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Lab Safety Awareness Week: Feb. 12-16, 2024

Learn more about lab safety through planned sessions and activities hosted by the Environmental Health and Safety team during Lab Safety Awareness Week. From an introduction to lab safety and meeting the team to learning how to appropriately dispose of chemical waste, there is something new for everyone to learn. Can't join? Resources and additional activities you can complete "on your own" are also available.

Day Time Event
February 12 1:30 p.m.

Introduction to Lab Safety Awareness Week and EHS Staff*

February 13 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lab Safety and Friends Meet and Greet
February 14 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
February 15 10 a.m.

Chemical Waste Disposal**

February 16 1:30 p.m.

BioRAFT User Training*

 *denotes online/virtual activity hosted via Zoom

**denotes online/virtual activity hosted via Microsoft Teams

Lab Safety Excellence Award

Environmental Health and Services is accepting nominations for lab groups at Texas A&M University that demonstrate a commitment to safety by proactively promoting and supporting safety within their laboratories. Complete the short nomination form linked below to help bring awareness to those leading by example. Winners will be announced on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Nominate a Lab Group 

Activities "On Your Own"

Resources 

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Though seasonal influenza viruses are detected year round, “flu season” most commonly refers to the increased incidence of illness during fall and winter. According to the CDC, you should not wait for flu activity to be rising or high in your area to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu. A flu vaccine this season can also help reduce the burden on our healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and save medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients. Though a flu vaccine cannot protect you from COVID-19, it can help you avoid being co-infected with both.

Here are some answers to common questions about flu and this year’s vaccines:

  1. What is flu? “The flu” is a common reference to contagious illness caused by influenza viruses. Effects can range from mild symptoms like fever and cough to severe complications that can result in hospitalization or death. Anyone can get flu regardless of their health status, and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age.
  2. Who is most at risk for serious flu complications? Those at higher risk for developing serious complications include older adults, pregnant women, young children, and those with conditions that may make them more susceptible, including but not limited to asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, or cancer. Though most people will have an only mild illness, it is important for everyone to avoid infection altogether, as it can be spread easily to those who are more at risk for severe complications.
  3. How does flu spread? Flu is likely spread by droplets when contagious people cough, sneeze or talk. Vaccination is key in preventing flu, as it has been shown to reduce illnesses and the risk of serious complications. Good hygiene and handwashing are also important in helping prevent its spread, as people can be contagious before they even know they are sick. Stay away from people you know have the flu, and stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu.
  4. Should I get vaccinated? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed vaccine that is appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. These vaccines are available from your physician, pharmacy, and other health care providers. Student Health Services provides free vaccinations for students, and appointments can be scheduled here.  
  5. Should anyone not get the flu vaccine? Children under 6 months and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any components of the vaccine should not get the flu shot. If you have an allergy to eggs or any ingredients in the vaccine, if you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or if you are not feeling well, talk to your health care provider before getting vaccinated.
  6. When should I get my flu vaccine? The CDC recommends vaccination by the end of October. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will need 2 doses, so they should receive their first dose as soon as possible to allow the second dose (which must be administered at least 4 weeks later) to be received by the end of October.
  7. How do they know if the vaccine will work this year? Flu vaccines are updated each year to better match what viruses are expected to be circulating in the United States. Vaccines this year will have a number of different viral components, and the combination will depend on which vaccine you receive. More information can be found here. Flu viruses are constantly changing, though, so it is not unusual for new viruses to appear.
  8. How soon will the flu vaccine work? It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu infection.
  9. Can the flu vaccine give me the flu? No, that is a myth. Flu vaccines are made with either inactivated (dead) or attenuated (weakened) viruses, and therefore cannot cause flu illness. You may experience mild side effects like soreness, headache, fever, nausea, or muscle aches, which usually go away on their own with a few days.
  10. Where can I get more information about this year’s flu season and vaccines? The following links will provide additional information from the CDC:

(Questions and answers adapted from the CDC.)

Face Covering Use on Campus

Winter Weather Preparedness

As we approach the weekend, Texas A&M University continues to closely monitor winter weather conditions and make preparations across campus to protect our infrastructure, buildings and all other assets that could be impacted.

To help mitigate issues that could occur due to extreme temperatures currently forecasted, we ask for your partnership in following the recommendations below to secure your research areas:

  1. Fully close sashes on fume hoods to prevent heat loss in the room. This will also help prevent cold air from entering the space in the event of power failure.
  2. Ensure emergency contact information for your lab is current and posted outside the lab as required.
  3. Notify your facility coordinator of any special considerations or other needs related to your research or research space. 
  4. Notify your facility coordinator or contact the 24/7/365 communications center by calling 979-845-4311 if you see unusual activity related to water, including but not limited to leaks, dripping faucets, etc. 

In addition to our main campus, we are working closely with our remote and branch campuses as well as leadership at Texas A&M-RELLIS to help mitigate potential issues at all locations.

Again, please contact your facilities coordinator or the communications center should you have questions or concerns.

Hot Topics

Heat Stress Awareness – Staying Safe in Hazardous Conditions

High temperature and humidity can be dangerous to anyone working, exercising or congregating outdoors. Be aware of heat stress, how to recognize the signs of heat-related illness and what you can do to stay safe in hazardous heat conditions. 

Heat stress includes a series of conditions that result when your body cannot get rid of excess heat. The usual cooling mechanism is sweat evaporation, and when you are unable to maintain a healthy temperature, a number of physical reactions can occur: increased core temperature and heart rate, rash, cramps and exhaustion. The most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke, can lead to severe disability or death.

What factors contribute to heat stress?

  • High air temperature
  • High humidity
  • Limited air movement
  • Radiant heat sources
  • Direct contact with hot objects
  • Strenuous physical activity
  • Dehydration
  • Consumption of caffeinate or alcohol
  • Pre-existing health conditions, medications
  • Advanced age (65+)
  • Clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Inexperience/lack of awareness
  • Lower physical condition/lack of regular exercise

Any combination of the above can contribute to heat stress, and people can be affected in different ways. For example, one person may be able to tolerate exercising in hot, humid outdoor conditions while wearing regular workout clothes and a hat. Another person may wear the same clothing while performing the same tasks, but can experience heat-related illness like heat exhaustion or stroke. 

How hot is too hot?

There is no magic number or temperature that will guarantee you will not experience heat stress, though the higher the temperature and humidity, the greater the risk of heat-related illness. Consider the forecasted heat index value (how hot it “feels” based on temperature and humidity) and what activities will occur in that environment, but remember that each individual's tolerance is different and can be affected by many factors. Some people can have heat stress from just walking or even sitting in the sun for too long, so always be alert to the signs of heat stress in yourself and those around you. Be prepared to provide appropriate care and seek emergency medical care as needed.

Several mobile phone applications are available to help you stay alert to weather conditions and adapt your plans, when needed. Here are some to try:

  • OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool: This app features real-time heat index and hourly forecasts specific to your location, as well as occupational safety and health recommendations from OSHA and NIOSH. Available for Apple and Android.
  • NOAA/National Weather Service: Get local weather forecasts and severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service. Follow these instructions to add the website to your phone's home screen, or download any of multiple related apps for Apple and Android. 

Exercising outdoors

Whether you are working out recreationally or playing a team sport, any sustained physical activity in hot weather can increase your risk of heat-related illness. Adequate hydration before, during and after exercise outdoors is important, and you should be aware of the signs of heat stress and know how to respond accordingly. Know the limits of your own physical condition, and take care not to encourage others exercising with you beyond their limits.

These tips from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are geared toward college athletes but can offer anyone helpful information about assessing hydration status, maximizing performance hydration and adequately fueling exercise.

Signs of heat-related illness

When the body is unable to maintain a healthy temperature, heat-related illness can occur and have wide-ranging effects. These conditions can strike suddenly and quickly progress from something seemingly minor, like heat cramps, to a deadly heat stroke.

The information below is taken from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and is intended to help you be aware of symptoms related to heat-related illness and associated first aid response. Always seek professional medical care if you are unsure of appropriate treatment.

Heat Stroke
Symptoms Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
Loss of consciousness
Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
Seizures
Very high body temperature
First Aid Call 911 immediately for emergency medical care.
Stay with the person until emergency medical services arrive.
Move the person to a shaded, cool area, and remove outer clothing.
Cool the person quickly with cold water or ice bath if possible: Place cold wet cloths or ice on head, neck, armpits, and groin.
Use fans or other means to circulate the air around the person to speed cooling.
Heat Exhaustion
Symptoms Headache
Nausea
Dizziness
Weakness
Irritability
Thirst
Heavy sweating
Elevated body temperature
Decreased urine output
Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke.
First Aid Take the person to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment.
If you do not have access to medical care, call 911.
Stay with the person until help arrives.
Move the person to a shaded, cool area, and remove outer clothing (including shoes and socks).
Give liquids to drink (no caffeine or alcohol). Encourage frequent sips of cool water.
Cool the person with cold compresses or splash head, face, and neck with cold water.
Rhabdomyolysis
Symptoms Muscle cramps/pain
Abnormally dark (tea- or cola-colored) urine
Weakness, inability to complete job tasks
Exercise intolerance
Rhabdomyolysis can also be asymptomatic
First Aid Stop activity and move to a cool area.
Increase oral hydration (water preferred).
Seek immediate care at the nearest medical facility. Ask to be checked for rhabdomyolysis (i.e., blood sample analyzed for creatine kinase).
Only a health care provider can determine the severity and appropriate treatment.
Heat Syncope
Symptoms Fainting (short duration)
Dizziness
Light-headedness during prolonged standing or suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position
First Aid Help the person sit or lie down in a cool place.
Encourage to slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink.
Monitor for symptoms of other heat-related illness.
Heat Cramps
Symptoms Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
First Aid Increase water intake and have a snack and/or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid (e.g., sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes.
Avoid salt tablets.
Get medical help if the individual has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, or if cramps do not subside within 1 hour.
Heat Rash
Symptoms Red cluster of pimples or small blisters
Appearance on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, or in elbow creases
First Aid When possible, work or exercise in a cooler, less humid environment.
Keep rash area dry.
Powder may be applied to increase comfort.
Ointments and creams should not be used.

The Texas A&M University System Regulation for UAS Operations

http://policies.tamus.edu/24-01-07.pdf  

Texas A&M University Rule for UAS

https://rules-saps.tamu.edu/PDFs/24.01.07.M0.01.pdf

Texas A&M University Program for UAS Operations

https://ehs.tamu.edu/programs/unmanned-aerial-systems/  

Texas A&M System UAS Flight Application

https://ehs.tamu.edu/programs/unmanned-aerial-systems/

The University’s Supervising Authority (SA) Committee meets monthly to consider application requests. UAS flight request applications must be submitted to the SA Committee for compliance review at least 15 days prior to planned flight operations. Approvals are granted by the designated university SA. Any unapproved UAS/UAV flights are disruptive to university operations and will be referred for appropriate disciplinary action.

For further information on using UAS (drones) safely at Texas A&M, please contact Environmental Health & Safety at (979)845-2132 or ehsd@tamu.edu.

As you may know, a significant number of bats make their home on the Texas A&M campus. Bats are considered high risk for rabies and should never be touched, dead or alive. In addition, a few species found in Texas are considered endangered or threatened and thus, should not be disturbed.

If you should come in contact with a bat, find one dead or alive in a campus building, or see a live bat anywhere that cannot fly, call the Facilities Services Communications Center immediately at (979) 845-4311.

Also, remember to close all windows and doors, especially in the evening, to help keep bats and other animals from entering buildings.

For more information about bats and rabies, please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services Infectious Disease Control website.

Even when it gets hot outside, personnel are required to wear appropriate attire inside laboratory and shop spaces. Some summer clothing like shorts and sandals do not provide adequate coverage even while wearing appropriate Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE is essential to preventing exposure or injury to yourself and others, and it can prevent contamination of personal clothing and shared spaces.

Helpful tips:

  • Most labs on campus require some type of PPE which must be worn when working with hazards or as directed by lab or shop protocol. If you are unsure of what is appropriate or expected, ask your PI or supervisor.
  • Always wear job-specific PPE that protects your eyes, face, hands, body, and feet. This may include splash goggles, safety glasses, face shields, respiratory protection, chemical-resistant gloves, cut-resistant gloves, aprons, lab coats, and closed shoes (not open on front or back).   
  • Pay attention to signage on other lab or shop doors – your workspace may have different entry requirements for PPE.
  • Do not wear your PPE outside of the lab. Remove gloves, lab coats, goggles, etc. before entering the hallway, restrooms, or other public and shared spaces to avoid contaminating surfaces.
  • Do not take your PPE home.
  • Remember – no food or drink in labs!
  • Do not forget long hair, jewelry, and loose clothing – these present a hazard while working with certain tools and equipment.
  • It may be helpful to keep a change of pants, shoes, etc. in your workspace. This will allow you to dress comfortably for the weather outdoors and change into appropriate attire indoors.

Contact labsafety@tamu.edu if you have any questions!

Holiday Safety… A few tips before you go!

The winter holiday season is normally filled with excitement and celebration. Unfortunately, the distractions and hectic pace of the holidays may make us vulnerable to criminal activity and unfortunate events. Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Before leaving your office or workspace on campus, be sure to unplug any space heaters, temporary equipment, and holiday decorations. Practice good housekeeping by cleaning up any collected paper, trash, or combustible decorations. Be sure all doors and windows are secure and do not prop open any facility entrances as you come and go.
  • Wash your hands often when preparing and serving food at your holiday celebrations, and be sure to maintain proper temperature when cooking and storing leftovers. Click here for more holiday food safety tips from the CDC.
  • Shop with your safety and security in mind. When parking your vehicle, remember to roll up all windows, lock the doors, take the keys, and secure any valuables in the trunk or conceal them from others. Avoid dark areas, shortcuts, and cul-de-sacs. Stay near people, and shop with friends or family whenever possible. When returning to your vehicle, carry your keys in your hand and be ready to unlock the door and enter as quickly as you can. As you approach the vehicle, scan the area, glance underneath the car, and take a quick look inside before entering.
  • While dining out or running errands, always be aware of your surroundings. Take time to look at the people and vehicles around you, noting anything suspicious. If you feel that someone is following you on foot, vary your pace, change directions, and go immediately to a well-lit area where there are other people. If you feel someone is following you in a vehicle, stay alert while loading or unloading items in the parking lot. If someone approaches and you feel threatened, get in your vehicle and lock the doors until they leave the area. If they do not leave, then drive away.
  • Take care of your financial safety as well. Carry minimal cash, valuables, and jewelry while out and about. Credit and debit cards are safer choices than cash transactions, as you may report them stolen or lost if needed. Be cautious of email requests and phone calls wanting to verify confidential account or financial information.
  • If you plan to leave your home for an extended period of time, be sure to lock all windows and doors. Have a neighbor, family member, or friend check on your house periodically and pick up your newspapers and mail. Leave your indoor and outdoor lights on an automatic timer, so it looks as if you are home.