FDNY Familiarization Drill by John LaPerche

On Saturday Sept 24, local New York City Fire Department (FDNY) units, along with their Haz Mat, Rescue and Special Operation Command units, were invited by EH&S, Public Safety and CU Facilities to participate in a familiarization drill of the Morningside Campus Northwest Corner Building.  The purpose of the drill was to acquaint FDNY with important elements of the building’s layout and operation, including fire alarm locations, building access, and water supply and mechanical systems, should they ever be called to respond to an emergency.   The firefighters were also escorted on a tour of the building’s “areas of concern,” including laboratories, chemical storage areas and mechanical equipment rooms.  Being familiar with a building is of great importance to a firefighter; knowing the layout of a building helps them operate more quickly and safely, which in turn protects more lives and prevents property damage.  EH&S has been hosting building tours with FDNY for more than a decade and always concludes these events with a “Lessons Learned Lunch,” to afford the firefighters an opportunity for additional Q & A with EH&S, as well as other University representatives participating in the tour.  As always, FDNY was appreciative of our continued efforts at familiarizing them with University building and operations and look forward more drills in the future.

Safe Use of Refrigerators in Research Labs by Brian Anderson

Improper storage of flammable laboratory chemicals in regular “household” freezers and refrigerators is a safety concern that can result in physical injury and the loss of research materials.  Household freezers and refrigerators, designed primarily for the storage of food, must be used with care in lab applications.  While household units are typically lower in price, they are not designed to industrial specifications, and often contain unprotected internal wiring and components that are capable of acting as incidental sources of ignition, thus greatly limiting their capability for safe chemical storage.  When flammable materials are stored in a household refrigerator, flammable vapors can accumulate and ignite if an internal mechanism such as an interior light or a fan motor causes a spark; unfortunately, numerous instances of such events are documented in the laboratory safety literature.  For this reason, no matter the quantity, concentration or duration of storage, flammable liquids must never be kept in refrigerators or freezers that are not designed and rated as either “explosion proof” or for the storage of “flammable materials.” If your lab does not have access to an appropriate refrigerator/freezer, a wet or dry ice bath is recommended for temporarily cooling samples of flammable liquids.

Prior approval from EH&S, issued via the Financial Front End (FFE) system, is required if your lab intends to purchase a household refrigerator or freezer.  To notify EH&S of a planned purchase, please submit to your Research Safety Specialist a completed “Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement Prohibiting the Storage of Flammables in a Fridge/Freezer” form, found at http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/Refrigerator.pdf.  Upon receipt, EH&S will consult with the lab on the materials that will be stored in the unit, approve the purchase in FFE, and provide the appropriate safety signage for your new unit. 

FDNY Most Common Violations by John LaPerche

The FDNY Laboratory Unit performs regular, weekly inspections in all chemical laboratories across Columbia University’s New York City campuses, and has the authority to issue Violation Orders or Notices of Violation for non-compliance with code requirements.  All laboratories in NYC require a FDNY permit to operate; these permits are renewed each year after the FDNY annual inspection, and will be withheld until all open violations have been corrected.  Members of EH&S escort the inspectors to act as a liaison with the laboratories to assist in the immediate correction of violations that are discovered.  Quickly identifying and correcting violations prevents possible accidents from occurring and can also prevent financial penalties.

A review of inspection statistics over the last 18 months has identified the following as the most common FDNY laboratory violations.  Please review the list and ensure that your lab has implemented corrective actions to minimize the potential for these violations.

% of All Violations Corrective Actions
Certificate of Fitness – (C-14) 10%  
  1. Need Additional enrollment
31%* Enroll lab member(s), as needed, in the C-14 program.  See information and schedule here - http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/cof.html
  1. None Assigned to Laboratory
Chemical Stored Improperly 17%  
  1. Chemical Segregation
13%* Ensure incompatible chemicals are physically separated from one another by distance or secondary containment
  1. Excess Flammable liquids
11%* Manage all flammables, including waste, to below permitted amount
  1. Expiration Date - EXPIRED
23%* Dispose of all expired chemicals, especially those capable of dangerous deterioration
  1. Flammables stored in refrigerator
32%* Properly store flammable chemicals only in chemical storage or explosion proof refrigerators
  1. Chemicals not properly labeled
19%* Properly label all chemicals containers, including secondary containers, with full name of contents
Extension Cord Misuse 4% Do not run extension cords across floors, under carpets or hang from ceilings. Power strips are intended for small portable appliances only (hand carry items) and not heavy equipment.  Position equipment close to an electrical receptacle for direct connection.  Contact Facilities to install additional receptacles as necessary.
(* - Represents sub-total of preceding violation category)
NOTE -2% Chemicals Stored Improperly included miscellaneous violations i.e. Excessive chemicals in fume hood
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