Category: JHU safety policies

Hopkins-specific safety policies and guidance

Found: “Class 2” laser pointers not as advertised

An academic department turned over two green laser presenters labeled “Class 2″ to the Homewood Laser Safety Advocate for evaluation because one seemed “too bright.” Normally, a Class 2 laser presentation pointer should put out no more than 1 milliwatt of energy.

Both presenters were found to be putting out more than 10 times the allowable amount of energy, including energy in the invisible infrared range, which is more dangerous. (Green laser pointers are actually infrared lasers that use special optics to generate green light from the IR.) The Laser Safety Advocate tested several additional pointers from that department, finding them all in conformance with their markings. The overpowered pointers were disposed.

The overpowered pointers were actually hazardous Class 3B lasers which should not be used in an uncontrolled lecture or presentation setting. Homewood limits the power of laser pointers to Class 2; testing has shown that brighter pointers are not necessary in any lecture hall on campus. The class of a laser device is stamped on a small yellow or white sticker on the product.

These were name-brand laser pointers purchased from nonstandard sources (e.g., online auction sites); we are as yet unsure whether they were genuine branded products that are off-specification or if they were counterfeit. Please buy all laser pointers from standard JHU-approved sources such as Office Depot; unusual distribution channels are more likely to sell counterfeit or otherwise out-of-specification products. A sample of the sample laser presenter purchased from a JHU-preferred vendor measured within normal safe tolerances.

In 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that 90% of green laser pointers and 44% of red laser pointers were out of compliance with federal safety regulations and their markings.

If you have a laser pointer that seems too bright, especially if it is green, contact the Homewood Laser Safety Advocate, Niel Leon, nleon1@jhu.edu. He can test your laser pointer and return it to you if it is safe to use (or help you find a source for a safe one if it’s not).

Unattended experiments

Some experiments take time: hours, days, even weeks. This means that the experiment will be set up and running in the lab while you are not there. You have an ethical obligation to prevent harm to others in the lab by ensuring that they are aware of your experiment and its hazards. Make sure they know:

  • What the purpose of the experiment is;
  • To whom it belongs;
  • What behavior indicates that something has gone wrong; and
  • What to do if something does go wrong.

You could tell the members of the lab all that information, but some lab members might not be present and others will promptly forget. Depending on the lab’s occupants to “know what’s going on” is foolish—your colleagues may know the general type of research you do but they are not familiar with the details of all your experiments. Far better is to post the information so that anyone in the lab can easily see what your experiment is, how to identify abnormal situations, and what to do in that event.

A sample form is available for you to use directly or adapt to your lab’s needs. (The file is in Word format for easy modification.) The form is written to allow use in teaching as well as research labs. You should prepare two copies of the form: one to post near the experimental apparatus and one to post in a safe place (like on the door). In an emergency, no one may be willing to approach the apparatus to read the information sheet!

JHU chemical waste disposal

Chemical waste may be taken to the Macaulay Hall waste collection room (basement of Macaulay–use the ramp opposite New Chemistry Building) on Thursdays, from 10:30-11:30am and 1-2pm. Use the Chemical Waste Disposal Form to register your waste first.

If your building is not connected by tunnel to Macaulay, use the online form to arrange an in-lab pickup during the Thursday hours that the room is not manned.

All labs that generate chemical waste are required to have trained individuals to maintain the Satellite Accumulation Area. Contact Health, Safety, and Environment at x6-8798 for information on training.

Chemical waste disposal is free to labs at Homewood unless your chemical is “unknown.” There is a $450 charge for disposal of unknown chemicals–in that instance, technicians must use an expensive test kit to characterize your waste. Yet another reason to always label your chemicals!

Health, Safety, and Environment guidance

Most people are unaware that the Department of Health, Safety, and Environment has both safety policies and safety guidance documents. The guidance documents provide more detailed technical information than the policies, and despite the name, compliance is mandatory.

Important guidance documents include: G07, on chemical use in labs; G09, on laser pointers; and G11, the escalation protocol for unaddressed safety violations.

How to find Hopkins safety policies

All JHU affiliates are responsible, as a condition of their affiliation, to follow all established safety policies.

JHU safety policies are not hosted directly at a Homewood URL; Hopkins uses a unified system Hopkins Policies Online (HPO), to store all relevant policies.

Use http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hse/policies/index.html as a quick way to find JHU safety policies.

Note that JHU and JHMI share a common set of safety policies–the Johns Hopkins Joint Committee on Health, Safety, and Environment makes them. Several policies, though, are hospital-specific or have sections that are healthcare-only, so read carefully.