Mathieu Lalonde, CCB Science Safety Officer, manages day-to-day, operational procedures for our labs, including biosafety, chemical safety, and radiation and laser safety. He also delivers safety trainings once a month for the CCB community.
If you have a lab safety emergency, call 911 and Mat Lalonde at 617-496-8285. To evacuate the building, consult our Evacuation Guide and, if you or a colleague has a disability, use our Occupants with Disabilities Guide. For further guidance on how to approach an emergency from other buildings on campus, we recommend you familiarize yourself with the Harvard Emergency Response Guide and Harvard Fire Safety Guide. To ensure you are prepared if an emergency arises, we encourage you to join the next CCB Safety Training and read through these guides before an emergency occurs.
Where to Start
For a general overview of lab safety features, use our orientation checklist to get to know your chosen laboratory. Next, take an online safety training, familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, and learn about the properties of the chemicals you will use in your daily research.
Contact Mat Lalonde, our CCB Safety Officer, for help setting up a safe experimental design or assessing the hazards of a substance or experiment.
Before performing research at CCB, you must attend a one-hour laboratory orientation session. You are also required to complete research-specific training through the Harvard Environmental Health and Safety's training management system, which offers trainings in: general laboratory safety, hazardous waste management, laser safety, blood borne pathogens, biosafety, and radiation safety.
For liquid pyrophoric training, contact Mat Lalonde.
Keep track of your trainings with our CCB Training Log.
To safely conduct experiments involving recombinant and synthetic DNA, infectious agents, and human materials, you must first attend the appropriate trainings. To learn more about how to approach various biological materials, here is a curated list of valuable resources:
The Environmental Health and Safety department offers information on safe biological work practices and biosafety. And, the Committee on Microbiological Safety (COMS) regulates biosafety at Harvard and its thirteen affiliated institutions.
The Material Safety Data Sheets for Infectious Substances details the health hazards, including infectious dose, viability (including decontamination), medical information, laboratory hazard, recommended precautions, handling information and spill procedures, of specific substances.
For general resources on biosafety, you can visit the Center for Disease Control's biosafety webpage; for more specialized information, we recommend reading the agency's report on Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories and, for recommendations on tissue culture hoods (biosafety cabinets), their Primary Containment for Biohazards: Selection, Installation and Use of Biological Safety Cabinets, 2nd Edition.
For the latest updates on the ethical, legal, and social concerns of human genetics research, including basic and clinical research involving Recombinant DNA, Genetic Technologies, and Xenotransplantation, visit the National Institute of Health's Office of Biotechnology Activities for general updates and the NIH Guidelines For Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules for more specific guidance.
For information on bloodborne pathogens, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS, check out the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
For information not provided in the above resources, we recommend you visit the American Industrial Hygience Association for information on technical biosafety, the American Biological Safety Association for biosafety information.
To minimize the risk of potential exposure to hazardous materials used in our research laboratories, all researchers (with the exception of theoreticians) are required to attend a CCB online safety training as well as additional trainings explained below.
General Chemical Safety Resources
Our CCB Safety Manual details our safety policies and required safety trainings. You may also consult Harvard's Environmental Health & Safety department website, the Harvard University Chemical Hygiene Plan, and the Reproductive Health and the Laboratory for more case-specific safety information.
For information on the safe use of equipment and supplies, we encourage you to review the CCB Safety Catalog.
For information on managing chemical spills, consult our CCB Chemical Spill Policy, which helps researchers evaluate when local researchers can address a spill (minor spills) and when outside help is necessary (major spills). It also offers guidance on how to clean-up a minor spill. For more guidance, we recommend consulting the ACS Guide for Chemical Spill Response Planning in Laboratories, Safe Use of Hydrofluoric Acid whose physical, chemical, and toxilogical properties make it especially hazardous to handle, and Personal Protective Equipment: Respirators for information on which respirators are available, medical and training requirements associated with their use, and who to contact for more information. Respirator users must: carefully select, fit, inspect, clean, and replace their respirator when necessary; be medically approved for respirator use and trained regularly; and evaluate their work environment periodically to determine appropriate levels of respiratory protection.
Harvard and CCB Researchers must comply with federal and state regulations governing the management and disposal of hazardous waste. Harvard's Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) handles Harvard’s hazardous waste program. Below, we highlight the aspects of this program that are especially relevant to CCB.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority closely monitors Harvard’s sink and drain discharge. Further guidance on the sink disposal of chemical substances can be found on the EHS Lab Waste webpage. The following substances cannot be poured down the drain:
- Organic solvents or chemicals
- Mercury or other heavy metals
- Strong acids (solutions with pH < 5.5)
- Strong bases (solutions with pH > 12.0)
- Malodorous substances
- Hazardous waste
- Infectious/biological waste
- Radioactive material
Follow our hazardous waste best practices to help prevent accidents:
- Set up hazardous waste containers at or near the point of waste generation (do not place hazardous waste containers in sinks).
- Place all hazardous waste containers in a secondary containment bin; this helps ensure that spills, leaks, and container over-pressurizations are safely contained.
- Close all hazardous waste containers with a cap when not actively receiving material; funnels should not be left in hazardous waste containers even momentarily.
- Each hazardous waste container must have a hazardous waste label affixed.
- Incompatible hazardous waste (e.g. acidic and basic waste) must be placed in separate waste containers that reside in separate secondary containers. This is especially applicable to nitric acid and organic solvents.
- Nothing other than hazardous waste containers should reside in a hazardous waste secondary containment bin.
- When a hazardous waste container is ready to be taken away, enter the date on the tag and transfer to your group’s Main Accumulation Area (hazardous waste cabinet)
- Use 5-gallon plastic containers for waste solvents: accumulating waste solvents in 5-gallon plastic containers saves money and reduces the need for costly waste packaging prior to shipment.
- Use plastic containers for the accumulation of corrosive wastes: acids, bases, metal salts, bleach, and aqueous waste solutions should be collected in plastic containers. The use of metal containers with these waste streams results in corroded containers that leak, compromise safety, and necessitate spill response efforts.
- Don’t overstock chemicals: see what is available; order what is needed. Do not apply bulk purchasing cost-saving logic to the purchase of chemicals. Overstocking chemicals eventually results in expensive large-scale lab clean-outs. Evaluate current lab supplies and order the minimum amount needed.
- Label all chemicals to prevent the disposal of "unknowns": ensure all reagent and squeeze bottles, vials, flasks, and waste containers are labeled appropriately. Unidentified materials must undergo analytical testing before disposal, which can more than quadruple disposal costs.
- EHS Lab Waster Management
- Hazardous Waste Reference Labeling Tool
- Hazardous waste pick-up request
- Hazardous Waster Training
- Chemical Waste Picture Guide
Hazardous Materials Shipping
The Hazardous Materials Shipping Document aides researchers to conform to regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) (ground transport) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) (air transport).
Regulations must be followed when a researcher: Ships a research sample for testing; sends hazardous materials to a collaborator in industry or at another university; returns a hazardous material to the manufacturer; and/or ships a sample packaged in dry ice.
Contact the CCB Safety Officer Mat Lalonde for assistance with the shipment of hazardous materials.
Before you conduct experiments with sources of radiation (e.g., radioactive isotopes, Mössbaur, irradiators) or lasers (class 3B and 4 and laser microscopes), you must attend a CCB safety training. Harvard University's Environmental Health and Safety department also provides further information on radiation protection and lasers.
We also recommend that those who use Class 3B and 4 lasers complete a laser eye examination.
For external resources on these topics, we recommend consulting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's radiation protection guide, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's guides on laser hazards and non-ionizing and ionizing radiation, and the Laser Institute of America's wealth of information on their website.
Minors under the age of 13 may not be present in a laboratory unless: they follow the requirements in the Harvard University Minors in Labs Policy.
Minors age 13-17 are allowed in a laboratory setting when participating in a Harvard academic program, provided that they have written consent from their parent or guardian, received general lab safety training from Harvard’s Environmental Health and Safety Office (EH&S) and are documented through the EH&S Training Management System Roster, have been trained in the specific hazards to which they may be exposed in the laboratory and agree to strictly adhere to the laboratory-specific requirements concerning Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”), and are at all times under the direct supervision of a qualified designated adult.
Before inviting a minor to visit a lab, we ask that all CCB affiliates consult Harvard's minors in labs policy, complete a form that acknowledges risk and release of minors in labs, and have the minor complete an application to enter a Harvard University Laboratory and a parental consent form.
Individuals without a Harvard appointment (e.g., visiting scholar or collaborator) must read, sign, and return the Acknowledgement of Risk and Release Information form to the CCB Safety Office before beginning laboratory work.
The CCB Safety Committee brings CCB faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and administrative staff together with members of the Harvard Environmental Health & Safety and the Cambridge Fire Department to discuss safety and health concerns, identify workplace hazards, review reports of accidents and near misses, update departmental safety and health policies, and conduct regular laboratory inspections. To join, contact the committee chair, Mat Lalonde.