The JHU Department of Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) is now offering training in the use of portable fire extinguishers to extinguish “incipient” (early-stage) fires in offices. JHU does not normally permit employees or students to use extinguishers (they are present because of fire code requirements, not so that they can be used by untrained persons). Passing this training renders the learner qualified to use fire extinguishers for a period of one year. (Training at annual intervals is legally required.)
The course is a blended live-online offering provided through myLearning. Those wishing to take the course should first take the myLearning online course titled “Using Fire Extinguishers at JHU Homewood.” This course imparts all the information necessary to know in order to use extinguishers safely. Learners should then sign up for the course titled “Using Fire Extinguishers at JHU Homewood (Instructor-Led).” This course provides live hands-on experience with a real fire extinguisher on a simulated fire.
Both courses are necessary for a learner to be considered “qualified” to use fire extinguishers in offices.The courses are quite short and will not take up excessive amounts of time. As mentioned above, qualification lasts one year and may be repeated annually. Those who have not taken this course in the past year shall NOT use fire extinguishers under any circumstances.
No one at Homewood is required to extinguish or fight fires. Always consider your safety and that of others over the safety of property, data, samples, etc. The preferred action is always to evacuate.
Note that this course does not qualify a learner to extinguish incipient fires in laboratory environments.Development of such a course is in progress, but the appropriate response to a laboratory fire is often to leave the building, not to attempt extinguishment. Lab fires can produce dangerous toxic vapors, explosive conditions, and involve chemicals that react with standard extinguishing agents.
Also note that undergraduate students are forbidden from using fire extinguishers at JHU Homewood. Undergraduate students may sign up for the courses for their own enrichment, but they must understand that they may under no circumstances use extinguishers at Homewood.
Having an up-to-date chemical inventory is important for efficient laboratory operations, but it is essential for emergency responders. By agreement with the Baltimore City Fire Department, each JHU laboratory containing chemicals must post an up-to-date chemical inventory on the entry door. It is the lab’s responsibility to maintain its inventory.
In practice, the inventory need include only the full English common name of the chemical (or the IUPAC name if there is no common name) and maximum quantities stored or used in the lab. The inventory must be updated before the annual Health, Safety, and Environment inspection in the Fall, but best practices would be to update quarterly or monthly, depending on the rate of chemical transfer in and out of the lab.
Please make an effort to ensure that your laboratories meet JHU’s commitment to the Fire Department. Accurate information on a lab’s contents allows the Fire Department to protect themselves more effectively and to minimize damage to a lab experiencing an emergency.
Most of our labs have eyewashes or drench hoses (pull-out eye/face/body washes) for emergency use. These must be tested periodically. Drench hoses (which are part of the sink) or eyewashes with plumbed drains (most do not) are the responsibility of the laboratory. Here’s how to test a drench hose or eyewash:
Run the spray for 3 minutes or until the water runs clear, whichever is longer. If the water does not run clear immediately, the sprayer does not immediately actuate, pressure is too high or low, or if the water is not a tepid temperature, contact Facilities Management at x6-8063 as soon as possible to have the sprayer repaired. After testing the eyewash, clean the sprayer and any covers with alcohol wipes.
Log the test date, result, and any corrective actions taken. Logbook sheets must be retained until 2 years have passed from the last test recorded on them. A PDF form to use for logbooks is contained in the university policy on emergency equipment at https://hpo.johnshopkins.edu/hse/policies/156/10941/policy_10941.pdf?_=0.719595961086. Keep the logbook near the drench hose/eyewash station or place a small sign nearby stating the location of the log.
It is fine to use a single logbook for multiple drench hoses in a large lab, but use separate pages for each drench hose and label the hoses so you can tell which is which.
Click here to view a PDF write-up of the incident.
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, [email protected]. 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).
See the HSE Guidance Document on laser pointers, as well as this fact sheet(Laser pointer fact sheet v9-170725FNL), for more details.
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!
Many people don’t know that handheld lasers sold as “laser pointers” may be grossly overpowered and very dangerous both to the user and to the audience. Learn about laser pointer hazards and why Homewood allows only Class 2 laser pointers in Using laser pointers.
If you use chemical products or lab chemicals, you probably empty a bottle occasionally. What do you do with it?
Improperly-disposed containers can expose custodians and the public to hazardous chemicals, can create legal liability for you and the university, and can even explode at the disposal facility.
Find out what to do (and what not to do) in What do I do with my empties?
Anyone generating chemical waste must take the on-line Chemical Waste Management class on myLearning. 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 9-12. 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 in Macaulay is not manned.
All labs that generate chemical waste are required to have trained individuals to maintain the Satellite Accumulation Area. That training is provided by the Chemical Waste Management class.
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!
Contact HSE at 6-8798 if you have any questions.
The US Federal Select Agent Program oversees the possession, use, and transfer of biological select agents and toxins. A list of Select Agents and toxins can be found here.
Although most of the Select Agents are serious human pathogens such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever virus and bubonic plague organism, the list includes some toxins used legitimately in biological research, such as ricin.
National Select Agent Registry–CDC
A good general introduction to radiation hazards, both ionizing and non-ionizing, can be found on OSHA’s radiation page. It contains many radiation hazard and regulation links.