EDITORIAL: Emergencies---Are We Ready, Are You Ready?
In light on the awakening that has occurred because of 9-11, Emergency Response & Emergency Preparedness have become buzz words. The old Boy Scout Motto, "Be Prepared" has always been good advice, but is all to often not followed. While paranoia may be as bad as not being prepared, concern regarding emergency situations is most definitely warranted. The following are some rather simple tips that are worth at least your consideration both on the job and at home!
1. Have individual disaster plan on the job, at home, for your family! Do you know where to go in the event of a fire or other disaster. Do you have a family assembly point? How about your co workers? Are there handicapped individuals in your work area who require evacuation assistance? This list of questions could become very lengthy, but-----you need to be asking these questions of yourself.
2. Emergency Lighting is always an issue when there is a power loss such as we recently had at the university. Emergency Lighting is tested by Facilities Maintenance routinely but like all things made by man all things mechanical and electrical have failure potential. And of course, you don’t have emergency lighting at home. Suggestion: Small key chain penlights, or small flashlights that can be carried in a purse, are a good idea. A larger flashlight at your desk is even a better idea. Of course, the same thing applies at home.
3. Almost all of us use computers today. Have you backed up your information? Is there a hard copy someplace? Have you used UL – Listed Surge protectors and or battery back up? Can you afford to loose your collected data and information on the job or for that matter on your home computer.
4. How about Weather Emergencies? You might want to consider purchase of a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert feature. Keep it on and when the signal sounds, listen for information about sever weather. Remember that we live in what is commonly called "Tornado Alley". A Weather Watch from the National Weather Service means that conditions such as a tornado COULD develop. A Weather Warning on the other hand means that Civil Defense sirens will sound because a tornado has been spotted and that you should seek shelter.
5. Printed Emergency Procedures are posted in all of the rooms in Residence Halls. They are also printed on the back of the Creighton University Administrative Telephone Directory. They cover basic proceedures to follow regarding Bomb Threats, Chemical Spills, Crime in Progress, Fire, Injury or Illness, Tornadoes, and University Closings.
6. How about your keys, your purse, wallet, your important papers. What can you grab and go with in the event of an emergency? How about warm clothing on the way out of the door during the winter?
7. How about your vehicle? Everyone has heard the warnings about having emergency things for winter driving. But how about year round factors. Do you have a spare tire? Is it inflated? Do you have a jack and lug wrench? How about paper and pen or pencil so that you can leave a note on the vehicle in case you leave? How about a tow chain or tow rope in case you get stuck. A small shovel is also a good idea. A flashlight in the glovebox is never a bad idea. And since we are in the age of everybody it seems having a mobile telephone, how about a charging unit in the vehicle that plugs in to the electrical system.
Whole books have been written on emergency preparedness, and unless you are involved with Safety or Emergency Preparedness on the job, you have probably never read one of them. Frankly, most of them are not the best bed time reading material. The few tips that I have listed are only that----Tips! No one knows when an emergency condition will occur! And lest you think that emergencies can’t happen to you, I offer the Walt Kelly, quote from Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and they is US"!
Laboratory Fires continue to occur. The University of California at Irvine lost a chemistry lab to a fire last July. The costs of this fire was in the multi-millions. The fire was caused by the mishandling of a distillation.
On January 11th, the University of California at Santa Cruz lost a genetics research lab to fire. Major damage was contained to two biology labs on the fourth floor of Sinsheimer Labs on Science Hill, but other parts of the structure- of the main biology building on campus received substantial smoke and water damage. The cause of the fire is not yet determined.
Laboratory fires are preventable. It takes work on the part of everyone to identify unsafe equipment, techniques or hazardous materials. Lab personnel through senior administrators must take an active role in promoting safe work practices.
Excerpt from "Chemical Health & Safety"; vol. 5, #2
Chemical waste labeling
In order to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding hazardous waste, a chemical waste collection container must be appropriately labeled as soon as you start filing it. The container must clearly be labeled with the words "Hazardous Waste". The fully written chemical name and the percent composition for mixtures. If the contents of a collection container is a mixture, all components must be listed by percent or volume. The container should also be labeled with a start fill date (the date you actually started to fill the container) and a stop fill date (the date the container is full). Completely deface or remove old labels if reusing a container and the contents are not identical to the original product.
Waste storage containers must be non-leaking, chemically compatible, safe, and clearly labeled. Keep all hazardous materials in appropriate closed containers; all hazardous material containers should remain closed at all times except when adding or removing material.
The following guidelines must be followed when packaging hazardous waste for disposal:
- Use a leak-proof containers that will safely contain the contents.
Leave empty approximately five percent of the container volume for thermal expansion.
- Be suspicious of any pressure build-up inside the container. If this is a concern when closing the container, do not secure the cap tightly and place the container in the fume hood.
- Old cans of ether, picric acid and other peroxide forming or shock sensitive items shall be left in place and not disturbed until personnel from EH&S have evaluated the condition of the container.
- If waste is accumulated over time, list the accumulation start date and stop/disposal date on the container.
- Do not mix incompatible chemicals.
- Do not mix hazardous materials with non-hazardous materials.
- Hazardous waste must be stored based on compatibility. Store materials of the same hazard class together.
- Loose solid materials must be placed in a sealed container or in a cardboard box lined with two polyethylene bags.
- Do not leave funnels in the collection container.
Beat the heat!
It goes without saying that it looks like we are in for "A Long Hot Summer"! Accordingly, it is well worth the time for us to look at measures that can be taken to beat the heat.
HEAT STRESS Issues: Per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); " When the body is unable to cool itself through sweating, serious heat-related illnesses can occur. " OSHA's pocket card on heat stress lists symptoms of heat-related illnesses and first-aid techniques available for downloading (in pdf format)
*OSHA PUBLICATION 3154- Heat Stress Card (English)
*OSHA PUBLICATION 3155- Heat Stress Card (Spanish)
PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST ULTRA VIOLET RADIATION: Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation which can cause eye damage, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancers, such as melanoma. Unprotected individuals working in sunlight risk exposure to UV radiation. OSHA’s pocket card listed above contains suggestions to protect employees from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation and is available for downloading.
Tips that may help include use of sun block products, insuring that you have adequate liquids, head covering, minimal exposed skin in direct sunlight, and avoidance of over exertion during extremely hot weather.
It may be a good idea to print off a copy of the heat stress cards and post them in your workplace, on your refrigerator at home, and don't forget to teach the kids about sun stress while you are at it.
"This disease this multisystem, multistage, inflammatory illness transmitted to humans by infected ticks." OSHA Hazard information and Fact sheet are available for downloading at http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/heatstress/index.html.
For those who camp, fish, hike, or frequent wooded areas or grasslands, the habitat for the potentially infected ticks, it is more than just a good idea to review the information and fact sheets. Lyme Disease can be fatal.
If you have children under age 6, you need to be prepared for Nebraska’s Child Passenger Safety Law change effective July 20, 2002.
All children up to age 6 riding in any motor vehicle must ride correctly secured in an appropriate child restraint system that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
What does this law mean? Children under 6 years of age must ride in a child restrain system that is appropriate for their size, age and weight. Possible restraint systems include rear-facing child safety seats, forward facing child safety seats (often called Convertible or Toddler seats) and booster seats. Any seat used to secure a child must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and also must be used correctly. Violation carries a $25 fine and one point assessed against the operator’s driving record.
What are booster seats? Booster seats are a step between "toddler" seats and vehicle seat belt use. The bodies of small children do not fit into vehicle seat belts properly, causing the lap belt to ride up onto the soft abdominal area and the shoulder belt to cut up into the neck and chin. Both positions can cause serious injury and even death in a crash. Booster seats simply raise a child up so that the lap belt crosses the strong hip bones and allow for the shoulder belt to fall across the center of the chest correctly. Booster seats are to be used with both lab AND shoulder belts.
Nebraska law requires a booster seat to age six. However, safety experts recommend that most kids need a booster seat from about age 4 to until about age 8. Use this 5-step test to determine booster seat use.
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortable at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm"
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride safely in the car. Kids like boosters because they are more comfortable, too!
For more information on child safety seats:
1. Attend a car seat inspection near you.
2. Contact a local Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician for assistance
3. Call the Nebraska SAFE KIDS Buckle Up line at 1-800-745-9311.
4. Log on to
5. www.nsp.state.ne.us for local car seat inspection locations or www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ for a local Technician. Call the Department of Environmental Health & Safety at 546-6400.
Nebraska Health and Human Services System
All employee injuries/accidents must be reported to the Creighton University Risk Management Office within 24 hours after the incident. Form HR-24 must be completed by the affected employee, signed by the supervisor and forwarded to Katie Detrick, Risk Manager. Specific questions relating to injury/illness reporting should be directed to that office at 280-5833. Information related to the reporting procedure is also covered in New Employee Orientation sessions.
Seat Belt News
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released data from a new study, titled "The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000". The study highlights the importance of seatbelt use. In one year, the use of seat belts prevent an estimated 11,900 fatalities and 325,000 serious injuries, saving $50 billion in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury related costs. The failure of crash victims to wear seat belts leads to an estimated 9,200 unnecessary fatalities and 143,000 needless injuries, costing society $26 billion.
The figures are staggering, try to remember this the next time that you "forget" to fasten your seatbelt.
o $61 billion in lost workplace productivity
o $20.2 billion in lost household productivity
o $59 billion in property damage
o $32.6 billion in medical costs
o $25.6 billion in travel delay costs
Overall, nearly 75 percent of the costs of roadway crashes are paid by those not directly involved - primarily through insurance premiums, taxes and travel delay. In 2000 these costs, borne by society rather than individual crash victims, totaled $170 billion. In the same year, 41,821 persons were killed; 5.3 million were injured, and 27.6 million vehicles were damaged.
The new study is available in NHTSA’s website at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
Security of chemical and radioactive materials utilizing laboratories has been a major topic of annual Laboratory Safety and Radiation Safety training for the past few years. It really should be a common sense issue. Surely no one wants to leave a laboratory unsecured and vacant. Surely no one wants to have dangerous chemicals walk off campus in the hands of unauthorized individuals. Surely after 9-11 nobody wants to be careless and invite terrorist acts. Lots of surely’s but-------labs get left unsecured! Chemicals and Radioactive materials get left unguarded!
The big question regarding lack of security of laboratories after repeated training is why? It is obvious that training by itself is not the only answer, because it doesn’t seem to work. It would appear that if there is a reason for lack of security in research laboratories it is APATHY. Or, phrased another way, the "It can’t happen here attitude!" But I assure you that it can happen here, or for that matter at the majority of academic research institutions. There is an old yankee saying that "familiarity breeds contentment", and it is probably pretty close to being the truth. But quite often in academic settings even the unfamiliar seems to breed contentment and apathy.
Within the past three months, I talked with two contractors who were reviewing the Criss and Riggie Complex. They told me that they had talked with a number of people in these buildings in both office and laboratory settings. This was the first time that they had been on the campus. They stated that they had only been challenged once and asked for credentials. They were amazed at the lack of security.
The following are listed as minimum security measurers that should be considered in all research facilities:
- NEVER LEAVE A LABORATORY UNSECURED---NOT EVEN FOR A SHORT TIME!
- NEVER HESITATE TO CHALLENGE AN INDIVIDUAL IN A LABORATORY AREA THAT IS UNKNOWN TO YOU.
- NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR IDENTIFICATION.
- NEVER BE AFRAID TO ALERT PUBLIC SAFETY (280-2911) OF SUSPECIOUS INDIVIDUALS.