Annual JHU Freezer Challenge

Did you know that ultra-low temperature freezers consume as much electricity annually as a typical single-family home? Lower your lab’s carbon footprint and challenge your cold storage practices by taking part in the Freezer Challenge. Supported by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab, this challenge is designed to promote best practices in cold storage management for laboratories around the world.

The annual competition operates from January to July and the top JHU winners will be awarded a cash prize. In addition, the overall winner of the international challenge will be featured in Nature magazine and awarded during the annual I2SL conference.

To learn more, please register for a virtual information session next Tuesday, January 18th, from 11:00 am to noon, or fill out this participation interest form.

To learn more about our other Green Labs initiatives, please visit: or email

STEM Graduate Student Wellness Seminar: Sleep and Mindfulness

The JHU Center for Health Education and Wellness and the Homewood Laboratory Safety Advocate are pleased to present a student wellness seminar on “Sleep and Mindfulness,” scheduled for January 25, 10:30-11:30 am on Zoom. Molly Hutchison of CHEW will be the presenter.

While these topics have direct relevance to lab safety, they apply to all students; it’s a health seminar, not a specifically “safety” seminar. Students from all STEM departments are invited to attend.

To register, use the following link:

Questions about the seminar can be directed to Dr. Daniel Kuespert, Laboratory Safety Advocate, at or 410-516-5525

Substitutes for Mercury in Lab

Although its use is declining, some of our laboratories still use elemental mercury metal. Two places mercury is commonly found are manometers and thermometers.
Mercury is quite toxic, volatile (it evaporates into the air where you can breathe it in), and can be difficult to clean up. University policy is that mercury should be eliminated from all possible applications.

Substitutes are available for almost all uses of mercury. For example, modern thermometers offer the same or better accuracy and precision as a mercury thermometer, using an alcohol-based fluid. A manometer can be traded out for a pressure transducer whose performance is probably superior to the old manometer. (Manometers really provide accuracies of only about 2%, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.)

If you have mercury in your lab, whether a vial of liquid metal, an old thermometer, or a manometer for pressure measurement, please contact Health, Safety & Environment at 410-516-8798 and ask for it to be removed. If you need assistance finding a suitable replacement instrument, please contact Dr. Dan Kuespert, Laboratory Safety Advocate, at or 410-516-5525.

Stanford Chemical Storage System

Proper chemical storage is a critical feature of a safe lab environment. Store only compatible chemicals together so that no unintended and potentially dangerous reactions occur. The Stanford Chemical Storage system is based upon the idea of storage groups: groups of chemicals that will not react violently if mixed together. 

Stanford Chemical Storage Groups are built-in for many chemicals in the BioRAFT inventory system. 

Checkout this PDF to explore the system and each storage group.  

ANSI Z136.5 and Z136.8 Update

The American National Standard Institute’s (ANSI) Z136 series is the leading set of safety standards regarding the usage of lasers. The most important of these standards to JHU are Z136.5 and Z136.8 which cover the safe use of lasers in educational institutions and research, development, or testing, respectively. This year, both standards have been updated, with the following changes: 

  • Demos and teaching experiments should use visible rather than invisible lasers whenever possible. 
  • All current laser warning signs must be brought up to modern standards. 
  • The Laser Safety Advocate must review all laser demonstration safety plans. 
  • Laser project review forms will now include the following topics: 
    • Recorded room interlock checks to ensure that all entry controls work as expected biennially. 
    • On-the-job training to provide information about best practices to help ensure that all researchers are trained to the same level and that experiments will be repeatable. 
    • Barrier testing – includes details on procedures and other recommended information 
    • A structured self-review process. 
    • Improved risk assessment protocols. 

Guidance for safe laser usage can be found here. 

For any questions about this update, please contact Laser Safety Advocate Niel Leon at 913-302-8500 or   

Guidance for safe laser usage can be found here. 

For any questions about this update, please contact LSA Mr. Niel Leon at 913-302-8500 or