June 2000

EDITORIAL: INTERNAL UNIVERSITY LIABILITY FROM EXTERNAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

In 1775, the cry in Massachusetts was "To Arms - To Arms, The British are coming".  For Colleges and Universities today, the cry might well be, "Beware - Beware, the Government is coming".  A recent letter from Stanley Ikenberry of the American Council on Education (ACE) points out potential university liabilities regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.   Creighton General Counsel has posted his concerns regarding the significance of this issue.  But... It is not only the EPA that can knock at the Creighton door with rules, regulations, laws, citations and fines.  OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; DOT, the Department of Transportation; FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration; the State of Nebraska regulatory agencies, the City of Omaha and the Omaha Fire Department (OFD) all have jurisdiction t inspect and review.  They may wish to inspect and review facilities, documents, records, reports and the list goes on.   Workplace safety and environmental concerns are font burner items to these agencies.  When an external regulatory agency inspects or audits a campus, you may be sure that the old saw "I am from the Government, and I am here to help" will not be stated.  When an external regulatory agency inspects, they are attempting to determine effectiveness of programs, policies, procedures, laws, rules, regulations.   Included in these areas are the provision for providing a safe workplace for all employees ( and while not mandated, it goes without saying that we must provide a safe workplace for all, faculty, staff, and students).  Air, water and soil pollution are the main thrust of the EPA, and what went down the drain in the past probable would break the law today.  Fire Safety and Life Safety Code issues have been strongly in the news since the Seton Hall fire that killed 3, and the awareness level of fires in dorms and residence halls has increased the awareness of not only external regulatory agencies, but also the general public and parents of students.  Examples of the cost associated with violations of codes and standards are up to $7,000.00 for each serious OSHA violation, and up to $70,000 for each willful violation.  DOT and FAA fines are levied at the rate of $27,500.00 a day.  EPA has no set figure for violations, however, environmental violation fines often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

OSHA Targets Health Care Employees

In a recent speech to the American Nurses Association, OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress indicated that OSHA is turning its attention to health care employers, and will be significantly increasing its health care OSHA compliance efforts in coming years.  Jeffress spoke to other American Nurses Association in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1999.  His speech included the following key points:

For the past four years, OSHA has been surveying employers and industries with high injury and illness rates.  In 1999, for the first time, about 1000 hospitals were included in the survey.

  • More than 300,000 workplace injuries occurred in U.S. hospitals in 1997; this is nearly five percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector.
  • OSHA has established a program to inspect employers in industries with high injury and illness rates.  When inspections are conducted under this program, OSHA finds four times as many "significant cases" as it finds during any other kind of inspection.  Next year some hospitals will be inspected pursuant to this program.  OSHA will also strengthen and expand "the cadre of trained and experienced compliance officers' that it now uses to conduct inspections in health care facilities.
  • OSHA compliance officers inspecting hospitals and nursing homes will be instructed to emphasize OSHA's new compliance directive on bloodborne pathogens, which emphasizes the importance of using safer medical devices and training workers when such devices are introduced in the workplace.  OSHA will also expect employers to update their exposure control plans to reflect the latest available technology.

From: Baird, Holm, McEachen, Pedersen, Hamann & Strasheim LLp

 

 

Water-Stained Ceiling Tiles

 It is not uncommon to find water stained ceiling tiles during the course of a building or Indoor Air Quality investigation.  These tiles are aesthetically displeasing, and at times can contain significant concentrations of toxigenic fungi.  Once discovered, these ceiling tiles are typically replaced using industry standard of care.

Often unanswered, however, is the source of the original water damage.  Intuitively, one may suspect a roof leak, a flooding event from an upper floor or condensation from plumbing.  Surprisingly, however, these water stains may be indicative of yet a bigger problem, the impending failure of the building's fire protection system from microbiologically influenced corrosion, often referred to as MIC.  While many of the problems associated with MIC may be limited to water stained ceiling tiles, there are million dollar catastrophes in the courts implicating MIC as the culprit.

When a building is commissioned, the fire protection system, is typically charged with municipal tap water.  After that, the water lies stagnate in portions of the FPS for years, while other portions receive additional untreated water.  This condition allows the amplification and colonization of a diverse group of bacteria, including, but not limited to, sulfate reducing bacteria, iron bacteria, low nutrient bacteria and acid producing bacteria.  These bacteria and their metabolic by-products form deposits that can corrode the walls of the metal pipes, thereby causing leaks.

There are a few specialized companies in the United States that provide test kits and consulting for MIC.  For more information, please contact them directly:

               Bioindustrial Technologies, Inc.
               1-800-798-4650
                bti@hotmail.com

Published in Aerotech Labs by Daniel H. Pope, BTI

Closing a Lab

Transferring or closing a lab?  Proper management of hazardous materials is required when any responsible individual leaves, transfers or closes a laboratory.  In order to keep disorder to a minimum, the following criteria should be followed:

  • All chemical containers must be properly labeled and securely sealed.
  • Decontaminate all work surfaces including refrigerators, centrifuges, fume hoods, freezers& bench tops.
  • Utilize the "chem-exchange" program to transfer usable chemicals to another researcher.  Chemicals for which a new user cannot be found should be disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Special procedures must be followed for the transfer or disposal of controlled substances.
  • Return gas cylinders to suppliers.
  • Call Radiation Safety for proper protocol concerning permits, waste and contamination surveys.
  • Notify your Department Chair and EH & S for a final walk through. 

Tanning Beds

As summer nears, many young people are making trips to the local tanning salon.  Having a tan is perceived as being healthy and youthful.  Little attention is given by teens and young adults regarding the hazards of tanning beds.

"A typical indoor tanning session lasts between 15-30 minutes, with the UVA radiation at wavelengths of 320-4000 nanometers (about two to three times the UVA in normal sunlight"  Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Short term effects associated with indoor tanning include redness, dry skin and itching.  Long term effects can include wrinkling and sagging due to photo aging and skin cancers.

Before running out to get that base tan at a salon, ask yourself if the risks out weigh the cosmetic benefit.  Many people do not see the damage by photo aging until later in life, at just the time when most people are trying to look younger.

Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticides and Lead Poisonings around the Home

These simple steps can help you save children from environmental hazards around  the home:

1.    Always store pesticides and other household chemicals, including chlorine bleach, out of children's reach -- preferably in a locked cabinet.

2.    Always read directions carefully because pesticide products, household cleaning products, and pet products can be "dangerous" or ineffective if too much or too little is used.

3.    Before applying pesticides or other household chemicals, remove children and their toys, as well as pets, from the are.  Keep children and pets away until the pesticide has dries or as long as is recommended on the label.

4.    If your use of a pesticide or other household chemical is interrupted (perhaps by a phone call), properly reclose the container and remove it from children's reach.  Always use household products in child-resistant packaging.

5.    Never transfer pesticide to other containers that children may associate with food or drink (like soda bottles), and never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.

6.    When applying insect repellents to children, read all directions first; do not apply over cuts, wounds or irritated skin; do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands or directly on the face; and use just enough to cover exposed skin or clothing, but do not use under clothing.

7.    Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often, and regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces to reduce potential exposure to lead dust.

8.    Get your child tested for lead if you suspect he or she has been exposed to lead in either your home or neighborhood.

9.    Inquire about lead hazards,.  When buying or renting a home or apartment built before 1978, the seller or landlord is now required to disclose known lead hazards.

10.    If you suspect that lead based paint has been used in your home or if you plan to remodel or renovate, get your home tested.  Do not attempt to remove lead paint yourself.  Call 1-800-424-LEAD for guidelines.

From the United States EPA web site

Are your playgrounds safe?

Remember when you could hardly wait to get out to the playground to play?  More than likely you never thought about the consequences of playing on playground equipment.  Over the last twenty years, there has been a trend towards safety on the playground, but there is still room for improvement.

Approximately 15 children die each year and another 200,000 require emergency room care for playground related injuries according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

One of the major areas of concern is play surfaces.  About 12 inches of wood chips are needed to absorb a fall from an 11-foot platform and most playgrounds do not have near that much wood chips, sand or gravel.

Other areas of concern are age appropriate equipment, maintenance and supervision.  Only 10 percent of playgrounds that were graded by the National Program for Playground Safety had any type of rules posted and only 6 percent had signs indicating age appropriateness.

Playground designers are trying to design equipment that is safe and fun for children.  One example is making a platform out of see-through material to make it feel scary but are only 2-3 feet off of the ground.

Playgrounds can be very beneficial to a child's well-being, including helping with gross motor skills and social and developmental areas and the more exciting (and safe) a playground is, the more likely a child will want to return.

CU Safety Kudos

For the fifth consecutive year, Creighton University has been awarded the "Award of Honor" from the Safety & Health Council of Greater Omaha.  The award is given annually to companies in the metro area who have an outstanding safety record.  It was presented to Paul Nichols at the Safety & Health Council Expo Awards Luncheon on May 17, 2000.