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  • Hello, my name is FirstName Lastname and I work for Environmental Health and Life Safety at the University of Houston. Our mission is to promote a safe laboratory environment and workplace for all researchers, staff, and students at the University of Houston by taking every reasonable precaution to free laboratories and workplaces of recognizable hazards. We will assist researchers and managers in complying with applicable regulations and recommendations for handling different types of hazardous materials. We will also assist UH in achieving tier one status and professional recognition.


  • Hazard communication, also known as the “Employee Right to Know Standard” requires that the University take certain precautions when an employee is working with hazardous chemicals. While the HAZCOM Act requires only chemical hazard communication, the University has an obligation to provide a safe working environment, so this process is extended to other hazards as well.


  • Chemical inventories are required for any substance that requires a safety data sheet to be kept. Workplaces must maintain an up-to-date chemical inventory. Internal inventories may not provide all of the required information, so be sure to capture the information required by EHLS’ form. Even hazardous chemicals like gases belong on the inventory, whether they are contained in a cylinder, or produced as an intermediary and stored dissolved. Once a chemical is received, store the safety data sheet and add it to the inventory. Only remove chemicals from the inventory and SDS beinder once they are no-longer used. This is more than just when a stock of a chemical is temporarily depleted. Storing chemicals requires active management and should be led by a supervisor, manager, or principal investigator for each workplace.


  • Safety Data Sheets are for you. They exist to inform you of chemical hazards in the workplace. Even if something isn’t a commercial product, and therefore won’t have an SDS, workers must still be informed of the hazards. SDS have a specific format, and are product-specific, not chemical specific. If UH produces one chemical, and another University produces the same chemical, they should have different SDS because the processes, raw materials, and other aspects of each may be different between the products. Every workplace must have these documents available at all times for each chemical, even if the internet goes down, or if the power goes out. Everyone can help maintain SDS but is the responsibility of the supervisor, manager, or principal investigator to do so.

    Section 1 includes a product identifier (chemical name, trade name, product number, or something else to identify the product. This MUST match the product label and is a great way to coordinate between the product’s labeled container and the SDS. It will also include an emergency phone number as well as restrictions on use. Section 2 identifies the hazards including pictograms, statements, and may include other hazards not listed by regulation. Section 3 includes information on chemical ingredients, approximate concentrations, and information on trade secrets if they are claimed.


  • Section 4 includes first aid measures for lay responders. Section 5 includes firefighting measures, this is not intended entirely for lay or first responders, but includes information for both. The scope of a person’s involvement in emergency response should be discussed in other areas of administration, such as SOPs. Section 6 includes information on what to do in case of an active release. This section is highly subjective, and typically geared toward industries that follow its recommended use practices. It may have information on PPE , and methods of containment and cleanup. All of these generally require specialized training, when in doubt, contact EHLS. Section 7 includes information on handling and storage of the product, including incompatibilities. Section 8 includes information on established exposure limits (if any are established), as well as engineering controls and PPE recommended for normal use. Again this part may be subjective and assume that the product will be used according to certain methods or industrial guidelines that may not apply. Section 9 includes a substance’s physical and chemical properties such as boiling point, flash point, and pH if they are known, and as the product is produced. This information may change during use of a product, for instance dilution, drying, or mixing may change these properties and/or their associated hazards. Section 10 includes information on the stability and reactivity of a chemical including potentially hazardous reactions. These may not be known for all products or combinations. Section 11 includes information on the toxicity of a product. Section 12 includes information on how a product may impact the environment in an ecological sense. Section 13 includes information on disposal restrictions and often is not specific enough to act upon- contact EHLS instead. Section 14 includes information for shipment, which can be a useful resource in getting an overview of some hazards. Section 15 includes other regulatory information, and depending on where the product is intended to be sold may have significant quantities of information, or very little at all. Section 16 includes any additional information the producer wants to provide, and will also include the date that the SDS was prepared or revised


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  • Training and a written program are two major requirements of Hazcom. EHLS provides the University’s written program as well as training on awareness of hazcom and the basic elements. Some limited substance- and hazard-specific training is also offered by EHLS, such as hydrofluoric acid training or compressed gas training. Everything else falls on the workplace (represented by your supervisor). They must provide training to workers based on exposure to the hazard, or potential exposure to the hazard, training for each individual chemical or classes of chemicals or classes of hazards. If training is provided on classes, it must include training on how to determine which class a chemical or product belongs to as well as understanding how to find, read, and understand information regarding hazards and protective measures not already covered by other training, understanding how to acquire and use the chemical or class in the specific workplace, as well as understanding the risks of exposure and how to properly protect themselves.

    The red arrows denote separate training requirements that this training does not cover.


  • Whether it is a job requirement, or just incidental contact with cuts, scrapes, or bruises, the University of Houston requires that universal precautions are taken for contact with blood or other potentially-infectious material.

    Universal precautions is the approach of treating all human blood and certain bodily fluids as if they were known to be infectious. If you cannot tell if something is contaminated with blood or OPIM, assume that it is. Use gloves, masks, and gowns or other appropriate PPE and engineering controls where available.

    You might be wondering what OPIM could be, well it includes all semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva (in dental procedures), any bodily fluids visibly contaminated with human blood or where you cannot tell the difference.

    Some possible consequences of exposure are HIV, Hep A, B, and C, Staph and Strep infections, gastroenteritis salmonella, shigella, pneumonia, syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, chicken pox, herpes, urinary tract infections, or blood infections.

    Some workplaces may require other precautions such as standard precautions, which treat every bodily fluid, secretion, or excretion except for sweat as potentially infectious and


  • adds handwashing and PPE when touching a patient is anticipated. It is prevalent in healthcare settings.

    Transmission-based precautions are added based on risk assessment of patients and suspected pathogens and can include precautions to prevent airborne, droplet, or contact transmission of pathogens.

    You may need this information in emergencies, but if you are performing work or studying where any of this is routine, or if it is a part of your job description to respond to emergencies, then you will require additional training.


  • One of the realities of work and research is that there is inherent risk involved with any action. Hopefully we all made it here today without slipping and falling in the shower, or having an accident during transit, but if you do take a moment to think about your day, there is at least something that could have gone wrong and caused harm. You cannot completely eliminate all risk from life, but one of the biggest things you can do as a student or employee is to help manage that risk. Here you can see the hierarchy of controls and a risk management matrix. These are two things that we’ll use to illustrate measures we can take to manage our risk while here at the University. Before we move on, I want you to make a note of the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to mitigating risk and protecting yourself from hazards, I’ll ask about it later. Here you can see Shasta the second, Shasta the second is known for having a temper. This photo was taken from Shasta’s home in Lynne Eusan park, on campus. Can anyone think of a potential h