Emergency Preparedness

3-1. Biological spill cleanup material is readily available.

Biological spill clean up material consists of the following:

  • Bleach or disinfectant solution
  • A mechanical device (e.g forceps) for handling sharps
  • Paper towels or other suitable absorbent
  • Biohazard autoclave bags for the collection of contaminated spill clean-up items
  • Labcoat and gloves
  • Face protection (eye wear and full face shield)

See http://www.uvm.edu/~esf/emergencyred/biospill.html for clean up procedures

3-2. A biological exposure response plan is up to date and readily available.

If an IBC Protocol Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) is in use, follow the exposure response section of the SOP.

If the SOP does not have an exposure response section, contact the Biosafety Coordinator at mailto:jlabossi@uvm.edu for assistance.

If an IBC Protocol SOP is not in use, refer to Appendix A of the UVM Exposure Control Plan

3-3. To control fire hazards while working in a biosafety cabinet a non-flame method of sterilization, such as a bead sterilizer, is used in place of a Bunsen burner.

The Bunsen burner is a tool of the trade for the classical microbiologist. They are used to flame flasks, tubes, and loops to prevent contamination of microbial cultures when working on an open bench. An open flame in a biological safety cabinet (BSC), however, rarely is needed and could lead to disaster.

A properly functioning BSC depends on laminar airflow to achieve a near-sterile work environment. A flame creates air turbulence and disrupts the air supply pattern, actually compromising the integrity of the containment. The heat, if allowed to build up, could damage the cabinet. A BSC can be terminally damaged by a spill of alcohol that catches on fire or an explosion resulting from a leak of natural gas. More importantly, personnel can be injured.

Several solutions are available. Having a supply of pre-sterilized inoculating loops and needles on hand eliminates the problems caused by a heat source in the BSC. If deemed absolutely necessary, sterilizing devices that don't provide a continuous open flame are preferable. Burners are available that have a pilot light and provide a flame only on demand. Small electric furnaces can be used to sterilize loops, needles, and culture tube mouths. Check your laboratory supply catalog for more information about these products. These alternatives are described in a pdf file you can download here.


1) Building emergency and safety features are reviewed with all employees.

Some laboratory buildings at UVM have building-specific lab safety features. These features are described on our Building Specific Safety Features page. Occupants should make themselves aware of these by reviewing the section and discussing this information in training sessions. UVM Environmental Safety can provide lab-specific training so that users understand these building-specific differences.

2) Information listed on the Emergency contact door sign is current.

- It is important that emergency contact numbers on the Emergency door sign are updated on a regular basis. This is the only way emergency personnel and responders can contact you during an incident discovered in your lab. Since emergencies generally happen off hours, we recommend that the emergency numbers you list are numbers where you can immediately be reached and not an office phone.

-If you have security concerns and wish not to post your emergency contact information on the lab door, please be sure that your emergency contact phone numbers are listed on your Laboratory Online Inventory. You can update this information at http://www.uvm.edu/~esf/lab_inv . The online inventory information is only available to emergency responders, not to the general public.


3) Eyewashes, drench hoses and emergency showers in the lab are flushed weekly.

-Research shows that microorganisms that can cause disease in humans can grow in stagnant water in plumbing lines.

-Flushing safety equipment weekly can prevent this growth and can help you identify any parts of your safety equipment that may not be functioning properly.

-Document the weekly flushing of emergency equipment on the ES 2010 flush calendar.

4) Chemical Spill Kit is full, visible and lab workers have been trained in its use.

-Spill kits distributed by ES have either an absorbent powder and a brush OR 2 gray pads in addition to directions, nitrile gloves, ziploc bags and waste tags.

-The absorbent powder cannot be used on metallic mercury or hydrofluoric acid spills.

-The grey pads are Universal pads and can be used on all chemicals except for metallic mercury.

-Discuss chemical spill scenarios in lab meetings so workers are prepared to deal with them.

-Always have a full spill kit on hand in the lab. Email esf@uvm.edu to get a replacement if any of the spill kit components have been used.

5) Shelved items have at least 18" vertical clearance from sprinkler heads in ceiling.

-Any shelving that is not on the perimeter of the laboratory must be clear of objects within 18" of the plane in which the sprinklers are located.

-This is because water sprinklers for fire suppression rely on overlapping water streams to effectively suppress a fire.

6) Gas cylinders are secured properly.

-Secure all cylinders to prevent tipping and falling. Ideally, cylinders should be secured individually to a stable surface.

-Securing cylinders with chains is the preferred method since chains are fire resistant. Cylinder straps may also be used. Chains and straps should fall between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way up the tank to prevent tipping.

-If you must use one chain for multiple cylinders arrange them in a single layer. But keep in mind that securing multiple cylinders can be an accident waiting to happen.

-Any cylinder not in use must have a safety cap securely in place.

-Label "Full" and "Empty" cylinders.

7) PPE and other controls identified in the lab's Chemical Use Planning Forms are in use.

-Chemical Use Planning forms are a tool to use to help identify ways in which one can control and prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals in the lab. They are required to be completed and kept in the Laboratory Safety Notebook.

-Chemical Use Planning forms help disseminate important chemical safety information to new lab workers as they review the Lab Safety Notebook.

-Controls identified on the Chemical Use Planning forms (fume hoods, PPE, etc) must be available and supplied to all laboratory workers. Training must be provided to all laboratory workers about the proper use any identified controls.

-Check to be sure workers are using identified controls properly in the lab.

-See http://www.uvm.edu/~esf/emergencyplanning/emergencyequipment.html for more details.

8) Closed-toe shoes are worn in the lab at all times.

-Open-toed shoes (sandals, TEVA's, Crocs) are not allowed in the laboratory due to the potential for exposure to chemical and physical hazards.

-Shoes with open backs are allowed at the discretion of the laboratory supervisor.

9) Chemicals are capped and returned to proper storage after use.

-Capping containers after use helps to prevent accidental spills. Always place chemicals back in proper storage when done using them.

10) Expired, old, or unneeded chemicals are tagged and disposed of properly.

-Chemicals can become dangerous as they age and labels become unreadable.

-Unreadable labels pose storage and disposal challenges.

-Over time, plastic containers and caps become fragile and can easily disintegrate.

-If there is an accident in the lab, expired, old, or unneeded chemicals can add to the severity of the problem.


This section contains additional items that are not directly relevant to any one checklist item. If you still don't find your answer e-mail us at mailto:esf@uvm.edu so that we can add your question to this database.

Can personal listening devices such as iPods or MP3 players be used during work in the lab? What about cell phones, radios or CD players?

Devices using either one or two ear plugs are not recommended for use in a laboratory. All lab workers should be as alert as possible to the potential for an unusual situation or an emergency.

Cell phones should not be used while handling hazardous materials.

Radios and CD players are appropriate if they are played through speakers into the general laboratory room.

Eyewash Maintenance

There are just a few simple steps to maintain your eyewash:

  • Flush your eyewash weekly.
  • Protect nearby objects from possible over spraying water.
  • Gently and slowly push back the lever to begin water flow.
  • When the water runs clear, you are finished.
  • Keep area in and around eyewash accessible, clean and free of clutter.

Using Your Eyewash

  • In case chemicals should find their way into your eyes, rush to the nearest eyewash station.
  • With the eyewash on, use your hands to force your eyes open.
  • Flush eyes thoroughly for 15 minutes. It is very important that you do not stop until the 15 minutes are up. While flushing have someone call 911.
  • After the 15 minutes have ended, seek professional medical attention immediately.

Safety Showers

If you need to use the safety shower, call for help as you activate it. This will alert other people to the situation and they can call 911 for medical assistance and also help control the mess created by the water.

This shower is activated by pulling on the lever.

Once done using, push lever back to original position and water flow will stop.

Things to keep in mind when using a safety shower:

  • Continue washing under the shower for 15 minutes or until medical assistance arrives.
  • It is a good idea to know where the shower's water shut-off valve is located. If the unit is ever used and does not shut itself off, the shut-off valve will be needed.
  • It is not a very good idea to place any electrical equipment near the unit. It may cause serious injury or even death due to electrical shock.
  • If your clothing is contaminated with chemicals, while under the shower. The chemicals will stay on the body longer if the clothing is not removed.

Questions and Answers

Q: How do I know that my eyewash is working any other time that I might need it?

A: The American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, ANSI Z358.1-2004, states, "Plumbed equipment shall be activated weekly for a period long enough to verify operation and ensure that flushing fluid is available." A note further states, "The intent is to ensure that there is a flushing fluid supply at the head of the device and to clear the supply line of any sediment build-up that could prevent fluid from being delivered to the head of the device and minimize microbial contamination due to sitting water."

Q: How do I check my eyewash if the eyewash drains directly onto the floor without a floor drain?

A: Water draining from the eyewashes can be collected in a 5-gallon bucket under the eyewash drainpipe. If this is not the case for your eyewash, place a work order with Physical Plant to have the drainage basin modified.

Q: What if I find that the eyewash is not operating properly?

A: Turn in a work order or contact your building deputy to initiate the work. You should indicate "High Priority - emergency eyewash out of service" if your eyewash is not functioning.

Q: You've only mentioned eyewashes, should I check my safety shower as well?

A: Yes! The ANSI code requiring eyewashes to be checked weekly also requires safety showers to be inspected weekly.

Q: How do I inspect the shower without flooding the lab?

A: Laboratory buildings at UVM have equipment to collect the water from the safety shower. Contact Environmental Safety (ES) for more information.

Q: What if I have more questions?

A: Contact ES at mailto:esf@uvm.edu