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From Affidavits to Wastewater: How New York City Building Owners Can Assist their Life Science Tenants with Compliance

Life science companies must comply with many federal, state, and local regulations when conducting their innovative research so they can work with hazardous materials safely and prevent the release of material into the environment. Since a company’s facility directly affects their ability to conduct work safely, building owners and property managers play an integral role.  

Setting Expectations

Building owners and property managers should notify prospective tenants of allowable work in their building, and state what tenants must have in place in order for that work to be conducted. For example, is a tenant allowed to work with low levels of radioactive material? If so, can they work with any radioisotope or are they only allowed to work with specific types? Are they required to notify building management before they apply for a radioactive materials license?

If you Build it, they will Innovate

Life science companies need a laboratory to conduct their work. While there are New York City (NYC) construction and fire codes that outline the requirements for a laboratory, there are additional factors to consider. For example, is the laboratory large enough to accommodate the quantity of hazardous chemicals and gases that will be stored and used? Will they have sufficient fume hoods for their work? Will the HVAC system handle increased exhaust due to work with hazardous chemicals, those with strong odors, or equipment that generates additional heat? Do their cell and tissue culture rooms have sinks for handwashing and emergency eyewashes and showers to comply with OSHA and be in alignment with the CDC’s Biosafety in Biomedical and Microbiological Laboratories (BMBL), which is a highly regarded biosafety guidance document that can be cited by OSHA and other regulatory agencies? 

Permits and Paperwork

Research and development laboratories in NYC that store and use hazardous chemicals must obtain a Non-Production Chemical Laboratory Unit Permit from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). This permit requires documentation that can only be obtained from the registered architect or professional engineer that constructed or renovated the facility, or the building owner. The documents include NYC Department of Buildings (DOB)-stamped architectural floor plans that have the fire ratings of the lab unit displayed, notarized affidavits that confirm sufficient ventilation and gas piping, and DOB-approved documents that address any variances from applicable construction codes. The FDNY will not approve a permit without this paperwork, so building owners should provide this documentation to tenants so they can store and use hazardous chemicals in compliance with the NYC Fire Code.

What’s in the Wastewater?

Oftentimes, the owner is responsible for the building’s sewer use, and all industrial wastewater discharge must comply with the NYC DEP Use of Public Sewers Regulations. Building owners and property managers should communicate to tenants what can or cannot be disposed down their drains based on regulations and building policies, and what they should do in the event of an accidental release of hazardous material into the sewer system.

Building owners and property managers can have a direct influence on the regulatory compliance of their life science tenants. By setting clear boundaries and expectations, ensuring that tenant facilities have appropriate ventilation capabilities and safety equipment, and providing the necessary documentation for tenant hazardous materials permits, tenants can keep themselves, neighboring tenants, and the general public safe.

For additional information on NYC regulatory requirements, or for assistance with ensuring your building and your tenants are in compliance, please contact us.

This blog was written by Rae Moore, Safety Partners’ Senior Quality, Research, and Training Specialist, with contributions from Sylvia Rasmussen, Senior Consulting Safety Officer.

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