EH&S Newsletter - October 2017 Edition

EH&S News is a bimonthly newsletter for UW faculty, staff, and students. The newsletter focuses on resources that support the UW safety culture, helpful safety information, and updates on the Environmental Health and Safety department.

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Accident Prevention Plan (APP)

EH&S has developed a new Accident Prevention Plan (APP) for University of Washington employees with the exception of employees working at UW Medicine UW Medical Center or Harborview. This document replaces the template for Departmental Health and Safety Plans, and covers general health and safety information applicable to all employees. All employers in Washington State are required to have an APP that details the occupational hazards present in their work environment and how their employees are protected from these hazards.

The new APP greatly reduces the administrative burden associated with customizing department-specific health and safety plans for departments with minimal exposure to hazards in the work environment. Departments with hazards that extend beyond what is covered in the APP are still required to maintain documentation that addresses how their employees are protected from these additional hazards. This documentation can be maintained separately from the APP or as an addendum to the APP.

The APP will be kept as a PDF document on the EH&S website. The plan will be updated on a yearly basis by EH&S and the official University health and safety committees. Departments should compare their current Departmental Health and Safety Plan to the new APP and continue to maintain department-specific information not covered in the new APP.

To highlight the new APP, EH&S developed an introductory health and safety video with the assistance of UW Video. This new video covers important health and safety information topics within the APP. All new employees to the University of Washington should view this video to learn general health and safety information such as:

  • Topics covered in a new employee safety orientation
  • Resources available to address health and safety concerns
  • How to report a work-related injury, illness, near miss or hazardous condition
  • Roles and responsibilities related to health and safety at the UW

Any questions or proposed improvements to the APP should be directed to EH&S at ehsdept@uw.edu or 206.543.7262.


Working Safely with Dry Ice

Dry ice: DO Dry ice: DONT

EH&S has published a new guidance sheet focused on working safely with dry ice. This useful resource reviews the hazards and appropriate precautions that should be used with dry ice, commonly used for the shipment of specimens and during power outages.

The Working Safely with Dry Ice Focus Sheet was created specifically for the UW research community following the two incidents involving improperly packaged research specimens. One incident resulted in an injury to a UW employee that could have been avoided if precautions had been taken. For more information on recent UW safety-related incidents, please visit the online digest provided by the Lab Safety Initiative.

Key points for working safely with dry ice include:

  • Dry ice’s primary hazards are its extreme cold temperature (-109 °F) and its rapid emission of carbon dioxide gas. The latter can pressurize sealed containers quickly, causing them to explode.
  • Dry ice should always be handled with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including goggles or face shield, lab coat, and loose-fitting thermally-insulated gloves. Never handle dry ice with bare hands.
  • Dry ice should always be stored in a well-ventilated area and never in a tightly sealed container.
  • If you see or receive a container that is swollen, bulging, or that you believe may be improperly packaged dry ice, secure the area and call 911. Do not try to release pressure in the container.
  • If you ship dry ice, be sure to complete the online EH&S training course Shipping Dry Ice with Non-Dangerous Goods or Exempt Patient Specimens and adhere to the requirements for proper packaging and shipping.
  • Receive training and know the hazards and safe work practices before handling dry ice.

If you work with, or around dry ice, or send and receive shipments with dry ice, please review the Working Safely with Dry Ice Focus Sheet. Feel free to post this in your work area and/or share with your peers and colleagues.

For questions about working with dry ice, contact EH&S at 206.543.7262.


Free Hazardous Waste Collectionhazardous waste

Environmental Programs collects and disposes of hazardous waste from more than 3,000 laboratory spaces. To request a free* hazardous waste collection, use the online Chemical Waste Collection Request form.You can quickly submit a request using the online form on our website or by selecting chemicals for disposal in MyChem. Follow the instructions on the waste pickup request page and easily submit your request.

For assistance or questions with completing the request, please call 206.616.5835.

*some restrictions apply. See EH&S’s Hazardous Waste website for details.



Mercury Thermometers ‘Swap’ Program

Environmental Programs, a section of EH&S, offers laboratories a system to recycle mercury thermometers. The mercury thermometer swap program is a valuable resource that supplies our research community with an environmentally safe option.

Broken mercury thermometers account for almost half of the spills that occur each year on the UW campus. A broken mercury thermometer wastes time and money. A lab risks loss of lab equipment, research and time due to mercury spills.

To reduce the risk of exposure, fill out the Mercury Thermometer Swap Request form. A safety professional from EH&S Environmental Programs will collect the mercury thermometer and deliver a free alcohol-filled thermometer in exchange.

Our alcohol thermometers are semi-submersible and measure from -20 to 110ºC to within 1º. They perform most routine laboratory functions that mercury thermometers are used for, such as, measuring the temperature of water baths or ambient air. Best of all, if one is dropped, all that has to be done is wipe up the liquid with a paper towel, throw the paper towel away, and place the broken glass in your lab glass bin.

For more information, contact the Environmental Programs office at 206.616.5835 or by email at chemwaste.


Biannual Health and Safety Committee (HSC) Elections

It’s time again for the biannual Health and Safety Committee (HSC) elections. HSC members are an important component of the University’s total safety program. Nominations are now open for the next two-year committee term, which will begin on January 1, 2018. Don’t miss your chance to nominate a coworker or become a committee member yourself!

Every employee is represented by one of the ten organizational Health and Safety Committees. Committee members are elected by their peers, selected by a union, or appointed by management for a two-year term. Members review accident reports, health and safety committee charters, and help identify and address potential hazards to the campus community.

HSC members play an important role in the communication flow between the organizational committees and departments. Committee members can share departmental safety concerns at HSC meetings or the University-Wide Health and Safety Committee. Likewise, information is distributed to the organizational committees that members can share with their departments.

All staff or faculty - managers, full-time, temporary, hourly, or even student employees are eligible to run for and serve on a HSC. You can nominate yourself or any other eligible employee.

To nominate yourself or a coworker to serve on a Health and Safety Committee, contact the chair of the committee representing your work group for details on the nomination process and the deadline for submissions.

More information on the election process and how to get involved with your Health and Safety Committee can be found on EH&S’s website.

University Department/School/Organization

October is National Biosafety Month – Sharps Safety and Exposure Response Focus

During National Biosafety Month, you are encouraged to focus attention on biosafety policies, practices and procedures. Investigators and laboratory managers should raise biosafety awareness, discuss the importance of safety, and seek input on ways to strengthen biosafety practices and procedures in their labs. This year, EH&S is focusing on sharps safety in research and exposure response.

Sharps Safety in Research

EH&S would like to raise awareness about how to safely work with needles and other sharps to prevent injuries and exposures. We have a new Sharps Safety in Research focus sheet for anyone who uses sharps or sharp items as a part of their research. To stay safe when working with sharps in research:

  • Plan and Prepare – Consider if there are alternatives to using sharps for your procedure. Educate yourself on the risks, get properly trained on procedures and the specific sharps you will use, and know how to properly dispose of sharps immediately after use.
  • Follow Safe Procedures and Stay Aware – Use extreme caution and awareness at all times when handling needles or syringes. Do not recap or bend needles, avoid rushing or working when tired. Best practices are detailed in the Sharps Safety in Research PDF.
  • Exposure Response – Know how to respond if an exposure, needlestick, or other injury does occur. Always follow the procedures on the Exposure Response Poster.

New Exposure Response Poster

EH&S has a new and improved Exposure Response Poster. This poster tells you exactly what to do if you are exposed to a chemical, biological, or radiological agent. In the event of an exposure, there are three steps to take:

  1. Perform first aid immediately.
  2. Call for medical help.
  3. Report the incident to EH&S so that we can work to prevent future accidents.

Download the new poster, print in color, and hang in your laboratory or facility. Remove any old versions of the poster. For any questions about biosafety including sharps safety and exposure response, contact EH&S Research and Occupational Safety at ehsbio or 206.221.7770.



Chemical Waste Container Explosion – Lessons Learned

University Department/School/OrganizationEH&S staff were notified of a chemical spill on August 2, 2017, during which a waste bottle ruptured in secondary containment bin, spilling about 3 liters of liquid. The lab was evacuated and a hazardous material team cleaned up the chemicals and shattered glass.

The ruptured 4 liter glass bottle was manufactured for chemical waste storage and disposal purposes, and reportedly contained a mixture of organic solvents. EH&S staff noted that the hazardous waste label was incomplete and the actual contents were unknown.

The bottle was approximately 80% full with 1.5” of headspace at the top of the bottle. The cap was on tight. Temperatures in the lab were above 80 degrees due to a cooling system failure in the building. EH&S does not believe that the elevated temperature alone was a root cause of this incident. Inadequate headspace or the mixing of incompatible waste streams may have led to over-pressurization and the rupture of the waste bottle.

EH&S staff also noted that they had not received a request from the lab to collect and dispose of the contents of this bottle, despite being overfilled with hazardous waste.

This event highlights some key guidelines to follow for hazardous waste accumulation.

  • Don’t place incompatible chemicals together in a waste bottle.
  • Use appropriate containers that are compatible with the contents.
  • Label your waste containers before you begin using them with a UW Hazardous Waste Label
  • Waste containers should remain closed at all times except when adding waste.
  • Don’t overfill waste containers. Bottles should be no more than ¾ full to allow for vapor headspace and prevent over-pressurization accidents.
  • Request hazardous waste collections as soon as the container is ¾ full.
  • Use secondary containment bins if waste containers are stored on the floor.

For more information on best practices for hazardous chemical waste, refer to Section 3 of your Laboratory Safety Manual.