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Workplace Safety

Whether you're leaving a lab or office, it is essential to clean and prep your space before you go. The goal is to avoid personal injury and property damage, as well as saving personnel time and other expenses if someone else must clean up after you.

Leaving an office?

If you are leaving for a temporary break or making a permanent change, you'll need to prepare your office as well. Keep these tips in mind when leaving your office:

  • Unplug heaters, coffee pots, toasters or any other items with heating elements.
  • Remove food items, including things like sugar and creamers.
  • Close windows to avoid animal intrusions and insect infestation.
  • When applicable, remove holiday decorations as well.

More permanent changes, such as retirement or a move to new location on campus, lead to additional safety concerns. Furniture, boxes and all sorts of items must be moved and are often placed in hallways, becoming safety hazards for exiting the building. Contact EHS to request a corridor use exemption if you must leave items in the corridors; we will evaluate the space and work with you to find a safe solution.

Leaving a lab?

If you're a student working in a lab who is about to graduate or a principal investigator moving to a new location, it's essential that you clean your lab space before heading out. As much as possible, your space should be returned to its original condition so that the next occupant isn't left dealing with potentially dangerous conditions. This includes:

  • Ensuring that usable chemicals are properly labeled and stored
  • Cleaning up all drips and spills of chemicals or hazardous materials
  • Fully cleaning and decontaminating equipment and work surfaces
  • Submitting all hazardous waste to EHS for disposal
  • Completing any department-specific requirements for leaving a lab

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

Do you work with degreasers, cleaning products, paints, adhesives or resins? If so, you may be generating hazardous waste.

When most people think of hazardous waste, lab/ag chemicals, etchants, solvents or other products that require safety data sheets come to mind. However, there are many common products used throughout campus that are also considered hazardous, and it is important to learn how to properly dispose of these chemicals.

Do any of your work activities generate waste during or at the end of the procedure or process? If so, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires you to perform a waste determination to ensure that hazardous waste is not disposed of as normal trash, sent to a storm drain or to the water treatment plant.

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) provides guidance for managing hazardous waste to help ensure proper disposal. The guide, found on the EHS website, provides information on how to accumulate, label, store and submit waste to EHS for proper disposal according to the EPA regulations.

Additionally, EHS provides frequent in person training workshops that provide detailed instructions on properly managing hazardous waste. Contact EHS at 208-885-6524 or to attend the next highly recommended hazardous waste workshop, or for additional assistance in managing hazardous waste.

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

Whenever you are cleaning out your office, lab or other work space, keep in mind the corridors must remain open to allow for rapid evacuation to safety in case of emergencies. Items removed from your area cannot be stored in the corridors as it reduces the egress widths and can become an impediment to safe evacuation. If you no longer need these items, they should be disposed of through recycling, surplus or put into the general waste stream (if appropriate). If you cannot fit the larger items that you want to keep in other rooms and want to temporarily store them in a hallway please fill out the Corridor Use Exemption form AND contact EHS at 208-885-6524 or Chemicals, flammable liquids, readily combustible and unstable items should never be stored in hallways.

Recycle, reuse or surplus those items that you can. The Recycling Surplus and Solid Waste (RSSW) group in Facilities can assist in rehoming many of your things. Departmental responsibilities in removing items of university property include:

  • Complete an Asset Change Request form for university items being sent to surplus.

  • Notify Surplus before bringing or sending items over so that we can ensure someone is available to receive them and document the transfer of property.

  • Make arrangements with City North American for moving any items that require moving services (this is a departmental expense).

Please visit the RSSW Policies and Guidelines web site for more information on how to surplus university property.

For additional information on corridor use relating to egress and evacuations, please visit the EHS Fire Safety web site.

It's officially fall and the school year is in full swing. In the midst of the hustle-and-bustle of the semester, laboratory managers and primary investigators may find that they need to move laboratory equipment. This could be for permanent relocation to a new lab, temporary storage during a renovation or transfer to the Surplus Property Department for long-term storage or disposal.

Regardless of the reason, laboratory equipment must be fully decontaminated prior to being moved. Residual chemical, biological or radiological contamination on equipment surfaces is expected within the confines of a laboratory, but can cause injury to employees who are unaware of the potential hazards and are tasked with moving such items. Contaminated equipment may also pose hazards to the general public by spreading contamination to public areas. Even non-hazardous substances, like oil, on the surface of a piece of equipment can cause injury by making the surface of the equipment difficult to grip.

The Laboratory Equipment Decontamination Certification Form helps students, faculty and staff ensure that laboratory equipment is properly decontaminated and must be completed and forwarded to the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Office for certification before equipment is moved. EHS will evaluate the equipment to ensure it is safe to move or may request further cleaning. At a minimum, all equipment must be cleaned with soap and water to remove non-hazardous substances. Further decontamination is required if the equipment was used with hazardous materials. The decontamination procedures that must be followed depend on the specific nature of the chemical, biological, or radiological materials used with the equipment. Questions about decontamination procedures should be directed to EHS.

The Laboratory Equipment Decontamination Certification Form is located on the EHS website.

In an ongoing effort to develop and advance the University of Idaho's Safety Culture, U of I's Department of Environmental Health and Safety conducted walkthroughs of 257 labs to determine current lab safety compliance efforts in Moscow. These walkthroughs were conducted between December 2, 2020 and February 12, 2021. A summary report documenting the findings of these walkthroughs is now available for review by contacting EHS.

The summary report concludes that there is much room for safety improvements in our laboratories. These improvement areas include:

  • Chemical safety: 70% of labs on campus using chemicals were deficient in at least one area of chemical safety (handling, storage, disposal, etc.)
  • Fume hood operation: Additional training may be required to prevent open sashes, working too close to the edge, and providing adequate working space inside and out
  • Lab signage: Labs with adequate signage performed best overall where labs without signage were found to be deficient in several areas of lab safety

In addition to the overall summary report, individual reports for each lab detail the specific safety questions and answers in each room or lab space reviewed. Lab managers are encouraged to perform regular self-inspections of lab spaces in accordance with the Laboratory Safety Commitment and Target Areas Initiative.

The Laboratory Safety Commitment and Target Areas initiative began in January 2017, when deans, directors and department heads received an email outlining the five aspects of lab safety selected as target areas for the upcoming year. This initiative, a collaborative effort by Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) and the Office of Research Assurances (ORA), is part of the larger U of I Culture of Safety Initiative.

Environmental Health and Safety's lab signage program helps to protect public health and safety, prevent disruptions to your research when building infrastructure needs attention, make others aware of the various hazards and personal protective equipment required to enter the lab and meet our ethical obligations to keep our people safe.

Why should you want a lab sign? Occasionally emergencies happen, and when research labs are involved it is best to reach out to those most knowledgeable about the work being done within a lab. EHS provides lab signage to include emergency contacts of the Principle Investigator or Lab Manager or those most familiar with the work being performed within the lab. If an emergency occurs within your lab, having emergency contact information readily available minimizes impacts on research while also getting information on how to protect our employees from hazards that may exist within the lab.

In addition to contact information, specific chemical, biological, radioactive and physical hazards that may pose a danger to those unfamiliar with the lab should be included on the lab signage. Standardized pictograms from the globally harmonized system (GHS) of classifying and labeling chemicals are used to depict the type of hazards present within your lab.

If you work in a lab and notice there are no signs to indicate the hazards that you or others might deal with, contact EHS today; we will work with you to create lab signage that meets the requirements of your lab. More information is available on the Lab Signage webpage, or you may complete the Lab Signage Request Checklist to get signs for your lab.

It seems everywhere you turn on campus, there’s another construction zone. With traffic revisions due to road closures, the impacts of this work can be felt far from the actual work zone. The university is very good at posting construction areas, so pay attention to email alerts and signage at the doors of buildings or on sandwich boards so you know when and where the construction is going to take place.

As a pedestrian, bicyclist or skateboarder it is important, now more than ever, to pay attention to what is going on around you. Here are some basic tips to follow:

  • Always use walkways or designated alternate routes
  • Do not enter an area that has signs, caution tape, cones or fencing
  • Do not move barriers that are "in your way"; this puts you, construction workers and others that may follow at unnecessary risk of injury
  • Comply with posted restrictions both inside buildings and around construction sites
  • If you must use the street to bypass construction areas, face oncoming traffic so you can make eye contact with drivers
  • Wear bright colored clothing to increase visibility to those around you
  • Carry a flashlight/use lights during the hours of darkness
  • Pay attention to large trucks and mobile equipment; you will see them before they see you
  • Make eye contact with drivers of the trucks and mobile equipment operators before proceeding

Construction work is dangerous, and workers need to be able to focus on their own safety. Following their directions will help them, and you, be safe during these activities. Note: Please report stealing of safety cones to campus security or EHS. The unauthorized relocation of these cones presents a real danger to our personnel and students.

You can follow upcoming and ongoing construction projects by checking the Facilities website.

The University of Idaho is blessed with a pastoral campus landscape and thousands of mature trees which provide an aesthetically appealing place to work, learn and enjoy. Ongoing maintenance and care is required to keep them safe and healthy so that they can provide our students, faculty and staff with decades of enjoyment, shade and clean air.

The Landscape Arboriculture team works year-round providing this service to keep the U of I campus safe and beautiful. Doing so requires pedestrian and vehicle safeguards be implemented whenever tree work is happening. The Fall Zone area is cordoned off with ribbon, cones or fencing to provide protection for you. Signage may be installed directing pedestrians and/or vehicles to use a different route. One or two ground persons in safety vests, hearing protection and helmets are there to deal with felled branches and logs and monitor the Fall Zone to make sure it remains clear of objects and people that could be damaged or injured.

As a pedestrian or vehicle driver it is imperative that you also make safety your priority by following all signage or verbal instructions when tree work is happening along your chosen route. When you see orange safety signs, vests and helmets in an area, pay attention to your surroundings. Avoid distractions like cell phones or conversations and follow the safety guidelines put in place to protect you.

Never cross into the Fall Zone unless specifically allowed to by an authorized ground person. This is a time when your convenience is not a priority — your safety is. Paying attention to this work and following directions will allow you to safely reach your destination.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr
MS 2030 
Moscow, ID

Phone: 208-885-6524

Fax: 208-885-5969