Operations & Safety
Merkert Chemistry Center building operations and safety programs are managed by our Operations Manager & Safety Officer in collaboration with the associated departments at the University and BCC departmental committees.
For all matters relating to Merkert building operations, facilities, renovations, work orders, building access and security, and safety matters, please contact Operations Manager Dr. Ian B. Parr. In these areas, the Operations Manager serves as liaison with the Facilities, Office of Environmental & Health Services (EHS), Space Management, Parking & Transportation, and Campus Police departments at Boston College.
The University and BCC have established programs: to provide department faculty, staff, and students with required training in laboratory and building safety; to formulate policies, procedures, and written plans for routine operations and emergency situations; and to oversee compliance with important federal, state and municipal regulations.
The Boston College Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) is currently housed in St. Clement’s Hall on Foster Street in Brighton. There are several safety committees on campus coordinated by the OEHS, including an executive Safety Oversight Committee, a University Chemical Hygiene Committee, a University Radiation Safety Committee, and an Institutional Biosafety Committee. BCC has representation on all of these committees.
BCC Department Safety Organization
The Operations Manager is BCC’s safety officer and chemical hygiene officer. In this role, the Operations Manager works with the OEHS to coordinate and facilitate departmental compliance with important University policies and procedures and federal, state, and municipal regulations, including training and inspections.
BCC research and teaching labs have "safety contacts". The safety contact in a research lab is usually a graduate student assigned by the faculty Principal Investigator to ensure the lab’s compliance with routine safety practices and checks.
Dr. Ian B. Parr, Operations Manager & Safety Officer
Chemistry Safety Committee
Professor Jeffery Byers, Co-Chair
The Boston College Police Department (BCPD) is located at 21 Maloney Hall and is staffed twenty-four hours a day. They are responsible for responding to safety incidents when there is fire or threat of fire, injury, or a chemical spill requiring partial or complete building evacuation. BCPD’s emergency number is x 2-4444.
In a chemical laboratory setting, there are several categories of safety. Each category has some unique focus as well as areas of overlap with others. Each category has one or more governmental regulatory agencies with vested interests.
There has long been an awareness of bacterial and viral hazards to the human body. Some of these can be highly contagious and deadly. Another concern, more recent, has been the recombinant DNA research which had caused fears that modified DNA could create new hazards. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) established guidelines governing the experimentation with recombinant DNA in 1986. State and local governments in many cases have adopted these guidelines, with or without modifications, as law. In the case of our department , the City of Boston requires modified compliance under the NIH guidelines.
The Boston College Biological Safety Manual is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
The federal agency known as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was established in 1971. Its mission is protecting the safety of employees in the United States as they perform their jobs in various enterprises and industries. As part of that mission, the Hazard Communication Standard of 1987 addressed the rights of employees to be informed of the chemical hazards in their work-places and the obligation of industry management to help employees properly avoid over-exposure to the chemical hazards. (This act was preceded by many state-level "Right-To-Know" laws that intended to accomplish the same thing). This regulation was the result of growing evidence of the serious health hazards of long-term exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos and formaldehyde. These laws were also stimulated by chemical industry accidents, notably the substantial release of methyl isocyanate by the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984, which resulted in many deaths.
Temporarily, chemical laboratories were exempted from the Hazard Communication Standard, since a typical chemical laboratory was a place where a large variety of chemicals were present in relatively small quantities and which was staffed by scientists and technicians with substantial education in the properties of chemicals. Eventually, an appendix was added to the Hazard Communication Standard which is commonly known as the "Lab Standard". The key part of this standard is the "Chemical Hygiene Plan" which is the document by which the respective organization (in our case, Boston College) defines, within a mandated framework, how its science labs will operate so as to safeguard the health and well-being of the lab employees. By definition, anyone who receives wages or stipends for working in a lab is an employee. Thus, the Boston College Chemical Hygiene Plan covers all faculty, staff, students (undergraduate and graduate) and post-doctoral researchers who work in the teaching or research labs. Because the circumstances and hazards are the same for unpaid students and visitors who work in the labs, the rules also apply to them, though the legal implications are not the same.
The Boston College Chemical Hygiene Plan is available for review on the web-site of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
An operational summary of the Chemical Hygiene Plan customized for Merkert Chemistry Center is available here. [no link]
A collection of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSes) in hard-copy form are available in room 125H. A data-base collection of MSDSes is available on the computer in 125H. MSDS files are available at the University of Vermont-Montpelier’s website.
There are several compendiums of information available on site in the main office: Hawley’s Condensed Chemical Dictionary and Lewis’s Hazardous Chemicals Desk Reference.
The department provides many items of equipment to its research and educational staff to help them to be safe and in compliance. Among them:
- Prescription safety glasses
(subsidized for lab staff, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers)
- Visitor safety glasses
- Lab coats
(provided free of charge to incoming graduate students)
- Broken glass containers
- Sharps containers
- Chemical waste containers
- Container labels
- Wear approved eye protection in the laboratory continuously, even when not performing an experiment. This means eye covering which will protect against both impact and splashes. This is a state law. Do NOT wear contact lenses in the laboratory. If you wear prescription glasses in the lab, you must wear goggles over them. If you should get a chemical in your eye, wash it with flowing water from the eye wash for 15 minutes.
- Perform no unauthorized experiments. Horseplay, pranks and other acts of mischief will not be tolerated. No visitors are allowed in the laboratory.
- To prevent fire, keep flammable substances away from open flames, heat (this includes hot plates) and sparks. Do not place gas burners near wooden surfaces or compressed gas cylinders. In case of fire or accident, call the instructor at once. Note location of safety shower and fire blanket now so that you can use them if needed. If the fire alarm sounds, leave the building immediately. Do not use the elevator.
- You must go to the Infirmary, accompanied by someone, for treatment of cuts, burns or inhalation of fumes. Your instructor will arrange for transportation if needed. Any personal injury, regardless of how minor, must be reported.
- Do not taste anything in the laboratory. This applies to food as well as chemicals. Do not use the laboratory as an eating place and do not eat or drink from laboratory glassware. Smoking and the application of cosmetics are also prohibited. Do not touch your mouth with your hands while you are in the laboratory. Wash your hands well before leaving the laboratory..
- Exercise great care in noting the odor of fumes, and avoid breathing fumes of any kind. Keep chemicals in the fume hood whenever indicated.
- NEVER use mouth suction to fill pipets with chemical reagents. Use a suction bulb or pipet pump.
- Do not force glass tubing into rubber stoppers. Lubricate with glycerin or water and protect your hands with a towel.
- Confine long hair and loose clothing when in the laboratory. Do NOT wear: open-toed shoes, nylon stockings or high heels. It is also recommended that you avoid wearing short sleeve shirts, shorts and skirts. A laboratory apron is essential. They are fire resistant and protect you and your clothing from corrosive chemicals. Wear gloves when working with corrosive or toxic chemicals. Gloves should be removed if you need to leave the laboratory (to go to the stockroom, for instance).
- Never work in the laboratory alone or without the presence of a supervising instructor.
- Never leave heated laboratory reactions unattended. Beware of hot glass. It cools slowly and is identical in appearance to cold glass. Always use the proper equipment when handling hot glass (tongs, insulated gloves, etc.).
- Clean-up broken glass immediately with a dust pan and brush, and dispose of it in the proper waste box. Handle broken glassware with a towel or thick gloves. Glass tubing and rods must be fire polished. Do not subject a flask to sudden changes in temperature.
- Keep your work space uncluttered. Do not place coats, purses, or backpacks on the laboratory bench or in the aisles–use the corner of the laboratory which has been designated for storage of these items. Keep drawers and cabinet doors closed while working. Do not place chemicals or equipment on the floor. Do not leave pipets sticking out of bottles, flasks or beakers.
- Assemble all required materials before beginning a task. Place glassware and equipment well back from the front edge of the lab bench.
- Mercury is toxic. Call your instructor whenever a mercury thermometer is broken so that he/she can take charge of the clean-up.
- Dispose of chemical wastes only as instructed. Never mix acid waste with organic waste.
- Clean up all chemical spills at once. Acid spills should be neutralized with sodium bicarbonate. Plenty of running water is the best first-aid treatment for all chemical spills to the skin, clothing and lab bench. If a large amount of corrosive material is spilled on your person, rinse it off under the safety shower. Notify your instructor.
- Do not "dry sweep" spilled solid material. Cover the solid with wet paper towels, and pick up the material. If the material is hazardous, dispose of the towels as a hazardous waste. Clean the area with soap and water.
- Always add acid to water; never water to acid. Use care and mix slowly.
- Avoid slipping hazards by picking up ice, stoppers, glass rods and other small objects from the floor.
- Radios are a distraction and therefore are not allowed in the undergraduate labs.
- Do not handle electrical equipment with wet hands, while standing in water or leaning against a metal object or pipeline. Keep cords away from cabinets or drawers.
- Never remove chemicals from the laboratory.
- Be alert to unsafe conditions, and report them to the supervisor so that corrective action will be taken.
- Clean up lab bench area at the end of the lab period. Do not leave contaminated or dirty glassware or tools in the work area.
Prevent accidents by using common sense and being well-informed. Read each experiment thoroughly before coming to the laboratory and follow directions carefully.
Your instructor will inform you weekly of specific safety hazards in each experiment. Pay strict attention to these warnings in addition to the above rules.