Preparing For Emergencies
Emergency preparedness is an on-going process that requires reviewing safety policies and procedures on a regular basis. Lab workers are responsible for determining when an emergency is occurring in their area. In this role, only they can provide the first response to a lab emergency. They are not expected, however, to provide specific emergency response measures, such as first aid/CPR (unless so trained), major fire suppression, or clean up of major chemical spills. Review the information below to stay informed and help prevent accidents and injuries.
Laboratory incidents have resulted in injuries, loss of property and loss of research materials. A sample of some recent events at UVM includes the following:
- Cook Physical Sciences - The explosion of an "unknown chemical" resulted in the serious injury of a researcher when he was washing glassware with chemical residue inside. January, 2004.
- Terrill Hall - Phenol and chloroform debris (incorrectly placed in a red biohazard bag) was autoclaved, causing the building to be evacuated, initiating a Vermont State Hazmat team response. Twenty people experienced health symptoms, including headaches and nausea, and one person was sent to the hospital. The building was closed for 24 hours. February, 2005.
- Delehanty Hall - A laboratory fire sent 14 firefighters and one police officer to the hospital for evaluation and caused $2.1 million in damage. The building was closed for the summer. May, 2007.
- Torrey Hall - Unlabeled chemicals in a general trash receptacle sent one custodial employee to the hospital and initiated a Vermont State Hazmat team response. Classes needed to be rescheduled and UVM personnel were denied access to the building for about six hours. The incident response was filmed by two local television camera crews and aired on local channels. September, 2007.
- Marsh Life Sciences - Much of a research animal colony was lost due to a combination of events that included incorrect set points on a temperature monitor alarm, lack of awareness by maintenance workers of the importance of the designated temperature range, and the lack of emergency contact information available to maintenance workers. November, 2009.