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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 safety@uidaho.edu.

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.

When planning your decorations for Homecoming or Halloween, think fire safety. Buy decorations that are flame-resistant and place them where they will not obscure exit signs, exit doors, emergency lights or fire extinguishers. Keep them away from heat sources, do not place on doors leading to building corridors or within the corridor itself and keep them from blocking exits or creating trip hazards in walkways.

Use LED lighting for jack-o-lanterns and effects. All decorative lighting should be U.L. listed and of the type that does not produce heat. Do not run extension cords from one room to another, and never string cords across doorways or walkways. Remember that candles and use of open flame (e.g., candles, luminaria and incense) in buildings is strictly prohibited.

All outdoor open burning is by permit only, including campfires, bonfires, fireworks, etc. (See: open burning permit) University departments and recognized student organizations are allowed to conduct outdoor grilling on campus as long as these procedures are followed:

  • BBQs are allowed only when used a minimum of 10 feet from buildings, flammable landscaping or other readily ignitable fuel sources.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy at all times.
  • BBQs must be placed on a firm, noncombustible surface (concrete, asphalt, gravel etc.).
  • It is required to use a metal drip pan under BBQs to prevent grease from staining concrete.
  • BBQs must be attended at all times when lit.
  • Ensure charcoal remains (for charcoal grills) are completely extinguished when finished.
  • Do not dispose of charcoal in university dumpsters, trash containers, parking lots or on the landscaping. 
  • Do not dispose of spent fuel canisters in dumpsters or trash containers.
  • Do not bring BBQs into buildings until cooled.
  • Propane tanks are not allowed in university buildings.

Your help in keeping our campus safe for students, employees and visitors is appreciated. Following these reminders and the related university policies help to avoid tragedy when accidents happen.

In order to minimize the potential fire hazards associated with holiday season decorations, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has prepared the following information to guide your decorating plans. The list below is not an exhaustive list of concerns but summarizes a few of the major points. For the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

General Decorations

  • Fire code requires all decorations to be non-combustible or treated with a U.L. listed fire retardant.
  • Use only U.L. listed, non-heat producing holiday lighting strands and follow manufacturer's recommendations on number of strands that may be plugged into each other.
  • Power strips with a fuse or circuit breaker are recommended if there are not enough outlets. Do not run electrical cords through doorways or under throw rugs or loose carpeting and never string cords across doorways or walkways.
  • All decorations must be kept away from exit signs, fire alarm devices (pull stations, smoke and heat detectors, etc.), fire extinguishers, and emergency and normal-use light fixtures. Exit signs and emergency lights must not be obstructed in any way.
  • Use of open flame (e.g., candles, luminaria, incense) is prohibited.

Holiday trees have additional concerns to address, such as height, location and lighting used. Again, for the full list, visit the Holiday Decorations page on the EHS website.

We're all familiar with the warnings against feeding animals in our state and national parks. While we don't typically find bears on the Moscow campus, the same constraints apply to the feeding of other animals. Faculty, staff and students are guided by U of I policy (APM 40.22) which notes "Feeding of natural and feral wildlife is prohibited because of ongoing safety and health issues, vermin population increases around campus buildings and damage to landscape plant materials from increased and non-sustainable animal populations."

The science and evidence behind this policy clearly shows this practice is harmful to wildlife populations in the long run. A quick web search on this topic provides numerous informational articles as to why this practice is a bad deal for our wildlife populations here on campus, and in our parks, campgrounds and forests:

  • Wildlife fed by humans often become dependent on this unnatural and sporadic food source, and depending on what is being offered to them, it may cause wildlife to suffer nutritionally as well.
  • Feeding wildlife also decreases an animal's natural fear of humans and can lead to more aggressive behavior towards humans because of population increases or a reduction in these non-sustainable food sources.
  • Feeding of birds and feral cats is especially problematic on our campus because of the increase in other wildlife and rodent populations that eat the same foods as these animals and can lead to increased infestations of mice, rats and insects in buildings and increased amounts of fecal matter and other unsanitary litter around buildings. Also, without regular and thorough cleaning of feeders and food bowls, there is an increased potential of causing a disease outbreak amongst the various wildlife.
  • Currently U of I spends thousands of dollars annually in the mitigation of building pests. Supplying these creatures with a food source near buildings negates mitigation efforts and exacerbates this problem.
  • Lastly, a specific issue affecting the U of I campus is the current overpopulation of squirrels is having a damaging effect on our iconic Camperdown elms due to the chewing damage they do to these historic trees throughout the year. Twenty years ago, this wasn't much of an issue, but in the last ten years, it has become significant.

The campus landscape plantings provide an ample food supply of nuts, seeds and fruits for our campus wildlife population. Upsetting this balance only causes long term problems for the wildlife and the campus community. Please support a long term sustainable wildlife population on our campus by not feeding them.

Thank You, the Landscape Staff

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 safety@uidaho.edu to attend the next highly recommended hazardous waste workshop, or for additional assistance in managing hazardous waste.

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.

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 safety@uidaho.edu.

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.

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.

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.

The Report a Safety Concern form can be found on these U of I websites: I-Safety, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities and Parking and Transportation Services.

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 safety@uidaho.edu.

University of Idaho Campus Security wants to remind the Vandal Community about a free, 24/7 service it offers year-round called Safe Walk. This service is available to all students, faculty, staff and U of I visitors.

A quick call to Campus Security is all that is needed to request the Safe Walk service - no questions asked. A security officer will meet a caller any place on the Moscow campus and walk that person(s) to their destination on campus. Campus Security encourages the campus community to use Safe Walk when needed.

Call 208-885-7054 or an alternative number is 208-874-7550. For more information or questions, go to Safe Walk or contact Campus Security at 208-885-7054 or email at campus-security@uidaho.edu.

Slips, trips and falls are a major cause of serious injury to the university’s faculty, staff and students every year. In the 2016-2017 academic year, it was the number one cause of injuries, accounting for over 31% of all incurred injuries. And, about half of those incidents did not involve snow or ice.

Practice prevention by reading the 6 Tips for Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls, and taking a short, online training to learn more about how to avoid this from happening to you.

Thank you for your interest in participating in the traction device program. To be eligible, you must be a university faculty or staff member covered by the workers compensation program. The traction devices will be provided on a first come first served basis. They may be picked up in person by faculty and staff free of charge at Environmental Health and Safety (west campus) starting October 31. Employees are asked to bring their VandalCard and a signed Traction Device Checkout Form which will be available on the EHS website.

U of I faculty, staff and students may also purchase traction pullovers locally from a number of vendors in a variety of styles and sizes. Traction pullovers may be purchased by departments for use on-the-job directly from U of I Facilities Shop Stores. To order from Shop Stores, or for additional information, please call 208-885-7555.

Please note: This equipment is designed and intended for exterior use only and not to be worn inside buildings on hard floor surfaces.

For additional information about this program, please contact EHS at 208-885-6524 or safety@uidaho.edu.

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 safety@uidaho.edu. 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.

Contact Us

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr
MS 2030 
Moscow, ID
83844-2030

Phone: 208-885-6524

Fax: 208-885-5969

Email: safety@uidaho.edu

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