If your kids go to school K-12, or college; or if you’re an administrator K-16, be warned that the federal government is—once again—taking sharp notice of lab safety at your school/campus.
Sparked by an explosion with serious injuries in a school in Manhattan on 2 January 2014, the federal Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is hopping mad that schools and campuses at all levels are not listening to their warnings on lab safety. This comes on the heels of OSHA which periodically erupts with inspection activity at schools and campuses like yours re the compliance of their Lab Safety regulations (29 CFR 1910.1450) and their Hazard Communication regulations (29 CFR 1910.1200).
You can review this incident in a New York Times article here and the flash of governmental activity it has triggered in the New Year here.
1. Absent a trigger, no government agency will come to your school/campus to inspect your plans and training. BUT, once any kind of incident occurs, everyone becomes an expert. You will be interrogated re why you lack compliant planning and training. The negligence issues at court are always failure to plan and failure to train.
2. You Will Be Reported: All agencies at local, state and federal levels now report to each other when any incident occurs. So, you may only see your fire department at the incident. But FD (and the media) will report you to OSHA, CSB and others. No agency wants to be found negligent in these matters.
3. Done correctly, lab safety planning and training is complex and painful.
4. Pandora’s Box: Once agencies and litigators establish you have no compliant lab safety plan, they will then demand your Emergency Action Plan (29 CFR 1910.38) and Fire Prevention Plan (29 CFR 1910.39). Then your First Aid Plan (29 CFR 1910.151) and your Bloodborne Pathogen Plan (29 CFR 1910.1030). All these regulations are interrelated and must be coordinated by your school/campus.
5. Training: Since all these plans require annual training, the scolds from the agencies and law firms will then ask for your training records for the last three years.
6. We know of one employer who received a letter from OSHA: “Please send us your Emergency Action Plan and your training records for the last three years.” This was done by mail costing 46¢. Devastatingly simple and effective.
7. All these standards are decades old. They are common-sense planning and training procedures for your school/campus and your kids. Given the current atmosphere, your violations will be found Serious (“There is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.”) and Willful (“A violation that the employer knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law. The employer either knows that what he or she is doing constitutes a violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.”).
8. All this will be hard to explain to your CEO/Head of School, trustees, parents, donors—and your kids.
Call with any questions.
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