Lab personnel from UC Irvine were thrilled to receive brand new safety gear at the Bren Events Center last week as a result of the new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policy signed by former UC President Yudof to ensure a safer working environment in all UC campus laboratories.
Roughly 2,300 academic appointees, staff and students involved in laboratory research at UCI attended the two day distribution event, according to Sheila Hedayati, a biosafety officer managing the event.
Distribution was announced to principle investigators in Feb. to allow their team of researchers time to review a laboratory hazard assessment tool (LHAT) and training online. Completing the assessment would help evaluate the types of risks in each laboratory and determine the appropriate personal protective equipment suited for each individual.
Lab coats and protective eye wear were made available at no cost to all participants who pre-registered.
“UCOP (University of California Office of the President) sponsored the event and paid for the initial investment for the laboratory coats,” Sheila said. “Each person is getting about $300 worth of personnel protective equipment.”
Registered participants were first fitted with lab coats. Traditional white lab coats were given to lab personnel in low risk laboratories. Flame resistant blue lab coats were tailored to researchers working extensively with flames and hazardous chemicals. Lab coats equipped with cuffs were designed to provide liquid barrier splash protection for workers testing blood borne pathogens or large quantities of infectious material.
“These coats are the Rolls-Royce of lab coats. You cannot find a more protective barrier,” Sheila said.
Next, participants were directed to the eye wear station to try on a variety of safety glasses and goggles. Everybody was given a pair of glasses and goggles to ensure eyes are always covered and protected in the lab.
Individual personnel were then entered into a laundry database and linked to a code. The name and code of each individual are embroidered on the back of their lab coats. Coats are required to be washed using special designated UCI laundry services equipped to properly clean hazardous contamination. Thanks to the coding system, coats can be swiftly sorted and found by researchers after being washed. Laundry services are free of charge for all faculty and staff.
UCI is the eighth UC campus to hold a PPE distribution event. UC San Francisco is the next UC campus scheduled to do a distribution this coming June. Over 93,000 lab coats and eye wear were ordered for all 10 UC campuses and five medical centers, with the exception of UC San Diego. According to Sheila, UCSD had already done a similar event several years ago, so they did not partake in this UC system wide PPE distribution.
The PPE policy change by UCOP was enforced due to the 2008 fire fatality incident that occurred in a UCLA chemistry lab. A staff research assistant, who was not wearing a protective lab coat, was severely burned when a chemical accidently ignited her aflame. She died several days later.
According to Simone Truong, a PPE coordinator in charge of the event, after the end of the two day bulk distribution event, the department of Environmental Health and Safety at UCI will continue a steady state of distribution to provide protective gear for people who missed the event, need to switch coat sizes, or for any new hires working at a UCI lab.
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