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Only personnel who are properly trained and thoroughly knowledgeable regarding the potential hazards of the chemicals and other materials present in the laboratory as well as safety control measures that may be used to mitigate those hazards may supervise or independently perform hazardous material storage and handling operations at FSU.

The array of safety control measures that may be chosen to address potential hazards fall into three general categories: engineering controls, administrative (work practice) controls, and the use of personnel protection equipment (PPE). These controls shall always be considered and utilized to the greatest extent practical to ensure that an ample margin of safety is provided. An adequate margin of safety can be assured when safety control measures are incorporated as an adjunct to sound scientific methods and laboratory safety practices. The purpose of an added measure of protection is to allow these operations to be done safely and to mitigate the potential for an adverse impact if problems arise.

The design and construction of laboratories incorporates many engineering controls. This process is guided by very detailed and prescriptive building codes and industry best practice standards. One important aspect of these requirements is the ability to provide continual ventilation by a non-recirculating HVAC system with air exchange rates sufficiently high to prevent the buildup of contaminants above concentrations which might be harmful to exposed persons or the environment. Specifically constructed ventilation systems are greatly relied upon to ensure the reduction of airborne contaminants, released during handling operations or as fugitive emissions from stored chemical containers, to below acceptable levels. However, the afforded protection that these systems may provide can easily be degraded through system misuse or component failures. To preserve the ventilation system’s ability to function as intended, laboratory users must have a basic familiarity with the routine operating parameters and modes, know the system limitations and be able to immediately recognize significant problems when they occur. System maintenance should only be performed by qualified personnel and performance testing and inspections must be done frequently, including after major work or changes to system settings or components. Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) and Facilities personnel should always be contacted whenever any repair, modification or testing may be necessary.

Our University research laboratories were built utilizing the most sound technology and conservative design parameters warranted by the anticipated use at the time of their construction. Many improvements have been made through the years to enhance performance and save energy through updated and more modern building components and system designs. Our newer buildings are more likely to have monitoring systems that can actively assess the overall performance and status of each major component. They are also likely to have remote control capabilities and the flexibility for each laboratory area to be independently optimized without adversely affecting ventilation in neighboring areas of the building. New laboratory ventilation systems have the airflow measured and balanced, and they typically are quantitatively and qualitatively tested near the end of the construction phase to ensure that they actually can perform as designed. Research buildings built or renovated prior to the year 2000 do not generally possess modern control features or have as flexible designs. These older laboratory buildings are still able to function properly but they require greater operator attentiveness to system changes or failures that could negatively impact performance.

Everyone involved with chemical use in a laboratory environment must be especially cognizant that even subtle changes to the normal airflow patterns in the laboratory (such as: opening laboratory doors, improperly locating items inside fume hoods, using incorrect sash working heights, or even walking by another user during exposed chemical operations) can have serious negative impacts on the control and containment of airborne materials.

Users should be cognizant of the purpose, capabilities, limitations and normal operating characteristics of their laboratory building ventilation systems and devices. Work should stop when problems are suspected and these conditions should be reported immediately to Facilities and EH&S for investigation and correction.

Additional Information and Resources

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