New laboratory signage program available for WSU labs

Signs can be updated as hazards in lab change; help identify if custodial staff can enter lab, update inventory information

BRADLEY GAMBLE, Evergreen reporter

WSU Faculty Operations and WSU Environmental Health and Safety worked together on a new signage program to improve human health and research for WSU laboratories.

According to the laboratory safety website, the main goals of the signage program are to protect human health and safety as well as protect research. This includes identifying what types of personal protective equipment and information are needed before entering the laboratory. The program customizes laboratory entrance signs for each type of lab which can be updated as the hazards in the lab change.

Shawn Ringo, assistant director of Environmental Health and Safety, said the signage program helps identify whether or not custodial service is provided to a laboratory.

“There are some laboratories that might not be safe for our custodial staff to enter on a regular basis,” he said. “It might also protect research from being interrupted by a custodian in the laboratory.”

The program’s secondary goal is to provide information to emergency responders by identifying all the chemicals that might be stored in the laboratory.

Ringo said this program can allow the department to identify any hazards on campus by using inventory information listed on the sign.

“If we were seeing incidents on campus associated with people measuring nitric acid and they’re in a chemical waste stream, we could identify those laboratories using nitric acid and identify the lab as a hazard,” he said.

Ringo said the department uses the chemical abstract service number of each chemical in a lab to see if the amount of chemicals is safe for a laboratory-based on their qualifications.

“Most laboratory quantities are set up based upon how they might affect an emergency response in the event of a fire,” he said. 

The signage program adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The GHS is a system of hazard communications that includes the use of internationally recognizable symbols in each laboratory around the world.

The program keeps old pictographs and introduces new ones. Some of the pictographs represent one hazard, while others represent multiple hazards.

Ringo said Faculty Operations and EH&S relied on the IFC quantities to appropriately rank laboratories based on chemical use and chemical hazards.

WSU laboratories have been asked by EH&S to update their laboratory signage through the laboratory safety website. Instructions for how to complete the laboratory update online can also be found on the website.