Environmental Health and Safety – New Precautions for Laboratory Safety
Update from March 19, 2020
Planning Tool/Checklist for Scaling Back Research Operations
To aid researchers in conducting these planning efforts, EHS and ORA have created a planning tool (XLSX) covering several critical safety and regulatory subjects that will require researcher attention as they begin to scale back their research activities.
This multi-tab Excel planning workbook contains checklists for your particular disciplines. Tabs cover the following subjects:
- General Research Safety
- Biological Safety
- Chemical Safety
- Hazardous Waste
- NMR and MRI Instrumentation
- Laser Safety
- Controlled Substances
- Animal Care
Please be sure to scroll through the tabs at the bottom to find and use which checklists apply to your operation.
If researchers have already partially suspended some research activities, we encourage researchers to review this workbook and double check that prior suspension activities were conducted appropriately.
MSU EHS staff are on campus and available to answer questions about the workbook or any other safety question; call 517-355-0153.
This workbook is intended to function as a living document, please check back to the EHS website for updated versions as they are added.
As operations return to normal in the coming weeks, MSU EHS will have guidance documents available to cover how to safely restart or scale up laboratory operations – check the OSVPRI, EHS and ORA websites frequently.
Planning Tool: Scaling Back Research Operations (XLSX)
Memo from March 16, 2020
MSU Environmental Health & Safety suggests several useful steps for faculty and other laboratory leaders:
Prioritize research activities now. Decide ahead of time what can be suspended and what must continue; ensure coworkers/employees are aware of the priorities. Do not start new experiments that cannot be supported should the University be further curtailed. Be aware of the possibility of limited to no access to research space in the event of an unexpected infrastructure issue.
Know how to shut down critical equipment and reactions that could cause fires/explosions/exposures if left unattended. Put detailed shutdown directions into a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) now so colleagues can confidently perform these measures. Researchers may be asked to do this quickly in the event of an unexpected building emergency.
Label important equipment such as freezers, cryogen dewars, reactors, etc. with current contact information and phone number in case of malfunction. Update chemical, biological and radiological inventories for all research locations. Ensure research facility door signs are current;
Order extra supplies and equipment to support those operations that have specific, critical safety requirements (compressed gases, HEPA filters, lab coats, gloves, cryogens, etc.) Many items, such as PPE, are now in short supply – experiments may have to be suspended or ended if lack of safety equipment is not available.
Encourage employees to stay at home if they are sick. Be a good example and do the same if sick!
Social distancing should be practiced in laboratories. However, wherever normally prohibited, working alone remains prohibited despite COVID-19.
In the wake of recent tragedy, MSU is deeply committed to ensuring the safety of minors, in part through advance criminal background checks of all MSU employees who may encounter them. Consistent with that commitment, and because MSU now seeks to facilitate at-home “remote” work wherever reasonable, children whose pre-school or school is closed should not be brought into campus workplaces. This is particularly true for laboratories, whose contents may pose special and/or unrecognized dangers or constraint, especially when the presence of children is unanticipated by colleagues.
Many lab safety considerations related to COVID-19 are either similar to, or amplifications of, those that normally apply. For example, best practice for many laboratory situations involves hand-washing before and after use of the restroom. COVID-19 strongly reinforces the advisability of that practice.
All MSU laboratory workers are encouraged to use appropriate eye protection. In some situations such as BSL-2 work, use of chemicals, shop work, etc., eye protection is required. Medical workers providing care to COVID-19 patients or performing COVID-19 testing are advised by the CDC to wear goggles or face shields. Any MSU lab worker who usually wears safety glasses should consider upgrading to goggles. EHS has several types of eye protection so they can be contacted for consultation.
MSU laboratory workers are strongly encouraged to identify, and wipe down on a routine basis, handles (including those of refrigerators, freezers, and cabinetry, as well as doors) and—where safe—liquid-insensitive controls of common or shared equipment. Where controls cannot be wiped down, use of gloves should be instituted. Glove users should remember that laboratory gloves must not be worn out of labs into public areas. Disinfectants for wipe downs should be chosen from those identified as effective by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The sharing of traditional microscopes, telescopes, or other devices with viewing eyepieces should not occur without eyepiece sanitization between users.
Questions about the interplay between COVID-19 precautions and laboratory safety practices should be forwarded to Environmental Health & Safety at 517-355-0153.