliance, environmental safety and inventory, research and budget control. All substances are tracked from their point of entry, through inclusion in specific inventories and finally to their disposal.

In October 2005, the program was piloted in sample laboratories at Morningside in the Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Chemical Engineering departments.  The new system did not cause any delay in the receipt of chemical orders and all 15 departments that use chemicals at Morningside campus now use ChemTracker.  If you are unsure ask your PI if your department uses CTS. Researchers can check their chemical inventory via EH&RS/EH&S Chemical Inventory Website: http://sklad.cumc.columbia.edu/ehrs  A UNI and password are required to get into the map and your name must be in our database for departmental lab access.

Contact Jean Lee, Director of Information Technology for any questions about system access or trainings (jl2402@columbia.edu) or phone at 212-854-8883.

Laboratory Safety, Accidents and Incidents:  What Did We Learn?

Each year, laboratories across the country experience accidents and incidents.  Some accidents and incidents are more serious than others, some even involving personal injuries or damage to or loss of assets.  All accidents and incidents have something in common-they yield valuable lessons to be learned from the evaluation of the event.  Here we note two important accidents reported at Columbia from the past year, and offer the following Lessons Learned.

Summer, 2006 – Mixtures of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide (commonly known as piranha solutions) are notorious for their ability to pressurize their storage containers.  A lab unaware of this danger, tightly sealed the cap on their piranha waste container, resulting in an explosion, breaking a glass bottle and contaminating a large area with highly corrosive liquid.  There were no injuries but the laboratory had to be evacuated for several hours during clean up.  The lesson to be learned?  Always be aware of the incompatibility hazards and storage requirements associated with the materials used in your lab.  In addition, consider safer alternative materials!
Fall, 2006 – A laboratory employee performing a western blot left the experiment running overnight in a cold room.  The following morning, fire consumed the experiment, destroying the electrophoresis apparatus and damaging the cold room.  The exact cause of this incident remains unknown.  What can we learn from this incident?  Experiments should be attended in person whenever possible.  Working alone and/or leaving materials otherwise isolated places individuals at special risk.  It is also noteworthy that once the smell of smoke was reported, University personnel and FDNY HazMat personnel quickly initiated a co-operative response to ensure that there was no unnecessary exposure and that potentially affected areas were efficiently evacuated.  The effective response was attributable to fire drills, safety training, and ‘familiarization drills’ conducted with the Fire Department. Moreover, remember, in case of fire: RACE and PASS!

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