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Division of Infection and Immunity

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Safety

The Division is committed to providing and maintaining a working environment that ensures the health and physical safety of its staff, students, and visitors.

Image of researchers working in laboratory

Our Safety Committee oversee health and safety across the Division. The committee provides guidance for best working practices, and ensures the adoption of UCL-wide health and safety policies.

In addition to our Division Director, who is responsible for health and safety across all of our sites, we have appointed Departmental Safety Officers to advise on safety standards within the Division and to indicate areas where action needs to be taken.

The Division also has a team of laboratory support staff who provide support to our research groups, maintain laboratory equipment, and provide advice on all aspects of laboratory health and safety.

Divisional health and safety

The Division of Infection and Immunity subscribes to the UCL Statement of Health and Safety policy. We acknowledge our obligation to work safely. We commit to minimise health and safety risks to staff, students and others affected by our activities.

The Division is obliged to record its own safety organisation and arrangements, and this includes a statement of commitment to meeting the requirements of the health and safety policy.

Clear responsibility is central to the Division's safety management system. We follow the principle that those responsible for creating the risk are responsible for managing the risk.

Divisional arrangements for health and safety that apply to all our areas of work are detailed below and links to UCL standards and guidance where this is followed by default. Each part of the Division has rules and you must also refer to these documents for more detailed information not included here.

Management system elements

Responsible Persons Register

The Division maintains a register of health and safety role holders (e.g. first aiders and fire evacuation marshals) which is available on UCL's safety management database known as RiskNET. The register is maintained by safety officers and validated each year by the Director of the Division.

Health and Safety Objectives

UCL sets health and safety objectives for each academic year. The Division commits to meeting these objectives and will monitor progress through the Health and Safety Committee.

Emergency plans

The Division follows standard processes in response to fire evacuation, as determined by fire risk assessment and on the advice of the UCL and Royal Free NHS Trust Fire Safety teams. Fire action notices, fire safety eLearning and local inductions provide information on evacuation and responding to fires. All staff and students must follow the information, instruction and training provided to them. This includes local training such as the Royal Free fire lectures as appropriate.

First aiders are appointed in all areas occupied by the Division. Staff and students should familiarise themselves with local first aid arrangements and how to obtain help in the area where they are based.

All laboratories must have arrangements in place for responding to spills of hazardous substances. Before handling any chemicals or biological agents, make sure you understand the risks involved and the procedures necessary for dealing with a spill. Know where your nearest spill kit, or spill materials can be found. Minimise the risk of spills by working on trays, in fume cupboards, on Benchkote etc. as appropriate. Where Benchkote is used, this should be changed at regular intervals and immediately after any spillage of hazardous chemicals. Ensure that containers are supported in racks and cannot be accidentally knocked over. The danger of most water-soluble chemicals is reduced by dilution.

Always wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and safety glasses when responding to spills and protect yourself and others first before tackling the spill itself. For large spills of liquids, spill kits must be used. Follow simple steps:

  1. Raise the alarm - get held and call first aiders for any injury
  2. If required, ventilate the area and keep others away
  3. Get out of the area until it is clear, closing the doors behind you
  4. If necessary, put up a notice to warn others
  5. Plan how to tackle the spill - get the necessary protective equipment and spill materials
  6. Enter the area, contain and clean up the spill
  7. Dispose of waste following local procedures - replace any items used
  8. Raise an incident report so the spill can be investigated.
Health and Safety Committee

The Division has a Health and Safety Committee which meets four times a year and is chaired by the Director. The committee reviews performance data, discusses any significant incidents, feedback from audits and inspections and monitors changes in policy and guidance. If you want to raise an issue at the committee, please contact your local safety officer.

Learning and development

All staff and post-graduate students must complete a local safety induction when they start working in the Division. This induction should be carried out by your line manager, or a laboratory manager/ safety officer and a record of the induction kept. Your induction must also include completion of mandatory eLearning modules such as Fire Safety. For those working in laboratories, there are further mandatory training modules. For further information, please visit UCL Safety Services' learning and development webpages.

Risk assessment

All work which could cause harm must be risk assessed. Risk assessments must be recorded on UCL's safety management database RiskNET. We follow the principle that those responsible for creating a risk are responsible for managing it. This means that risk assessments must be created by those carrying out an activity and they must be approved by those responsible for supervising the work, for example Principal Investigators. Laboratory managers and/ or safety officers can be consulted when writing risk assessments and can be additional approvers but they are not solely responsible for approval. For more information, refer to UCL's Guidance on Risk Assessment.

There are specific arrangements for risk assessments of work with Display Screen Equipment (DSE). Heads of Department must appoint Display Screen Equipment Assessors, who will receive training. The assessors must coordinate DSE assessments using the RiskNET Workstation Assessment tool. All staff are responsible for cooperating with this process and completing self-assessments when issued to them. For more information on DSE, please visit the UCL Safety Services website.

Audits and inspections

Safety inspections (also called audits) must be carried out in each area at least termly. The person responsible for the work being conducted is responsible for ensuring inspections take place. They can do this in conjunction with departmental safety staff or delegate the task to one of their staff, however the person must have suitable experience and the authority to take any required action.

Sufficient resource/ funding must be made available to act on the findings of the inspection. A written summary of each inspection should be produced for the Divisional Health and Safety Committee. The committee must coordinate the inspections and ensure they are carried out to a suitable standard.

For more information, please visit the UCL Safety Services guidance on monitoring safety and inspection.

Accident/incident reporting

All accidents, incidents, near misses and work-related illness must be reported using the RiskNET online reporting tool. This can be accessed from any computer or mobile device 24/7.

All incident reports must be reviewed and signed off, or assigned for investigation, within 10 working days of the report being made. Incident Coordinators are appointed by the Director to coordinate incident investigation within the Division.

Anyone can report accidents, incidents and near misses including (but not limited to) the individual involved, the individual's line manager, a witness, or a first aider.

Incident reports will be investigated by a line manager or the person responsible for the work/ area and investigation findings must be recorded.

Further guidance on accidents and incidents can be found on the UCL Safety Services website.

Management review

Minutes of Divisional Health and Safety Committee meetings are circulated to the Senior Management Team (SMT) for information, after each meeting. The SMT will review the Divisional safety management system at least annually. This includes an annual performance report submitted by the Health and Safety Committee in October and validation of the Responsible Persons Register by the Director.

Guidance on chemical and biological hazards

Biological agents

Anyone intending to work with biological agents, including Genetically Modified (GM) organisms for the first time must complete the UCL Moodle training course on Principles and Practice of Biosafety.

To help you determine the containment level required for your work, first determine the hazard group (or GM Class) of the pathogen/ organism involved. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a list of agents to help this process. If you will be working with animal pathogens, separate controls and legislation may apply. Information on specified animal pathogens can be found on the HSE website. UCL Safety Services has guidance on GM work on their website.

GM work at class 2 or above, or first use of a wild type hazard group or application for licences must be coordinated via Safety Officers in the Division and UCL Safety Services.

Hazardous chemicals

An inventory of chemicals held in laboratories must be maintained and made available in paper or electronic form (or preferably both).

Research laboratories are home to a considerable range of chemicals requiring safe storage. The guidance below illustrates the principles of safe chemical storage and segregation in our laboratories. Note that the guidance is not intended to be exhaustive and users of chemicals are reminded of the importance of consulting other sources for more specific and detailed information such as Safety Data Sheets.

Chemicals, including reagents, mixtures and waste, should be clearly labelled and laboratories in which they are kept must be locked/ secured when not in use. Flammable liquids must always be stored in solvent cupboards and acids should be stored in separate acid cupboards.

It is the user's responsibility to know the hazards associated with any chemical being used and to take appropriate care. This includes:

  1. Knowing the correct method of storage, use and disposal
  2. Knowing how to clear up accidental spillage. Keep the necessary items to hand so any spills can be dealt with immediately (see section on emergencies above)
  3. Labelling the containers with appropriate warning signs or using biohazard tape so that people who are not familiar with the substance will recognise any danger.

Always follow these five steps:

  1. Store the minimum stock levels of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory
  2. Dispose of hazardous chemicals that are no longer required
  3. Store large breakable containers, particularly of liquids, below shoulder height
  4. Ensure containers and bottle tops are sealed properly to avoid unnecessary leakage of fumes/ vapours
  5. Never carry a bottle containing chemicals by its top, for example always carry Winchester bottles (2.5 litres) in carriers or baskets that are capable of providing proper support, and support the base of the bottle in use.

It is essential to segregate incompatible substances to prevent dangerous interactions. All newly purchased chemicals should have a label on them identifying their hazard category (e.g. flammable, corrosive, oxidising, toxic etc.). A list of commonly used chemicals that should be segregated is shown below to assist storage.

Basic chemical segregation
Basic chemical segregation
Class of chemicalsRecommended storage methodExamplesIncompatibilities see MSDS in all cases
Corrosives - AcidsStore in separate acid storage cabinetMineral acids - hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, perchloric acid, chromic acid, chromergeFlammable liquids
Corrosives - BasesStore in a separate storage cabinetAmmonium hydroxide, sodium hydroxideFlammable liquids, oxidizers, poisons, acids and bases
Shock Sensitive MaterialsStore in secure location away from all other chemicalsAmmonium nitrate, nitro urea, picric acid (in dry state), Trinitroaniline, Trinitronaisole, Trinitrobenzene, Trinitrobezensulfonic acid, Trinitrobenzoic acid, TrinitrochlorobenzeneFlammable liquids, oxidizers, poisons, acids and bases
Flammable LiquidsIn grounded flammable storage cabinetAcetone, benzene, diethyl, ether, methanol, ethanol, toluene, glacial acetic acidAcids, bases, oxidizers, and poisons
Flammable SolidsStore in a separate dry, cool area away from oxidizers, corrosives, flammable liquidsPhosphorusAcids, bases, oxidizers, and poisons
General Chemicals Non-reactiveStore on general laboratory benches or shelving preferably behind glass doors, or below eye levelAgar, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and most non-reactive saltsSee MSDS
OxidizersStore in a spill tray inside a non-combustible cabinet, separate from flammable and combustible materialsSodium hypochlorite, benzoyl peroxide, potassium permanganate, potassium chlorate, potassium dichromate. The following are generally considered oxidizing substances: peroxides, perchlorates, chlorates, nitrates, bromates, superoxidesSeparate from reducing agents, flammables and combustables
Poisons*Store severe poisons in a dedicated poison cabinetCyanides, cadmium, mecury, osmiumpounds, i.e. cadmium, mercury, osmiumFlammable liquids, acids, bases, and oxidizers
Water Reactive ChemicalsStore in a dry, cool, locationSodium metal, potassium metal, lithium metal, lithium aluminium hydrideSeparate from all aqueous solutions, and oxidizers

*Poisons: In the context of biology, poisons are substances that cause injury, illness, or death to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale. Some poisons are also toxins. All hazard labels for poisons are "toxic". Poisons which fall under Schedule 1 should be kept in a locked cabinet, specific for the purpose, in the laboratory. A designated responsible person should hold the key and a log book should be kept to record when a poison is used, how much and by whom.

In addition it is recommended that certain alkaloids and their derivatives, e.g. aconitine, brucine, ecgonine and stropine, which do not appear on the poisons list and digitoxin and digitonin, valinomycin and actinomycin D, are also kept locked away. It is also recommended that very toxic chemicals, e.g. those which have Lethal Dose Values LD 50 (30 days) of less than 10mg/kg, are also locked away at the end of each working day and are tightly managed/ controlled.

It is good laboratory practice to store other dangerous substances labelled toxic/ highly toxic (includes substances that are also carcinogenic/ mutagenic/ toxic to reproduction) in a locked cupboard, even though they do not appear in Schedule 1. However, this decision can be made by the responsible person who would want to consider practicalities and local security.

Chemical storage
Do's and don'ts of chemical storage
Do's and don'ts of chemical storage
Do notWhyDo
Do not store waste in poorly labelled containersPoor labelling can result in mixing incompatible materials and/ the waste being handled inappropriatelyLabel all waste containers clearly and accurately with the contents, hazards and where they originated (name of producer)
Do not store strong acids and bases with solventsAcids and bases react with solvents to release heat and evolve gas. Nitric acid will react violently with solventsStore strong acids and bases in a cabinet designed for corrosive substances
Do not store pyrophoric substances in flammable solvent cabinets or storesOne is a source of ignition, the other is a fuelStore pyrophoric materials in separate flame proof containers. Refer to the safety data sheet for specific conditions
Do not store peroxides with flammable solventsPeroxides form explosive materials on contact with solventPeroxides can be stored in a laboratory refrigerator
Do not put cardice (solid carbon dioxide also known as dry ice) or cardice/ solvent mixtures into sealed bottles or containersThe liberated CO2 will cause an explosive overpressureDry ice/ solvent mixtures should be allowed to reach room temperature before putting the solvent into bottles. Alternatively use storage bottles fitted with venting lids
Do not overload storage shelvesThe weight of the material may exceed the safe loading weight of the shelfStore minimum quantities of solvents and chemicals and avoid duplication of common chemicals
Do not mix waste in the same containersMixing two or more waste chemicals can cause violent reactions (e.g. chloroform and acetone or methanol in the presence of sodium hydroxide will react violently)Store waste flammable solvent separately from chlorinated solvents. N.b. halogenated solvents are generally not flammable and do not need to be stored in a flammable solvent cabinet
Hazard symbols

All hazardous chemicals must be labelled with appropriate hazard symbols. These changed in 2015 from old orange and black squares to red and black diamonds. A summary of the hazard symbols is shown in the image below:

Table summarising changes to hazard symbols as of 2015

Further topics and information

A-Z list of further topics
Allergens

Refer to UCL guidance on animal allergens. It is the responsibility of line managers/ supervisors to ensure this policy is followed. Animal allergens are not the only source of workplace sensitisers. Please also refer to UCL policy on the use of Latex.


Compressed gasses

Please refer to UCL guidance on compressed gasses. Related guidance on gas monitors and detectors is also available.


Cryogenic substances

Please refer to UCL guidance on cryogenic substances. In addition to considering the primary hazards posed by the cryogenic substances, ensure adequate consideration is given to secondary hazards, such as explosive decompression, and ensure that appropriate training, procedures and PPE are utilised. This is the responsibility of the manager/ person responsible for the work.


Dangerous goods transportation

A number of staff in the Division are trained to support packaging and transport of biological material for transport. Speak to your local safety offer to find out more. You can also refer to UCL guidance on transporting infectious and biological material.


Electricity

Please see UCL guidance on the inspection of portable electrical equipment. It is the responsibility of the manager/ person in charge of the work/ area to ensure that inspections are carried out. The checklist available online should be used.


Ionising radiation

A number of staff in the Division are appointed as Radiation Protection Supervisors (RPS). Please contact your RPS for advice on work with ionising radation. You can also refer to UCL guidance on ionising radiation.


Laboratory work

The eLearning course, Principles of Laboratory Safety, is a mandatory training requirement for new post-graduate students (including PhD students) working in laboratories. The course is also recommended for all staff new to UCL. The Principles of Laboratory Safety course is available on Moodle.


Manual Handling

Consideration must be given to any process where repetitive movements are involved or the weight or position of the load could lead to injury. The guidelines for out much can be safely moved can be much lower than people expect, however each activity must be properly assessed and the findings recorded. Please refer to UCL guidance on manual handling for further information.


Pregnant workers

Managers must assess the risks to the health and safety of new and expectant mothers. The risks to new and expectant mothers, as well as other specific groups, should be considered and documented in risk assessments. Further guidance on health and safety for new and expectant mothers can be found on the UCL Safety Services website.


For any topic not specifically referenced above, please refer to the UCL Safety Services website.

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