Appendix III: Health and Environmental Safety

As a Graduate Student, you are considered an employee of the University. All employees (or workers) are required by the Employee Standards Act to be adequately and properly trained in Workplace Safety. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) of Ontario the University has a general duty to take reasonable precautions for the protection of workers and to have in place a system to ensure that offenses under OSHA and associated legislation do not occur. Supervisors and workers have roles in ensuring they are aware of, disseminate, and practice, the appropriate measures to protect themselves and others. Policy 34, concerning Health, Safety and Environment is a key element the University’s Health, Safety and Environment Management System (HSEMS) to ensure compliance with OSHA. As part of this system, the University has developed a number of safety training modules that must be successfully completed by all employees of the University. There are five online courses that are required by all Department of Biology grad students:

  • Employee Safety Orientation (SO1001)
  • Workplace Violence Awareness (SO1081)
  • WHMIS 2015 (SO2017)
  • Laboratory Safety (SO1010)
  • Biosafety (SO1069)

Information and access to these course modules can be found here on the Safety Office website.

Your Supervisor may request additional safety training, depending on your field of study and expected experimental work. The exact safety training requirements to complete should be discussed with your Supervisor. This training must be completed before beginning any laboratory work or Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) duties. Your Supervisor will require a copy of your Safety Training record for the lab’s files. These are typically examined during Safety Inspections that are conducted by the Department’s Health and Safety Committee, the University’s Joint Health and Safety Committee, the University Safety Office, or Ministry of Labour personnel.

Safety is an extremely important aspect of working in the lab or field, and of your teaching while working as a GTA. It is up to you to absorb and apply the provided information and work safely. Don’t depend on others; take responsibility for being aware of potential hazards. If you observe a potentially dangerous situation, or encounter a defect in a piece of equipment, don’t ignore it - notify your colleagues (others in the lab, Supervisor) and take steps to rectify the problem. Ensure that you know the location of your lab’s SDS (Safety Data Sheets) files, and are familiar with the information on safe handling of every chemical you use (before you use it!), the appropriate equipment (e.g. goggles, gloves, fumehoods) that may be needed for safe handling, and locations of various safety items (e.g. spill kits, eye wash, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, first aid kit) in your area.

The University of Waterloo’s Safety Office maintains a website containing a wealth of information. Posters outlining pertinent safety information are required to be posted in campus laboratories and classrooms as well. Your research lab should maintain an “Emergency Contacts” list posted in a readily visible location (e.g., inside the lab door). Read and familiarize yourself with the provided information, so that you are prepared to respond to a safety hazard or emergency situation should one occur.

Working alone in the lab: Consult the University’s guideline and your Supervisor about their policy. 

Fieldwork: If travelling off campus on University-related business (field work, conference attendance) there may be forms that must be completed and filed prior to departure. Consult your Supervisor. If needed the field work risk management form is accessible on the Safety Office website.

Accident or injury: All accidents or injuries, no matter how minor, should be reported to your Supervisor. An injury/incident report form must be completed and submitted to the Dept of Biology’s Administrative Officer (Jennifer Lehman, ESC 350B). It will be forwarded to the University’s Safety Office. The form is accessible here on the Safety Office website; hard copies are available in the Dept of Biology Office (ESC 350).

First Aid: First Aid kits are available in all research labs, prep rooms and teaching labs. In addition, there are departmental first aid stations in the Biology main office (ESC 350) and in the 3rd floor lounge (ESC 356) as well as in the greenhouse (B1 290). Individuals in the Dept trained to give first aid include Karen Miinch (B2 354C or B1 373, ext. 32375 and Susan Whyte (ESC 350C, ext.36394).

Serious injury: If there is any doubt about how to handle the injury, call an ambulance (911 on any hard wired campus phone). Provide your exact location (building name, floor, and room number). UWaterloo Police are automatically notified and the exact location of the call is registered. However, after calling 911, it is recommended to also call UWaterloo Police at ext. 22222 or 519-888-4911 to confirm your location (available 24 hrs/day, 7 days/wk).

Cell phone calls to 911 will not register with UWaterloo Police. Therefore follow these procedures: do not hang up until told to do so by the 911 dispatcher; state exactly where you are, (i.e. University of Waterloo, building name, any street address and room number); immediately call UW Police at 519-888-4911 after being told to hang up by the 911 dispatcher.

Less serious injury: If medical attention is required for an injury (e.g., a deep cut requiring stitches) but an ambulance is not necessary, Health Services (ext. 84096 or 519-888-4096) is open during the day, Mon-Fri. They provide a listing of several after-hours clinics and local hospitals on the Health Services website.

Note that all research and teaching laboratories have posters outlining Emergency Procedures for First Aid Emergency and Fire/Evacuation. Familiarize yourself with the provided information, and note the Emergency Entrance location for your building. In the event of a serious emergency, this is where the ambulance, emergency personnel will arrive.

Chemical spills: All research labs, teaching labs and prep rooms have materials of kits for control of spills. Spill control can be contacted at ext. 519-888-4911 or ext. 22222.

Other resources: in compliance with the University’s HSE management system, the Dept of Biology has a Dept Health & Safety Committee comprised of several faculty, staff and grad students, and a Health & Safety coordinator (interim: Barb Butler, B1-279; Simon Chuong, B1-267A). The Safety Office can be contacted at 519-888-4567, ext. 33587. The Plant Operations 24 Hour Maintenance, Repair and Service Line is ext. 33793.  For non-urgent issues, email details (building and room number in the subject line) to Plant Ops Maintenance.