Lab Safety: are you up-to-date?
Recently, several unanticipated emergencies in our buildings have been reminders that accidents can and do happen. Fires, floods, and steam pipe ruptures have occurred in both older and newer PSOM buildings in recent months. Rapid responses from security, facilities, EHRS, the fire department, and others -- often in the middle of the night or on weekends -- have mitigated the damage; luckily, there have been no reported injuries, but there is always a cost in lost equipment, data, and research/education productivity. In many cases, retrospective analysis by faculty, staff, and trainees has identified precautions that could have limited or prevented the damage. PSOM also reviews each event in detail to try to identify improvements that can help to better monitor and detect accidents early or before they occur.
I urge you to review safety protocols with your teams and building neighbors. Ask if everyone is familiar with the emergency exits, if they know what to do in case of a fire, chemical spill, injury, active shooter, or other emergency. Do you know where the fire alarms are located, how to quickly call security (215-573-3333), where the closest AED is kept, how to communicate with one another in an emergency? (My research team uses Slack, for example).
Is your data backed up off-site? Is valuable equipment that might be damaged by a power interruption protected by an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)? Is valuable equipment that might be damaged by a flood from an upper floor covered when not in use? When appropriate, are computers and other equipment powered down whenever possible? (saving energy, cost, and emissions as well!) Is safety training up-to-date? Are posted lab, freezers, and equipment emergency contact information up-to-date? Is everyone registered for LiveProcess building communications, including their cell phone number? Are chemicals disposed and stored appropriately?
It is worth considering these and other safety-related questions before the next emergency. Our security, facilities, and EHRS teams stand ready to answer your questions and to help with preventative measures. Relevant resources (along with key guidelines) can be found below.
Jon Epstein, MD
EVD | CSO
- Assure all lab occupants have proper lab safety training, including review of all relevant standard operating procedures and Safety Fact Sheets (such as those on electrical safety).
- Wear proper attire/personal protective equipment when in the lab.
- Conduct all lab operations in accordance of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety [EHRS] policies, procedures, and guidelines.
- Use, cap, store, and dispose chemicals and hazardous materials appropriately and per the Chemical Hygiene Plan.
- Understand and adhere to the laboratory waste management guidelines.
- Reduce clutter and minimize bulk stored materials in the laboratory. Keep floor, aisles, and emergency equipment clear.
- Know your building's emergency preparedness and evacuation plan. Activate a pull station and evacuate the building if you smell or see smoke.
- Participate in emergency drills.
- In case of an emergency, please know this number for Emergency Services [police, fire, public safety]: (215) 573-3333.
- PSOM Security keeps a 24-hour control center: (215) 898-0669.
- Do not hesitate to contact Penn EHRS and/or Fire and Emergency Services [FES] with questions.
- EHRS can be reached 24 hours a day/7 days a week at (215) 898-4453.
- Register for LiveProcess building communications.