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Safe and Sound Week is Rapidly Approaching

successNow that the kick off of OSHA’s inaugural Safe + Sound Week is less than three we
eks away, it is time to start finalizing your plans and programs for the week.  If you have not considered taking advantage of this opportunity to highlight and invigorate your EHS program, please reconsider!

All types of organizations are encouraged to participate in this campaign.  Businesses of any size and in any type of industry are asked to show their commitment to safety during the week of June 12-18, 2017.  If you are interested in finding out more about how to participate and earn a certificate of recognition, visit OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week webpage.

Finding the time and building the momentum to hold a safety week can be quite a challenge.  Soliciting help from your safety committee, safety officers, and workers with a high regard for safety will share the burden of work as well as […]

Document Review of Dosimetry Reports

signaturesWhen establishing a radiation safety program, be sure to assign the responsibility of reviewing the dosimetry reports to one individual. Whether you are exchanging dosimeters on a quarterly basis, monthly basis, or some other frequency, a specific person needs to own the responsibility of reviewing the reports and notifying individuals of their results as necessary.

When the review takes place, the responsible individual should make record of their review. This can be as simple as writing the date of evaluation on the report itself and signing off on it. The results for the current reporting period should of course be reviewed for each individual, as well as the annual dose to date. Remember there are notification requirements that must also be adhered to.

What Is Your View of the Hazards?

HazardsHave you ever asked the scientists working in the labs at your facility what they view as the highest hazards associated with their work? Do you know what their answers would be if you did ask them this question?

It is possible that you would discover some hidden hazards associated with particular pieces of equipment, processes, or procedures if you asked this question. This is also an excellent way to find out more about the hazardous materials being manipulated within each lab. If you have asked this question in the past, consider how long it has been since you explored the answers and how many staffing changes have occurred since then.

It may seem like a relatively simple question to ask, but the importance of exploring this question should not be underestimated. You may discover that the scientists’ views of the highest hazards associated with their day to day activities are different than […]

Review Permit and License Conditions

conditionAs EHS permits and licenses are received, amended, and renewed, be sure to review the conditions stipulated in the permit or license upon receipt. Avoid the temptation to be happy that the final document has been received, and just file it away in your central recordkeeping location. It is important that everyone involved in the application process is aware of this requirement to avoid potential issues of non-compliance.

If permits and licenses are issued to different individuals within the company, be sure that one person is responsible for ensuring that all permits and licenses are received and current. This will avoid the potential for renewals falling through the cracks, or confusion around the permits and licenses held. This point person should also be responsible for verifying that the conditions of issued permits and licenses have been reviewed, and a plan is in place to ensure compliance with those conditions. There may be […]

Keep an Eye on Wastewater Discharge Volumes

wastewater increaseIf you are the holder of a Low Flow/Low Pollutant wastewater discharge permit with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), be sure to keep an eye on the average daily discharge volume.

It is not uncommon for wastewater effluent volumes to be minimal when operations begin at a small biotechnology research and development company. In these cases, facilities are able to obtain Low Flow/Low Pollutant discharge permits with the MWRA due to falling below the 300 gallon per day discharge threshold. As operations grow and processes evolve, wastewater volumes can sneak up and exceed the threshold over time.

The certified wastewater operator that is checking the pH neutralization system on a daily basis should be aware of the need to keep an eye of the average daily discharge. They should also be aware of the person to contact if they notice a trend toward exceeding this threshold.

If you are not the person conducting […]

How Do You Communicate Hazards?

warning signWhat does hazard communication mean in your laboratories? Are there hazard warning signs posted everywhere, are you constantly having to remind lab employees to label their chemical bottles appropriately, or do you need to update the door signs that have not been looked at in years?

There are numerous regulations that stipulate requirements for communicating hazards, some more stringent than others. Of course following the specific regulatory requirements is important and must be done, but otherwise finding a balance between not communicating hazards sufficiently and over labeling/signing can be a challenge. When hazard warnings are posted everywhere they can lose their value and be ignored because the meaning is lost. And on the flip side, if signage is not sufficient, compliance can be lacking because the hazards are not recognized appropriately.

Be sure to evaluate hazard communication in your labs on a regular basis and find the right balance.

Confirm UV Shielding is Available

UVUltraviolet (UV) radiation is an exposure hazard in laboratories that needs to be adequately addressed. Equipment interlocks, safety shields, appropriate work practices, and personal protective equipment can prevent exposure to UV sources when used properly.

Skin and eyes need to be protected from sources of UV radiation to prevent ‘sunburn’ and damage to the cornea. Exposure resulting in injury can occur in only a few seconds. Both acute and chronic injuries and illnesses can result from exposure to UV. Some pieces of equipment that house UV sources are equipped with interlocks or safety shields to prevent exposure. In these cases, work practices must prevent override of the interlock system and users must know to take the equipment out of service if the interlock is not working properly. Safety glasses and face shields used to prevent exposure to UV must be rated for UV protection.

The importance of using appropriate UV protective safety glasses […]

Evaluate Safer Sharps

scalpelWhen was the last time the use of safer sharps was evaluated at your facility? The use of sharps should be reviewed on a regular basis, from razor blades used to open boxes in the shipping and receiving area to sharps being utilized with hazardous materials.

Razor blade use should be discouraged as much as possible, substituting box cutting devices and self-sheathing scalpels whenever possible. Even when hazardous material is not in use, the risk of injury should be reduced as much as possible. A thorough evaluation should be conducted with individuals that are using human source material with sharps, and the use of sharps with engineered sharps injury protections must be fully promoted.

If you find razor blades lying on benches or tabletops while walking around your facility, be sure to take the time to find out what they are being used for. At least annually, and ideally more frequently, take the […]

Conduct Controlled Substance Inventories

inventoryBe sure to conduct inventories of your controlled substances in accordance with regulatory requirements. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Drug Control Program issues Massachusetts Controlled Substance Registrations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration issues federally regulated controlled substance registrations allowing for the storage and use of regulated controlled substances.

When registrations are first issued, an initial inventory must be conducted, which is a physical inventory of the controlled substances in the registrant’s possession. If there are no controlled substances present, a record of zero should be made. Additional physical inventories of the controlled substances in possession must be made on a biennial basis, with the inventory date taking place within two years of the previous inventory. Of course a perpetual inventory of all controlled substances must be maintained on an ongoing basis, and there are specific recordkeeping requirements for this perpetual inventory. As best practice, some facilities opt to conduct monthly physical […]

Remind Employees About Self-Identifying

doctorThe fifth edition of Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) states that personal health status may impact an individual’s susceptibility to infection, ability to receive immunizations or prophylactic interventions. This statement is included even in biosafety level 1 laboratories, so be sure to address this for all biological laboratories.

Laboratory supervisors are responsible for ensuring that training regarding each individual’s duties and the precautions to take to prevent exposure is held. An integral part of this training is to inform lab workers about immune competence and conditions that may cause individuals to be more susceptible to infection.

Individuals should universally be encouraged to self-identify to the occupational healthcare provider if they are immunocompromised in any way. Guidance on each individual situation should be provided by an occupational health physician or the individual’s physician.