June 17-2019

AFNS North Campus Health and Safety committee meeting                                 

Date: June 17, 2019

Time: 1:30 pm – 2:20 pm

Place: 4-10C Ag/For Centre

Chair: Dr. Urmila Basu

Attendees: Dr. Urmila Basu, Dr. Michael Ganzle, Kelvin Lien, Heather Vandertol-Vanier, Ileana Strelkov, Ereddad Kharraz, Zhigang Tian and Jingui Lan.

Regrets: Adele Gagnon (representing Stephanie Ramage)


  1. Follow-up from last meeting

The terms of reference were provided to the Department Council members and were approved.  The terms of reference document is available to view on the AFNS Safety website.

During the last meeting, lab safety inspections were discussed.  Safety inspections should target the needs of the labs in Agriculture/Forestry and should be done by floor.  Safety inspections were performed for all of Ag/For.

  1. Summary of Safety Inspections in Agriculture Forestry Centre – 2019

Lab safety inspections were conducted in February of 2019 by Dr. Urmila Basu and Heather Vandertol-Vanier.  Each lab was inspected and a lab inspection checklist was followed.


Labs were generally compliant with documents.  The most common missing documents were the following: Training records (both U of A courses and site specific training), SOPs, hazard assessments and Up to date door signage.

Personal Protective equipment

Labs were compliant.  In labs that were visited (with personnel present) lab coats, gloves, long pants and full coverage shoes were worn.  In some instances, safety glasses were worn.

Chemical Safety

Most labs were compliant.  Chemicals were properly labeled and were in good condition.  Chemicals were stored according to class.  Flammables were stored in a flammable cabinet.  In some cases chemicals were stored above eye level without a lip on the shelf or a glass door.


All fumehoods had an inspection label from the last year.  Most fumehoods were uncluttered.  If there was excessive clutter, it was discussed with lab personnel.   Some sashes were not lowered to the appropriate level.  In these cases, the sash was lowered and lab personnel were informed.

Compressed gas cylinders

One lab had a gas cylinder that was not properly secured.  There were no other issues with gas cylinders.  All cylinders were capped when not in use.

Biosafety Cabinets

There were no compliance issues with biosafety cabinets.  All biosafety cabinets have been tested within the last year.  No items were stored in biosafety cabinets.  Bunsen burners and alcohol burners were not being used in any biosafety cabinets.  Static pressure logs were maintained for all cabinets.

Biohazardous waste

Most labs had an appropriate commercial sharps disposal.   Biological waste was generally accumulated correctly.  Waste was appropriately decontaminated.

Spill kits

All labs had access to biological and chemical spills kits.

Safety Equipment

All labs had access to a safety shower or a drench hose, an eye wash station, first aid kits and fire extinguishers.

Laboratory work practices

No evidence of food or beverages was found in any of the labs.

Two major areas for improvement

Chemical waste disposal- Chemical waste disposal was an issue with many of the labs.  There is a lot of confusion about how and where waste items should be disposed.  One of the biggest issues was disposal of contaminated plastics such as tips, tubes and pipettes.  Many labs were accumulating plastics contaminated with chemicals in plastic recycling brown buckets without a bag.  These buckets were then dumped into the plastic recycling bins.  Any item contaminated with a chemical must be properly packed and sent for disposal through Chematix and not disposed of in the plastic recycling bin.  Safe disposal methods were communicated to non-compliant labs.

Numerous labs were storing large amounts of liquid and solid chemical waste.  Some labs were storing waste directly on the floor without secondary containment.  This poses a safety issue.  Chemical waste should be properly stored and sent for disposal regularly.

 Biosecurity- All doors to Biosafety level 2 labs must be closed at all times.  If personnel are present, the door may be unlocked.  If personnel are absent, the door must be locked.  There is a continued issue with non-compliance especially with the core genomics lab.

Looking at the options for changing to different types of locks


  1. ALES safety committee – updates

Urmila Basu and Kelvin Lien are members of the ALES safety committee.  Meetings were held on December 2018, February 2019 and April 2019.  Terms of reference for the committee are in preparation.


Action items

  • Development of policy and communications plan – for supervisory training / orientation to safety / enforcement, obligations and best practices around safety in the Faculty.
  • Letter from the Dean to Faculty regarding safety – legal, professional and moral obligation. His letter will provide details on the ‘Definition of supervisor, hazard assessment requirements, looking for compliance training by July 1, 2019.
  • Faculty safety website – Development of a webpage on ALES that links to UA / gov’t etc/,  Development of a list of training recommendations
  • Development of plan to examine mental health aspect of safety, workplace violence
  • Development of an ALES wide work alone policy
  • Development of video and Dean’s message for new graduate students and staff starting in September 2019. Annual note to students and staff regarding safety.
  • Development of South Campus safety plan


  1. Safety incidents in the building

Mercaptoethanol incident in 2-50 Ag/For

A graduate student working in 2-50 Ag/For spilled some mercaptoethanol in a biosafety cabinet.  The student then proceeded to clean up the chemical but disposed of the materials in the regular garbage.  The student was advised that mercaptoethanol should only be used in a fumehood and that any contaminated materials should be collected and disposed of through Chematix.   Lab personnel were retrained and an incident report was filed with EHS.

Formaldehyde incident (May 2019) in 4-60 Ag/For

A student working in plant pathology lab used formaldehyde instead of bleach to decontaminate a blender.  Despite the storage of bleach in the area where the student was working, they retrieved a bottle that was placed in the chemical waste area (clearly labeled as formaldehyde waste) and used this to clean the blender.  Upon noticing a strange odor the student proceeded to add bleach.  This is a potentially dangerous combination.  Ileana Strelkov was working in the area at the time and was able to handle the situation.  It is imperative that when using chemicals that labels are read every time a chemical is used.  The individual involved has been retrained and an incident report has been filed with EHS.


  1. Biosafety Update (from the University’s Biosafety committee meetings attended by Heather)

Biosafety incidents

There was a biosafety incident in LiKa Shing in March.  Biological waste was inappropriately disposed of into the regular garbage.  Tubes with blood were discovered in the regular garbage by custodial staff.  Photos were taken by staff and the incident was investigated.  The owners of the tubes could not be located but all principal investigators were sent an email directing them to have a discussion with their groups about proper waste disposal.


Another incident on campus involved the improper repair of a biosafety cabinet.   A principal investigator disassembled a biosafety cabinet to repair the motor.  In that process he exposed the filter cabinet potentially exposing himself and others to pathogens.  Since the biosafety cabinet had not been used in a week there was likely no exposure.  The incident was reported to PHAC as a near miss.  The PI was unaware that the cabinet must be decontaminated with vaporous hydrogen peroxide prior to any repairs.  It was pointed out that the cabinet has labels indicating that it must be decontaminated before any service is performed.    As well any work on a biosafety cabinet should be performed by a professional repair service.

There was a report of a biosafety cabinet failure at AFDP.  When the biosafety cabinet failed, the worker stopped working, secured their work and decontaminated all surfaces.  The failure was reported to the site manager who followed procedure by locking out the cabinet and calling EHS to arrange to have the cabinet decontaminated.  Once this was completed, repairs were performed.  The Biosafety committee decided to commend the group for their actions and following established procedures.  A letter was drafted and sent to the group.

Biological inventory

An inventory is a list of biological assets in long-term storage both inside and outside of the containment zone. A long term or archival stock is any biological material that is stored for more than 30 days.  Ongoing cultures in an incubator are not considered archival stocks and do not need to be included in the inventory.  All samples in a biological inventory should be adequately labeled so that all samples are easily identifiable.

The amount of information required in the inventory depends on the risk level of the biological material.  More detail is required for higher risk levels.

For Risk Group 1 biological materials the following is required:

  • Description
  • Date of creation
  • Origin
  • Owner

For Risk Group 2 biological materials the following is required:

  • Description (preferably genus and species)
  • Date of creation
  • Storage state
  • Storage location
  • Risk group classification
  • Date of disposal
  • Usage restrictions

The inventory for these types of materials must be specific enough that the risk classification of the material and any restriction imposed on it are obvious, but also so that a missing stock could be detected.

Inventories should be updated annually and whenever a sample is used, transferred, inactivated, or disposed of, and whenever new material is identified as the result of diagnostic testing, receipt, generation, or production.

Inventories should be checked regularly.  Verifying a representative subset of the material should be sufficient.

A biological inventory should be readily available and easily searchable.  It can be maintained as an electronic or a paper document.  Using the inventory, anyone should be able to answer questions such as the following: How would you find sample “X” in your facility?  Or Do you have pathogen “Y” in your inventory?


  1. Fire Safety

There a fewer permanent employees to act as fire Wardens.  Fire wardens for the 5th floor continue to be an issue.  The department needs people who are reliably present in Ag/For.  Technicians and technologists that work for principal investigators are good candidates.  Several people in the department will be asked to take on the role as Fire Warden.


When the building is being evacuated, people must be directed away from the building.  Pedways are an issue as people want to continue coming through.  When manning a pedway as a fire warden, ensure that you are at the doors that are not close to Ag/For.  For example,  when manning the pedway leading to GSB, the fire warden should be containing people at the GSB door to the pedway.


  1. Other items for discussion
  • Lab 1-20D is the level 2 lab (Dr. Sheau-Fang). It will have two biosafety cabinets. Locks have been changed.
  • The meeting minutes will be posted on the AFNS safety website. An email will be sent out to academics to let them know where the meeting minutes are located.