Laboratory and Research Safety

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is committed to keeping faculty, staff and students safe while working in all campus laboratories. The Laboratory Safety Program provides support and services to establish and maintain safety and compliance in our research and teaching laboratories.

Principal Investigators (PIs), Laboratory and/or Shop Supervisors are ultimately responsible for safety in their areas. Their responsibilities include managing access control to the lab and research areas, ensuring individuals authorized to enter the areas have received appropriate training, and overseeing compliance with all requirements and safe practices.

Rensselaer's Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) team provides specialized laboratory safety consultations on chemical and physical hazards, as well as guidance to laboratories to enable them to work safely and comply with regulatory requirements. Specific program services may include:

  • Hazard and risk assessment, SOP review and approval for use of high-risk chemicals and processes
  • Provide specialized training on chemical and physical hazards
  • Review of chemical use with research animals
  • Lab safety inspection
  • Chemical fume hood certification
  • Review and assist with lab construction, start-up, moves,  renovation plan review, and decommissioning
  • Code review for compliance to lab safety standards and regulations
  • Incident/accident investigation and follow-up
  • Other lab safety consultation (new laboratory, lab and equipment decommissioning, minors and volunteers)
  • Development of policies, procedures and practices for safe work in the laboratory
  • DEA controlled substance or precursor authorizations
  • Coordination with outside agencies regarding regulatory inspections

Laboratory and Research Safety Topics

Biological Safety

The Biological Safety Program at Rensselaer provides oversight for research involving biological hazards.

Chemical Safety

Rensselaer's Chemical Hygiene Plan provides written guidelines for protecting workers from health hazards associated with hazardous chemical use in the laboratory.

Laboratory Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the first line of defense for minimizing or eliminating potential exposure hazards to chemicals and other materials utilized in the laboratory setting. Examples of commonly found engineering controls in a laboratory setting include chemical fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, glove boxes, and ventilated storage cabinets.

Hazard Assessment Signage Program (HASP)

HASP is designed to guide Principal Investigator's (PI's) identify and clearly communicate all hazards associated with their laboratories.

Laser Safety

Laser use at Rensselaer is governed by a combination of regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA-adopted ANSI standards) as well as Part 50 of the New York State Department of Labor code rule. 

Radiation Safety

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is deeply engaged in ionizing radiation research and didactic training. Both radioactive materials (RAM) and radiation producing equipment (RPE) are in use at its various facilities.

Regulated Waste Management

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined a hazardous waste as any material that no longer has a use and is either specifically listed in the regulations or meets defined hazard characteristics.

3D Printer Safety

EHS has developed health and safety guidelines for 3D printer use in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute facilities to protect students, faculty and staff. Studies have indicated that 3D printers are capable of generating potentially harmful concentrations of ultrafine particles (UFP) and chemical vapors during the print process and through processes used following printing to treat finished products.

Inspection Program

EHS conducts routine inspections in laboratory and shop areas campus-wide for EHS related concerns.

Hazard Communication

The purpose of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Program is to inform Rensselaer faculty, staff, and students of the chemical hazards they may encounter in their daily operations. Rensselaer is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all by educating individuals with written procedures, guidelines, and training to address how to classify chemical hazards, potential physical and health hazards, and the safe work practices that can minimize exposure to those hazards.

Job Hazard Analysis

A job hazard analysis (JHA), sometimes referred to as a job safety analysis, helps you identify and control unrecognized hazards, as well as hazards that might emerge when a new process or piece of equipment is introduced.

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