Spotlight Tip of the Week
Stockpiles of unknown chemicals, unidentified spills and contaminated equipment are all hazards in a laboratory setting. When you see these safety violations in an active lab, you can usually correct them by asking around and calling out the responsible parties. But what happens when a lab is abandoned? The work of characterizing and handling hazardous unknowns becomes much more difficult - and expensive! After all, a clear solution in an unmarked container could contain anything from water to an explosive compound or poison.
Whether you're a lab student who is about to graduate or a principal investigator moving to a new location, it is critical that you decommission your lab space before heading out. Your lab should be returned to its original condition so that the next occupant isn't faced with potentially dangerous conditions. It is your responsibility to take the right steps to turn over your lab. This includes:
- Ensuring that useable chemicals are properly labeled, inventoried and stored
- Cleaning up all drips and spills of chemicals or hazardous materials
- Fully cleaning and decontaminating all equipment and work surfaces
- Submitting all hazardous waste to EHS for disposal
- Completing any department-specific requirements for leaving a lab
- Decommissioning any unused or unwanted lab equipment
- Obtaining final inspection signatures on the Lab Decommissioning Checklist
Principal investigators are required to follow the Laboratory Decommissioning Procedure and Checklist before renovating a lab, moving to a different lab space or leaving the university. If you choose to have help with this process, please ensure these assistants are properly trained and knowledgeable about the chemicals and equipment in your lab. For more information, check out the EHS Laboratory Safety pages or contact us at 208-885-6524 or email@example.com.
The Report a Safety Concern form provides users a quick and easy way to submit non-emergency safety concerns on campus. With three required questions: what the safety concern/issue is, location and date observed; it only takes a moment to complete the mobile-friendly form. You also have the option to include a picture of the hazard if applicable. The form may be submitted anonymously if desired, keeping in mind it may be harder to resolve the situation if further information is required.
Submitted forms are directed to the appropriate department/unit for review and consideration.
Thank you for taking the time to report a safety issue or concern right away. For questions, please contact EHS at 208-885-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Culture of Questioning
Questioning certain practices with safety in mind is an essential attitude to keep you and the rest of the Vandal family safe. Questioning challenges the complacency that grows in familiar situations and drives change. Questioning safety practices, or perhaps a lack thereof, is vital to developing a culture of safety at the University of Idaho. The goal is for everyone to return home at the end of every day just as healthy as when they arrived on campus.
Safety issues are often recognized but go unreported because a person doesn't know whom to contact or assumes that someone else is already taking care of it. At U of I, we want everyone to challenge these assumptions, question the situation and report the issues. The Report a Safety Concern form was created just for this purpose. It allows for anonymous reporting if you choose, as well as the option to upload an image of the safety problem when appropriate. It is available for anyone to use, and concerns will be directed to the proper campus unit to correct the problem.
Students and employees are the eyes and ears of the community, and your help is essential. Get involved in the safety training opportunities available to you, ask questions if you have a concern about a procedure, take part in safety inspections and report issues right away - issues cannot be corrected if no one knows about them. Timely questioning and reporting can prevent accidents and near misses. If an accident or near miss does occur, report this as well; investigating the reason will help avoid another injury.
As a supervisor, you have additional influence - lead by example and ensure safety is a core value in your team's activities. You are encouraged to do workplace inspections, ensure your employees are current on their safety training, talk regularly with your employees and discuss accident investigation reports with them and the U of I EHS staff. EHS has many resources available for you and the EHS staff can assist all supervisors in their safety efforts.
Our Vandal culture is how we think and act in all our activities. Avoiding complacency and continuously challenging existing conditions that might pose a safety risk allows us as a community to identify discrepancies and take appropriate actions before an accident or near miss occurs. Put safety first and we can achieve the safest possible working and learning environment for our Vandal family.