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Roles and Responsibilities in Research

Principal Investigator (PI)
The Principal Investigator (PI) is a faculty member or research scientist appointed by the University to conduct research.  The PI has overall responsibility for safety and compliance in his or her laboratory, although the below responsibilities can be delegated to a competent designee(s) in the laboratory.  The PI is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that laboratory personnel have read, understand and adhere to this Manual, its applicable Plans, including the Laboratory Assessment Tool and Chemical Hygiene Plan (LATCH), and all University, school, departmental and laboratory policies and procedures.
  • Ensuring that new laboratory personnel attend Laboratory Safety, Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Waste Management Training, and all other applicable safety training at the time of hire or before involvement in laboratory research activities, and that refresher training is completed as required.
  • Ensuring that current and new laboratory personnel receive adequate laboratory process and/or equipment-specific safety training from the PI before use.
  • Ensuring that personnel are advised of applicable safety procedures when introducing new hazardous biological or chemical substances, radioactive materials, compressed gasses, equipment, and procedures.
  • Ensuring that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available and used.
  • Developing operating procedures to address a particular hazard or operation encountered in the laboratory. EH&S may be consulted to determine which operations warrant documentation of a standard operating procedure (SOP).
  • Ensuring that proper signage is present inside the laboratory to identify where hazards may exist.
  • Ensuring that containers are labeled so that laboratory personnel or emergency responders can determine the identity of the contents. 
  • Ensuring that a FDNY Certificate of Fitness (CoF) holder is present in the laboratory at all times when personnel are working in the laboratory.
  • Reviewing the laboratory’s operating procedures, plans and other relevant safety procedures, whenever changes occur, but no less frequently than annually.
  • Completing Vacating Procedures prior to any laboratory renovation or move.

Laboratory Personnel
The Laboratory Safety Manager is a senior researcher appointed by the PI or is the PI him/herself, who is responsible for all safety aspects of the laboratory’s operations. The Laboratory Safety Manager is responsible for:

  • Holding a CoF for Supervising Chemical Laboratories (C-14). Another individual may be designated to obtain the CoF which can be obtained by passing a test administered by EH&S, as authorized by FDNY.
  • Working with the PI and EH&S to ensure laboratory personnel are informed of and follow this Manual, its applicable Plans, including the LATCH, and all University, school, departmental and laboratory policies and procedures. Ensuring laboratory personnel conduct activities consistent with good laboratory practices.
  • Ensuring that appropriate PPE is available and used.
  • Ensuring that appropriate spill control material is available and personnel are trained in its use.
  • Ensuring that Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are accessible for all hazardous chemicals in use or storage.
  • Instructing laboratory personnel on specific procedures and equipment.
  • Ensuring that chemical containers are properly labeled and closed.
  • Ensuring that chemical inventory is prepared, maintained and accessible, either on paper or electronically (e.g., ChemTracker).
  • Monitoring the procurement, use, and disposal of hazardous substances.
  • Advising Facilities personnel of potential hazards that might be encountered when they enter the laboratory.

Laboratory Personnel are individuals who work in the laboratory including PIs, research scientists, post-doctoral fellows, technicians, undergraduate and graduate students, visiting scientists, laboratory volunteers, support personnel, and glassware washers.  All laboratory personnel are responsible for:

  • Reviewing and applying the information in this Manual, its applicable Plans, including the LATCH, and all University, school, departmental and laboratory policies and procedures.
  • Knowing where SDS's are maintained and reviewing SDS's prior to use of hazardous substances.
  • Attending Laboratory Safety, Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Waste Management Training and other applicable trainings.
  • Safely handling and disposing of chemicals.
  • Using appropriate engineering controls (e.g., biological safety cabinet, chemical fume hood, radiation shielding) and PPE when working in the laboratory.
  • Reviewing and understanding emergency response procedures.

Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S)
Columbia University Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) serves as the primary health and safety resource to assist laboratories in promoting best practices in safety and environmental performance in all education and research activities, while maintaining compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulatory requirements, agreements and permits, including implementation of each laboratory’s specific LATCH in compliance with the OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.1450. EH&S is responsible for:

  • Providing technical support and assistance in the areas of chemical safety, radiation safety, hazardous waste, biological safety, industrial hygiene, fire/life safety and environmental stewardship.
  • Developing and implementing the University wide Laboratory Safety and Chemical Hygiene Plan. EH&S reviews the program for regulatory compliance including federal, state, and city regulations, and represents Columbia University to the various federal, state, and city regulatory and environmental agencies.
  • Developing and implementing training and educational programs designed to improve the health and safety of the Columbia University community and to foster compliance with governmental regulations and professional standards.
  • Conducting regular visits to laboratories to assist in compliance with the Plan. 
  • Implementing policies approved by the Institutional Health and Safety Council.

Institutional Health and Safety Council (IHSC)
The Institutional Health and Safety Council, chaired by the Executive Vice President for Research, receives reports on various health, safety, and environmental issues and initiatives from EH&S and other university departments.  The Council is staffed by EH&S personnel, various safety committee chairs, and senior laboratory-based faculty, chairpersons, and administrators.

Faculty Advisory Committee on Environmental Health & Safety (FACES)
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Environmental Health & Safety (FACES) supports and advances Columbia University’s continued commitment to promoting best practices in safety and environmental performance in all education and research activities, while remaining compliant with applicable federal, state and local regulatory requirements, agreements and permits. 

FACES helps EH&S to establish research safety and environmental program goals based on issues and objectives deemed to be priorities by Committee members representing Columbia University’s research enterprise. These programs will be fundamental to the Columbia University Environmental Management System (EMS), which is based on the concept of continual improvement, whereby the University strives to enhance safety and environmental performance by establishing objectives and targets, and periodically monitoring performance against these targets.

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