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4 - General Health and Safety Concerns

While safety procedures to protect building occupants from specific hazardous materials are presented elsewhere in this manual, there are a number of general environmental and procedural factors often overlooked in the design and operation of laboratory facilities. These factors can have a considerable effect on the safety of the work area. This section discusses several of these factors which are relevant to the laboratory and recommends certain procedures to follow related to each.
A. Slips, Trips, and Falls
The use of preventative, common sense procedures go a long way in reducing the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls in the laboratory. The following items shall be observed.
• Electrical cords or other lines should not be suspended across rooms or passageways. When such items are necessary, the cord or line should be taped to the wall or floor and the hazard clearly marked. Extension cords should not be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.
• All wet areas due to leaks or spills of any type should be cleaned and dried immediately.
• Good housekeeping procedures (itemized in Section IIIB., “Housekeeping”) should be observed at all times.
• No running, jumping, or horseplay in the laboratory areas should ever be permitted.
• Ladders should be in good condition and used in the manner for which they were designed. Wooden ladders must not be covered with paint or any other coating since structural defects may be hidden by the coating.
• Lifting of heavy items must be performed in the proper fashion, using the legs to lift and not the back.
B. Housekeeping
As in many of the other general safety procedures, the following listing of good housekeeping practices indicate common sense activities which should be implemented as a matter of course in the laboratory. These recommendations are necessary to prevent accidents.
• The area must be kept as clean as the work allows.
• Reagents, equipment, and samples should be returned to their proper places. Glassware should be placed in specific cleaning areas.
• Countertops should be kept neat and clean. Benchtops and fume hoods should not be used for chemical storage.
• Stored items or equipment must not block access to the fire extinguisher(s), safety equipment, or other emergency items.
• Each laboratory employee should be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of his or her area.
• Chemicals, especially liquids, should never be stored on the floor, except in closed door cabinets.
• Spills should be cleaned immediately. Water spills can create a hazard because of the potential for slips, trips, and falls. Small spills of liquids and solids on benchtops should be cleaned immediately to prevent contact with skin or clothing. See Section XII., “Spill Control/Emergency Response” for additional information on chemical spills.
• Reagents, solutions, glassware, or other apparatus should not be stored in hoods. Besides reducing the available work space, these items may interfere with the proper air-flow pattern which reduces the effectiveness of the hood as a safety device.
• Combustible materials such as paper, wooden boxes, pallets, etc., may not be stored under stairwells. Hallways should be kept free of boxes and materials so that exits or normal paths of travel will not be blocked.
C. Basic Laboratory Safety Rules
The following protocol must be adhered to when working with biohazardous, hazardous, and radioactive materials.
• Store and label all biohazardous, hazardous, and radioactive materials properly. Use flammable and acid storage cabinets and explosion-proof refrigerators when required.
• Spills must be cleaned immediately. Every laboratory is required to have pre-existing plans and materials to clean up all spills that occur in that laboratory.
• Stairways, halls, and access to egress and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, safety showers, and eyewash fountains, shall be kept clear.
• No eating, drinking, smoking, or applying cosmetics is allowed in areas where hazardous materials are used or stored. Always thoroughly wash your hands before eating or smoking, on completion of work, and after manipulating radioisotopes.
• Do not store food or drinks in refrigerators, freezers, or containers designated for chemical, biohazardous, or radioactive storage.
• Compressed gas cylinders must be secured at all times, including during transport and when empty. Cylinder caps must be in place when the cylinder is not in use.
• Do not work alone in a laboratory if the procedures being conducted are deemed hazardous by the laboratory supervisor. Assure that at least 2 people are present at all times if a compound in use is highly toxic or of unknown toxicity.
• Laboratory coats worn in the laboratory area are not to be worn outside the laboratory.
• No sandals, open-toed, or open-heeled shoes are to be worn by laboratory personnel.
• Do not pipette by mouth.
• Work with biohazardous agents must be performed in accordance with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Regulation and/or CDC/NIH Guidelines utilizing proper precautions such as biological safety cabinets, gloves, and procedures which reduce the creation of aerosols.
• Never dispose of a hazardous, biohazardous, or radioactive substance down the drain or in the trash unless specific authorization to do so has been given by the EHSO and/or the Radiation Safety Office.
• Chemical fume hoods will be tested periodically by Campus Facility Management or Site Support. It is the responsibility of the researcher to ensure that biological safety cabinets are certified at least annually, after maintenance, or when moved.
• Eyewashes will be tested and documented annually by the EHSO to assure proper operation.
• Eyewashes should be flushed at least weekly by laboratory personnel to deter amoeba contamination which may damage the eyes.
• Radioactive material usage areas and animal facilities must have controlled access that is strictly enforced. Laboratory areas should not be left unattended unless the area has been secured.
• Any accidental exposure (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, or injection), injury, or spills must be reported to the employee’s supervisor immediately.
• Accurate records of receipt, use, transfer, and disposal of highly toxic, carcinogenic, suspect carcinogenic, and radioactive materials must occur.
• Protective gloves are required in all areas where there is potential for skin exposure or splashes of biohazardous, hazardous, or radioactive materials. Employees must remove gloves when they become contaminated and before leaving the work site to prevent contamination of door knobs, light switches, telephones, etc. Employees must wash their hands immediately after removal of gloves. Goggles, face shields, or safety glasses are required when a potential for splash of hazardous or infectious materials is present and may be required for work with radioactive material.
• Disposal of any materials containing cytotoxins or antineoplastic agents must be arranged through the EHSO. 
D. Safety Practices for Disposal of Broken Glassware
• All broken glass requires special handling and disposal procedures to prevent injury to personnel. Inspect all glassware before use. Do not use broken, chipped, starred, or badly scratched glassware. If it cannot be repaired, broken glass should be discarded.
• There are potentially five types of broken glass that may be disposed in the OU waste stream. All broken glass should be disposed of in a manner that will significantly reduce the potential for employee injury.
1. Food and Beverage Glassware
a. Recycle or dispose of food and beverage glassware in a rigid, puncture-resistant container as described in Section III.D.3., “Acceptable Containers.”
2. Radioactive Glassware
a. Contact the Radiation Safety Office for appropriate procedures.
3. Glassware with Biological Contamination 
a. Biologically contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps such as broken glass, glass with sharp corners, and glass that has the potential to break such as microscope slides, pipettes, test tubes or thin-walled vials must be placed in a closeable, puncture resistant, leak-proof container that is red or labeled with a biohazard symbol prior to disposal, reprocessing, or reuse. 
b. Contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps must not be recapped, removed, sheared, or broken prior to placement in this container.
c. Broken glassware that may be contaminated with human blood, human blood components, products made from human blood, or other potentially infectious materials should not be picked up directly with the hands, but should be cleaned up using mechanical means, such as a brush and a dust pan, tongs, or forceps. 
d. Red biohazard bags or sharps containers should be placed in a cardboard box, labeled with the biohazard symbol for shipment through an appropriate biomedical waste disposal vendor for off-site treatment or incineration.  The box must be obtained from the vendor.  
e. Please contact the EHSO for current vendor information. 
4. Glassware with Chemical Contamination
a. Containers that have held cytotoxic/antineoplastic agents or an EPA “P” listed waste require special disposal procedures. Please see Appendix D for cytotoxic/antineoplastic agents and Appendix E for the EPA “P” list. 
b. Empty containers that have held other chemicals may be disposed in the regular trash. 
c. Residue and debris including broken glass from the cleanup associated with a broken chemical container should be collected in an acceptable container (see Section III.D.3. below) and disposed as hazardous waste through the EHSO.
5. Uncontaminated or Disinfected Glassware
a. Dispose of uncontaminated or disinfected glassware in rigid, puncture-resistant containers as described below.
• Acceptable Containers
1. All containers used for broken glass disposal should be puncture-resistant containers. 
2. A metal or thick plastic can or bucket with a sealing lid is ideal.
3. If glassware is dry, a cardboard box may be used if all seams and edges are sealed or taped.
4. Wet broken glassware should be dried, if possible, before disposal. If broken glass is wet, the cardboard boxes must be lines with one or more puncture-resistant plastic bags and the edges should be taped.
5. Clearly mark the container in large letters with the words “CLEAN BROKEN GLASS” before discarding in the solid waste stream.
6. Limit quantities to approximately no more than 15 pounds so that lifting of the box will not create a situation that could cause back injury. Wherever possible, move the box with a dolly instead of by hand.
E. Emergency Telephone Notification
An emergency call system should be established by laboratory personnel in the event of equipment malfunction or spill after hours.
• During regular working hours, each mini license holder, investigator, or laboratory supervisor should make the necessary arrangements to remove and relocate any hazardous, biohazardous, or radioactive materials housed in temperature-controlled units (freezers, refrigerators, environmental chambers, etc.) or fume hoods that malfunction or stop due to equipment or power failure. 
• For after-hour emergencies, the names and off-duty telephone numbers/pager numbers of the individuals who will be responsible for management of such materials or a spill should be posted on or near each piece of equipment in hallways and on the doors to each laboratory unit or storage room.
• If a malfunctioning unit or spill is discovered by the OUPD, the will follow the call system to contact an individual, but they will not move or clean scientific materials, chemicals or specimens. Such actions will be the responsibility of the person contacted.
• When a person on the list is contacted, he/she will be responsible for managing the incident. The management may include contacting other persons on the call list or coming on-site and handling the materials.
• The lists must be kept up-to-date.
F. Laboratory Close-Out Procedures
The research faculty assigned to a particular laboratory (hereinafter referred to as researcher) is responsible for proper disposition of all items in the laboratory, including furniture, equipment, chemicals, biological materials, radioactive materials, glassware, sharps, and waste materials. The Department Chair is responsible for ensuring that all researchers understand these responsibilities and that the following procedures are followed when a researcher leaves the University or transfers to a different department or laboratory.
If improper management of hazardous materials at close-out requires removal services from the EHSO or RSO, the responsible department may be charged for this service. Details on proper procedures for chemical hazards are found in Chapter V., “Hazardous Waste” of this manual, biological materials are found in Chapter VIII., “Biomedical Waste” of this manual, and radiologic materials are found in the OU Radiation Safety Manual.
Any regulatory action, fines, or costs resulting from improper management, identification, or disposal of hazardous materials will accrue to the responsible department. Procedures to be followed by the researcher are:
• Chemicals
1. Assure that all containers of chemicals are labeled with the proper chemical name of the substance. All containers must be securely closed and structurally sound (i.e. no leaks, corrosion, etc. visibly present). Beakers, flasks, evaporating dishes, etc. should be emptied. Hazardous chemicals shall not be poured down the sewer or placed in the trash; they must be collected for disposal. Check refrigerators, freezers, incubators, fume hoods, and benchtops as well as storage cabinets for chemical containers.
2. Determine which chemicals are suitable for use and transfer responsibility for these materials to another party who is willing to take responsibility for them. If a new user cannot be found, the materials should be inventoried and disposed of through the EHSO.
3. All other chemicals should be prepared for disposal. Detailed instructions for properly completing a Hazardous Materials Pick-Up Request form are available in the Laboratory Safety Manual or on the EHSO website at or Depending on the chemical inventory in question, this process may take some time. Chemical pick-up must be completed before the laboratory is vacated. Chemical and waste collection may take at least one week after receipt of the hazardous materials manifest by EHSO, however, every effort will be made to ensure timely removal. Any collection of unlabeled or improperly marked containers or chemical products will take longer and could result in a cost to the department. The cost of analysis of unknowns will be borne by the department presenting the unknowns for disposal. 
4. Wash off fume hood and biological safety cabinet surfaces and countertops.
5. Notify Department Head in writing when laboratory has been cleared of all chemicals. Please also notify appropriate personnel in EHSO. This can be done through an interdepartmental memo or email.
• Gas Cylinders
1. Ensure that all gas cylinders are labeled with the name of the contents.
2. Remove gas connections, replace cylinder caps, and return cylinders to suppliers.
3. If cylinders are non-returnable, manifest using a Hazardous Materials Pick-Up Request form. 
• Microorganisms and Cultures
1. If an autoclave is available, treat waste and dispose in regular trash.
2. Clean incubators, drying ovens, refrigerators, and freezers.
3. If any samples need to be saved, locate an appropriate person to take responsibility for them and notify the Department Head.
• Animal Tissues
1. If any samples need to be saved, locate an appropriate person to take responsibility for them and notify the Department Head.
2. If tissue is to be disposed of and is held in a liquid preservative, tissue and liquid need to be separated for proper disposal.
3. Liquid preservative usually needs to be disposed of as a hazardous waste. Please contact the EHSO for assistance. Do not assume the preservative can be disposed of via sanitary sewer.
4. Defrost and clean refrigerators and freezers after proper disposal of contents. Remove any stickers or labels present on equipment doors. 
• Controlled Substances
1. Contact the ESHO regarding the disposal procedures for controlled substances.
• Radioactive Materials
1. Prior to close-out of a radioactive materials use area and/or a radioactive use permit, it is the responsibility of the authorized user and the department to insure the following steps have been completed:
a. Package all radioactive materials (stock vials, sealed sources, lead containers/shields, and solid and liquid wastes) and label them in accordance with RSO procedures as radioactive materials or waste.
b. Arrange for pick-up of all radioactive wastes by contacting the RSO at 325-0820.
c. Following removal of all radioactive wastes and materials, perform a contamination survey (and if appropriate a GM survey) of all former storage and use areas within the laboratory. Areas of potential residual contamination include refrigerators and freezers, centrifuges, water baths, hoods, sinks, floor areas under waste containers, etc. Additionally, if there are contaminated areas or equipment in the laboratory, these must be decontaminated. A follow-up survey must be made of the decontaminated areas and the results included in the above survey.
d. Provide the Department Head and the TSO with a copy of the final decontamination survey.
e. Schedule the radiation safety close-out survey by contacting the RSO. Do not allow further use of the room until the close-out survey is complete and the RSO has removed all radioactive materials labels. Remove any labels from equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, etc. 
f. If the authorized user fails to satisfactorily complete the above steps, the Department will be responsible for the completion of the required steps for closeout. The Department is responsible for immediately notifying the RSO if the above steps have not been completed prior to closeout.
• Mixed Waste
1. Occasionally it is necessary to dispose of materials that contain more than a single chemical, radioactive, or biological hazard. Contact either the EHSO at 325-5147 and/or 271-3000 or the RSO at 325-0820 for assistance with mixed waste hazardous materials.
• Equipment
1. If laboratory equipment is to be left for the next occupant, it must be cleaned or decontaminated prior to vacating the laboratory.
2. If laboratory equipment is to be discarded, be aware that capacitors, circuit boards, transformers, mercury switches, mercury thermometers, radioactive sources, and chemicals must be removed prior to disposal. Contact the EHSO at 325-5147 and/or 271-3000 for assistance.
• Empty All Drawers
1. Check behind/under lower drawers for items that may have fallen out.
• Shared Storage Areas
1. One of the most problematic situations is the sharing of storage units such as refrigerators, freezers, cold rooms, stock rooms, equipment rooms, and waste collection areas, particularly if no one has been assigned responsibility for the unit. 
2. Departing personnel must carefully inventory any shared facility and dispose of their hazardous materials or transfer ownership to another researcher willing to assume responsibility for them.
Hazardous Material/Procedure         Date Completed or N/A
Inventory all chemicals and label all containers                                      _______________   Transfer responsibility of chemicals to: ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬________________________________________             Prepare chemical waste for shipment and submit pick-up                                                 request form to EHSO for proper disposal                                               _______________ Clean laboratory surfaces                                                                         _______________      Verify that hazardous wastes have been removed                                   _______________
Gas Cylinders
Return to supplier. For non-returnable cylinders, fill out Hazardous Materials Pick-up Request form                                                                                                         _______________
Microorganisms and Cultures
Autoclave and dispose of waste                                                              _______________ Dispose of any preservatives                                                                   _______________ Clean incubators, ovens, refrigerators, and freezers                               _______________ Transfer responsibility for samples to: ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬_________________________________________
Animal Tissue
Dispose of tissue. Method: __________________________________________________ Dispose of preservative. Method: _____________________________________________ Clean refrigerators and freezers.                                                           _________________ Transfer responsibility for samples to: _________________________________________
Controlled Substances
Contact EHSO or RSO for disposal assistance                                   _________________                                      
Radioactive Materials
Package all materials and waste for disposal and pick-up                  _________________ Perform contamination survey (decontaminate and resurvey                                                    if needed)                                                                                            __________________ Schedule close-out survey with RSO                                                 __________________ Review results of radiation safety survey                                           __________________
Mixed Hazards/Waste
Identify mixed hazards                                                                      __________________ Submit Hazardous Materials Pick-up Request form to EHSO          __________________
Clean or decontaminate equipment to be left in place                       __________________ Remove hazardous materials stickers or labels from equipment       __________________    If laboratory equipment is to be discarded, any equipment presenting unusual hazards (i.e. mercury switches, radioactive sources, PCB-contaminated oils, Freon, etc.) must have these removed prior to disposal                                                                   __________________ Check equipment outside of laboratory (i.e. freezers in the hallway) __________________ Empty all drawers                                                                               __________________
Shared Storage Areas
Check all shared storage areas for hazardous materials                    ___________________ 
Contact EHSO and/or RSO                                                               ___________________
Laboratory close-out form on the following page
ROOM NUMBER _____________
**Post This Notice on the Door of the Laboratory/Cold Room/Warm Room**
This room has been cleaned of all hazardous materials (including broken glass and sharps) under my responsibility and no hazardous materials, spills, or residues are present in this room. Refrigerators, freezers, fume hoods, biological safety cabinets, storage cabinets, incubators, drying ovens, and sinks have been cleaned and appropriately disinfected.
_______________________________________________________           _________________ Researcher                                                                                                       Date
All hazardous materials and biomedical wastes have been removed from this room.
_______________________________________________________           _________________ Environmental, Health, and Safety Office                                                      Date
? This room has been surveyed and has no radiation contamination.
? No radiological survey of this room is necessary.
_______________________________________________________          __________________ Radiation Safety Office                                                                                  Date

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