Message from the EHS Director
Whether it is driving during the work day, or traveling to school, medical appointments, shopping, skiing, visiting friends and families, automobiles are a big part of our daily lives. In Wyoming, we also face weather related road hazards like snow and wind that demand increased attention while driving.
Last year, a total of 87 people died in Wyoming motor vehicle accidents and about half of all Wyoming workplace fatalities each year are motor vehicle related according to Dr. Mack Sewell, State Occupational Epidemiologist. Distracted driving and failure to use passenger restraints (seat belts) contribute to these accident fatality statistics. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use - handheld or hands-free. I encourage you to make a life-long safety commitment to not engage in distracted driving and to always wear a seat belt.
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. Distracted driving includes adjusting a music or audio device, texting, answering a phone call, talking on the phone, grooming, and turning to talk to passengers, while driving a vehicle. Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is an extremely alarming distraction.
Seat belts save lives. That is a fact. This was brought home tragically to me, 2 years ago when the 16 year old daughter of a good friend died following an auto accident on a rural road in Utah. Her vehicle rolled, she was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected. Making organ donation decisions and funeral arrangements, and living with the grief was not what this family, including the victims’ twin sister, had planned. Most of you probably also have a friend or family member that has died in an automobile accident.
What you can do:
Wear a seat belt every time you are in a motor vehicle and encourage others to do the same.
Actively abstain from distracted driving and encourage others to do the same.
Learn more about distracted driving
Take free on-line EHS courses on Distracted Driving and Defensive Driving
Go to www.distraction.gov
Wyoming Highway Department (WYDOT) Travel Information Service
Colorado DOT (CODOT)
In Wyoming, texting while driving is against the law and seatbelts are required. The University Official Vehicle Policy prohibits talking on, texting with, or otherwise using a handheld mobile communication device while driving. Use of a hands-free device while driving is permitted. The policy requires seat belt use at all times while operating a University motor vehicle.
Director, UW Environmental Health and Safety Department
EHS waste disposal and chemical surplus:
We pick up AND deliver!
Hazardous materials disposal and chemical surplus for the University of Wyoming are among the many services provided by the Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Regulated Materials Management Center (RMMC). Hazardous materials include, but are not limited to: chemical, radioactive and biological hazard wastes; batteries, fluorescent bulbs, and ballasts from fluorescent lights (Universal Waste); and monitors, printers and CPUs (E-waste). “If it doesn't go in the trash or to UW Recycling, we get it,” says Neil Day, Hazardous Materials Supervisor at the RMMC.
Hazardous materials disposal
The amount of hazardous materials disposed by UW can be surprising. In 2013 the EHS RMMC staff processed 42,662 pounds of chemical waste, 72,096 pounds of E-waste, 222 pounds of radioactive waste, 620 pounds of biological waste and 29,927 pounds of Universal waste. There is a cost to the University for the disposal of all waste. While EHS staff do their best to keep these cost as low as possible, we rely on the help of the campus population to minimize the amount of waste disposed. The best way to do this is to buy only the amount of chemicals you need and are going to use. If possible, substitute nonhazardous chemicals, or ones with less restrictive disposal options to reduce disposal cost. Another way to reduce overall costs is to “recycle” good chemicals by releasing them to the EHS RMMC’s Chemical Surplus Program (see information below). For the procedure of proper waste disposal, go to: www.uwyo.edu/ehs/_files/docs/procedures/sop_for_waste_disposal.pdf
Surplus Chemical Program
The EHS RMMC’s Chemical Surplus Program redistributes good quality chemicals from, and to, laboratories across campus. Chemicals that are no longer needed by the original laboratory are evaluated by EHS RMMC staff. If the chemicals are in good condition, they are added to our chemical surplus program inventory, which currently has over 1,300 chemicals. These surplus chemicals are available free of charge to members of the UW research and teaching community. The savings to both the institution (in terms of waste disposal avoidance) and the labs receiving the chemicals (in terms of new chemical purchase cost) are substantial. In 2013, disposal cost avoidance to the institution was almost $300, and the purchase cost-avoidance for labs using our inventory was almost $21,000. The Surplus Chemical Inventory can be accessed at: www.uwyo.edu/ehs/programareas/regulatedmaterialsmanagement/surpluschemicals.html
Please check our Surplus Chemical Inventory to see if there are chemicals you can use before purchasing a similar item. Save money, while preserving natural resources and keeping chemicals out of the waste stream. As an added bonus, the RMMC staff delivers the requested chemicals right to your lab!
EHS inspection reports are going GREEN
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has moved closer to a totally paper-free system for reporting facility inspections. The goal is to expedite the notification and correction of identified health & safety problems. It should also save time, effort and maybe a few trees. Later this year, EHS plans to roll out other on-line capabilities, including: chemical inventories, worker authorization and hazard assessment.
EHS regularly visits laboratories and other workplaces in order to identify issues that could result in injury or regulatory noncompliance. The results of these audits are entered into a computer program called “Environmental Health & Safety Assistant” (EH&S Assistant). With recent improvements to the EH&S Assistant system, departments and individuals will not only receive inspection results via email, but they will also be able to log on to the Internet at any time to view unresolved violations and make notes of corrective actions.
Access is authorized through the University of Wyoming’s directory access protocol (LDAP). This means you will need a UW username and password to log in, much like you do for WyoWeb or other UW accounts. To view or edit individual data on the EH&S Assistant web portal, you will need to be given permission from EHS Department system administrators. Most current Principle Investigators (PI's) who have been inspected recently are already in the system and have web access to lab inspection reports. Emails and access to PI lab/shop inspection information will also be provided to department administration and designated safety coordinators. Here is a tutorial for gaining access and navigating through the EH&S Assistant web portal for inspections.
Chemical inventories are necessary to verify that hazardous materials storage complies with the International Fire Code (IFC). Inventories are also essential for emergency response and for Community Right-to-Know information. The University is also required to report quantities of designated “Chemicals of Interest” to the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) required notification if total possession of uranium or thorium compounds exceeds 3.3 pounds.
Hazard assessments and worker authorizations go hand-in-hand. A hazard assessment identifies the potential threats from materials or processes used in each workplace. The next step is to find ways to either eliminate or minimize contact with those hazards. The third step is to communicate the hazards and controls (through standard operating procedures, safety data sheets, labels and signs). Workers who may be exposed to hazards must be identified and receive proper training. On-line tools like EH&S Assistant will help to incorporate inventories of chemicals and other hazardous processes with the classification and training of authorized personnel in the workplace.
A full set of instructions for these new services will be available through the EHS Department web site. Inservice presentations for departments and other training can be provided as requested.
Proper laboratory attire is always in fashion
The summer months are coming and temperatures have already been setting record highs. Winter garb is being traded for shorts, tank tops and open-toed sandals. This attire may be perfect for the outdoors -- but not in chemical laboratories. The University of Wyoming Chemical Hygiene Plan prohibits open-toed shoes, sandals and other "summer" footwear where chemicals are used. These shoes are also inappropriate around shop machinery and when heavy objects are being transported.
Another unfortunate result of the hot weather is that it sometimes discourages lab workers from wearing lab coats. If extremely short shorts or skirts are worn without the protection of a lab coat, large areas of skin are left exposed. This would allow accidental exposure to spilled or vaporized chemicals. Likewise, tops with exposed shoulders and upper arms are also discouraged in laboratories where hazardous conditions exist.
Standard minimum lab attire includes:
- Work shirt that covers the upper torso and arms.
- Lower-body clothing that covers the entire leg to the ankle and fully protects exposed skin (e.g., pants, skirt, coveralls, lab coat).
- Closed-toe shoes that cover the top of the foot and are made of leather or synthetic leather or another material that resists rapid penetration by spilled liquids or sharps.
- In laboratories where a fire danger is present, avoid clothing made of synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, polypropylene or acrylic, which can melt if ignited. Wear less flammable natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, jute, flax and silk.
- Lab coats: Various sizes and three types of coats (fluid-resistant, poly/cotton, and flame-retardant) are available for researchers through the UW Lab Coat Program.
See this EHS bulletin for more about lab clothing recommendations and cited references.
Summary of UW workplace accidents from 2013
Each year, the University of Wyoming is required by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to track our work related injuries. In 2013, a total of 190 employee accidents were reported by UW. Individual awareness of the top three injury causes (i.e., slips trips, & falls, strains & sprains, and impact injuries) and active participation in accident prevention will contribute to a safer University community.
Preventing Workplace Accidents
Some things we can all do to help prevent workplace accidents include:
- Use proper safety equipment, like safety glasses and gloves when working with hazardous materials or equipment.
- Make sure to devote your full attention to the job task before you.
- Ask for assistance if you feel an object is too heavy to lift.
- Follow safe work procedures and practices.
- Attend all required safety training to do your job safely.
For more information, consult the 2013 Workplace Accident Bulletin or contact the EHS department directly.