Office Safety Culture

Are Biological Toxins Being Used in Your Laboratories?

Biological toxins are poisonous substances produced by certain microorganisms, animals, insects, and plants. They can be harmful when inhaled, ingested, injected, or absorbed.

Biological toxins cause diverse toxic effects that can range from relatively minor (skin or eye irritation, headache, nausea) to severe (respiratory distress, muscle weakness, seizures, death). Many biological toxins are highly toxic or fatal even in small quantities (e.g., nanogram amounts) and they are often more toxic than many chemicals.

Numerous biological toxins have been identified with nine of them being on the HHS and USDA Select Agents and Toxins List that includes biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products.

These include botulinum neurotoxins, abrin, paralytic alpha conotoxins, diacetoxyscirpenol, ricin, saxitoxin, staphylococcal enterotoxins (subtypes A–E), T-2 toxin, and tetrodotoxin. Biological toxins on the select agent list require registration with the  Federal […]

Is Improper BSC (Biological Safety Cabinets) Use the Cause of Contamination at Your Facility?

Biological Safety Cabinets (BSCs) serve two main purposes: protecting employees from the biological material being handled and preventing contamination of the work being conducted.  However, improper use of BSCs can result in a decreased ability of the cabinets to provide personnel protection and prevent contamination. With proper planning and by following appropriate work practices, BSC performance can be maximized to protect the researcher and their work.

Before Working in the BSC

  • Some BSCs are designed to run 24/7; however, for those that are designed to be shut off, they should be turned on at least 10 minutes before starting work. This allows the cabinet blowers to remove contaminated air and particulates from the cabinet.
  • The work surface, back, and sidewalls, and back of the sash should be decontaminated with an appropriate disinfectant (e.g., 70% ethanol) to minimize or eliminate surface contamination. All items required to be placed into the cabinet should also be surface decontaminated […]

Are You Properly Managing Your Universal Waste?

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) has specific requirements for the collection and management of universal waste. These requirements can be found in 310 CMR 30.1000, the Standards for Universal Waste Management.

What is Universal waste? Universal waste includes:

  • Hazardous batteries (e.g., nickel cadmium, button batteries); note that alkaline batteries are not considered universal waste, but can still be collected for disposal through the waste ​​hauler or a battery recycling vendor
  • Mercury-containing devices such as thermostats, thermometers, and gauges
  • Mercury-containing lamps such as fluorescent lamps and bulbs
  • Hazardous pesticides

When collecting universal waste, it’s important to dedicate a universal waste accumulation area that is clearly segregated and signed.  If the universal waste accumulation area and main accumulation area for hazardous waste are located within the same room, be sure to clearly define and sign the areas as separate accumulation areas.

All universal waste containers must be labeled with the contents and the words universal […]

OSHA Safe + Sound Week 2021

The fifth annual OSHA Safe + Sound Week is being held from August 9-15, 2021. This is the perfect time to start planning! This national event is intended to promote the value of workplace health and safety programs. Employers are encouraged to hold events and activities that highlight the elements of their EHS program during this week.

Why participate?

Participating in the program is a great way to recognize your safety successes and show your commitment to safety. Participating in Safe + Sound Week can help get your program started, energize an existing one, and provide a chance to recognize your safety successes.

Remember- safe workplaces are sound businesses. Successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness, improving sustainability and the bottom line.

Who should participate?

Businesses of any size and in any type of industry looking for an opportunity to recognize their commitment to safety are encouraged to […]

Does Your Company’s PPE Policy Address Appropriate Summer Lab Attire?

The warm summer months can be an even more challenging time than normal for enforcing rules related to appropriate lab attire. This is a great time to review your company’s personal protective equipment (PPE) policy and see if it adequately addresses personal lab attire.

Including rules related to appropriate laboratory attire in a formal policy can help significantly with enforcement and compliance. If the PPE policy already includes this, it’s a perfect time to review the policy with all lab employees and others who may enter the lab when work is being conducted.

Appropriate laboratory attire should cover the torso, legs, and feet. Depending on the work being conducted at your company, this generally means that:

  • Full leg coverage is required. Shorts or cropped pants that leave any part of the leg exposed should not be worn. Skirts should not be worn unless they completely cover the leg.
  • Shirts or tops that cover the upper torso […]

Community is Everything

This week’s blog is a guest blog from Lauren Laidlaw, our VP of Sales and Marketing.

Built on Community

When I was lucky enough to be chosen to join Safety Partners six years ago, I joined a company that had been in business for almost 25 years and was very well-established in the life science community.  At least half of the time, when I would meet someone new and tell them I was part of the Safety Partners’ team, the person would smile and say, “Oh, Denise Aronson’s company.  I know her, great person.”

Of course, just about everyone knows Denise, our founder, and CEO, for those first 25 years in the business she was a one-man business development tornado: tirelessly shook every hand, attended every networking event and trade show, and spent hours each day on LinkedIn.  In time, our President and COO, Jennifer Reilly, and I got to join in and now we all share […]

June Deadline for MWRA Wastewater Sampling!

For Category 2 MWRA permit holders, semi-annual wastewater sampling for the January through June sampling period must be conducted by June 30th.  Reports, including pH and flow logs, are due by July 31st.

Even though the sampling results are sent directly to the MWRA by the analytical testing laboratory using the MWRA’s electronic reporting system, permit holders are responsible for reviewing the results and notifying the MWRA of any issues of non-compliance.

If the sampling results show that any regulated chemicals are detected above the discharge limits specified in the facility’s permit or the Sewer Use Regulations (360 CMR 10), the MWRA must be notified within 24 hours of becoming aware of the violation. 360 CMR 10.024 specifies the specific daily maximum discharge limitations for regulated pollutants including formaldehyde, cyanide, phenol, specific metals, and listed toxic organics for both the Metropolitan Sewerage Service Area and the Clinton Sewerage Service Area.

If a violation is identified, the […]

June is National Safety Month!

This June is the 25th anniversary of National Safety Month, an annual observance organized by the National Safety Council (NSC) to stress the importance of safety in and outside of the workplace. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the value of safety at your facility!

This is what is planned for this year’s event:

Week 1, Prevent Incidents Before They Start: The focus is on the importance of identifying risks and taking proactive safety measures to reduce exposure and adverse outcomes to create a safe workplace. Topics include hazard communication, electrical safety, ergonomics, and chemical management.

Week 2, Address Ongoing COVID-19 Safety Concerns: Topics are directed at the important role employers play in the return to physical workspaces, including building trust around vaccines, recognizing the importance of employee mental health, and trends for the future world of work.

Week 3, It’s Vital to Feel Safe on the Job: Emphasis is on the importance of being able to […]

The OSHA Lab Standard and the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard: Which Standard Applies in Your Workplace?

It’s not always straightforward to determine if the OSHA Lab Standard or the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard applies at a given facility. Often it’s either one standard or the other, but in some cases, both standards will apply. Making the correct determination is critical as it dictates the type of written safety manual that has to be in place (Hazard Communication Program vs. Chemical Hygiene Plan), the required content of the safety training, and other essential aspects of safety program implementation.

Background on the Standards

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), or Hazcom Standard, was published in 1983 to cover chemical use in manufacturing industries. In 1987 it was amended to apply to all industries where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals. It was updated again in 2012 to align with the third revision of the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. More recently, in February 2021, […]

Risk Groups and Biosafety Levels: Understanding the Differences

It’s often assumed that a biological agent’s risk group (RG) and the biosafety level at which it should be handled are synonymous, when in fact this is not always the case. In addition to an agent’s risk group, there are many other factors to consider when designating a biosafety level for a biological agent.

Risk group describes the relative risk to the individual and the environment by the organism. There are four risk group classifications described in the NIH Guidelines and in the World Health Organization’s Laboratory Biosafety Manual:

  • Risk Group 1 agents are not associated with disease in healthy adults
  • Risk Group 2 agents are associated with human disease that is rarely serious and for which preventative or therapeutic interventions are often available
  • Risk Group 3 agents are associated with serious or lethal human disease for which preventative or therapeutic interventions may be available
  • Risk Group 4 agents are likely to […]