Environmental Health & Life Safety - University of Houston
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Environmental Health & Life Safety

Environmental Health & Life Safety supports higher education and research in conjunction with the University community by promoting healthy and safe operations and strives to achieve a university culture in which health and safety are core values.

The Department consists of Biological Safety, Fire Marshal, Chemical Safety, Environmental Protection, Food Safety, Occupational Safety, and Radiation Safety sections all here to help you.

Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

New Developments

Environmental Health and Life Safety Has a New Organizational Structure

As of October 1, 2019, EHLS has been restructured in order to better serve the UH community. Prior to October 2019 all units within EHLS reported to a single director. Since then EHLS has been subdivided into two distinct units with directors over each. Lisa Benford is now the Director of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS); and Chris McDonald is the Director of Fire and Life Safety (FLS). EHS consists of the following sub units: Biological Safety Group, Chemical Safety Group, Environmental Protection Group, and Radiation Safety Group while FLS consists of the Fire Marshal's Office and the Food Safety Group.

Photo of Chris McDonald, Director of Fire and Life Safety

Chris McDonald

Photograph of Lisa Benford, Director of Environmental Health and Safety

Lisa Benford

UH Fire Marshal's Office Awarded 2019 Achievement of Excellence Bronze Award

The UH FMO has been recognized with this prestigious award and is the first University fire marshal's office to ever earn the award. For more details, read the press release

6th Annual Biosafety & Biosecurity Month

University of Houston Environmental Health & Safety and Campus Safety Systems present, "Beyond the Lab: Increasing the Visibility of Biosafety and Biosecurity".

 University of Houston EHLS and Campus Safety Systems announces October 2019 as the 6th annual Biosafety and Biosecurity month in cooperation with ABSA (https://absa.org/event/2019-biosafety-month/ using the hashtag #biosafety_biosecuritymonth. Events will be held at Health 2, 1st floor at the elevators from 10AM to 12PM on October 23, 2019 and in SERC 1st floor lobby from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM.

October is the 6th Annual ABSA Biosafety and Biosecurity Month: an opportunity for us all to consider the important roles that we serve in fostering an understanding of biosafety and biosecurity. Environmental Health and Safety along with Campus Safety Systems will be hosting two open Q & A sessions on October 23, 2019:

  • Health 2 Building, First floor (in front of the elevator banks) from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Science and Engineering Research Center, First Floor Lobby from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm

A printable flyer with additional details is available. Please contact the Biosafety Office with any questions via email or phone: 713-743-5858.

General Laboratory Safety Training Changes

As of September 1, 2019 EH06 (General Laboratory Safety Orientation) will be separated into an in-person course and an online refresher. Individuals that have already completed the online training will be grandfathered, however interested individuals are encouraged to attend the in-person training as it emphasizes ongoing trends and safety basics that many attendees have been missing out on. 

Partners in Academic Laboratory Safety (PALS) Workshop - July 2019

UH's Chemical Safety Group recently visited ExxonMobil’s Baytown Technology and Engineering Center, along with delegations from five other universities, to participate in the annual Partners in Academic Laboratory Safety (PALS) Workshop.

The PALS program establishes mentoring relationships between ExxonMobil and faculty, staff and students from partner universities to enhance laboratory safety culture. The workshop was established after ExxonMobil recognized new employees needed additional lab safety training besides what was offered at their universities.

For further information, please see the recent press release frrom UH's Division of Administration & Finance. 


More Dumpster and Disposal Issues

Over the past year, EHLS has encountered numerous instances where chemical products that require regulated disposal have been found in boxes and packages destined for disposal with the regular trash, or for transportation. Fortunately over this timeframe, major incidents have been averted despite the risks inherent in these practices. A significant number of these instances come from the disposal of reagent kits such as those sold by Qiagen, BioRad, and others where small quantities of reagents come pre-packaged in the form of a kit designed for a specific procedure. These kits provide reliable and easily used materials to accomplish the University's research and teaching. EHLS has prepared a three minute presentation to inform users about the proper disposal of these kits. 


Dumpster and Solid Waste Issues

Recently EHLS has been alerted to a significant number of empty containers with DOT labels and marking still visible in and around solid waste dumpsters on campus. Please remember that all empty containers with DOT markings and labels must have them defaced (removed, completely covered, painted over, etc) in order to comply with hazardous materials shipping regulations. When there is doubt to what qualifies as a DOT label or marking, it is perfectly acceptable to deface every piece of information on a container. Containers must be open (no closure devices present such as lids) and completely purged of all material that could create a hazard. Any containers of chemical products (including those in kits, boxes, and those that are a component of appliances and equipment) that are not empty must be disposed of through EHLS unless a waste determination has been completed by EHLS allowing their disposal through the Solid Waste department's dumpsters. For more information on proper empty container disposal, view a ~3 minute presentation on the topic: Proper Disposal of Empty Containers


New Rules for Managing Waste in Laboratories

Beginning on January 1, 2018 the University is transitioning to the Academic Laboratory Waste Rules as found in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 262 Sub Part K.  In the past, the University has followed the Satellite Accumulation Area requirements as found in 40 CFR Part 262 for waste generators.  These rules applied to all generators of EPA defined hazardous waste, which laboratories frequently generate, across all industries.   The adoption of these college/university specific rules was a collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Campus Health, Safety and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA). The goal was to better manage and safely dispose of wastes generated on campus in a timely manner. It was finalized by EPA several years ago and has slowly been adopted in the various states.

Now as a laboratory waste generator you may be wondering what this new rule means to me.  The good news is that it should make disposal easier.  Most of the current EHLS Rules for lab waste are still in force.  Generators most still collect, label, store and request a waste pick-up in a timely manner.  There 2 major changes under the new rules.  The first change is the label requirements. The new labels will say “unwanted material” and they will larger than the previous hazardous labels.  This was done to allow the lab waste generators to add more information on the label such as hazards (flammable, corrosive etc.) and add different constituents of mixtures.  This information is very important to EHLS personnel in preparing waste for ultimate off- site disposal but probably is not of interest to the waste generator.  Therefore, with new labels lab personnel identify waste in much greater detail than in the past.  The other major change is waste container will no longer be able to accumulate indefinitely until the reach a certain quantity. Under the lab waste rule containers of waste can only accumulate for 6 months and then a request to move them must be submitted.  Therefore, EHLS will be periodically checking with generators about waste accumulations time limits.  The thinking behind the rule was that academic labs frequently store chemicals for long periods, which cause problems such as expired chemicals and excessive load of flammable of combustible chemicals. Under this rule, lab users will be compelled to remove any waste containers older than 6 months as well as check their chemical inventory and get rid any other chemicals they no longer need.  EPA felt that excessive chemical storage for long durations was a major hazard in college/university labs regardless if there was a release or spill.  CSHEMA agreed and the rule was worked over many months of meetings and comments.

Now EHLS stands ready to assist the waste generators in transitioning to the new rule.  Training, printable labels, approved waste disposal procedures for non-hazardous waste, and other information are available under the Waste menu. 

New Biomedical Waste Vendor

The University has switched to a new vendor for our biohazardous waste, and this change comes with new containers. While EHLS will still provide cardboard biohazard boxes as a temporary measure while the campus transitions to new reusable plastic containers. The containers are compatible with "lab lids" that provide an approved closure for accumulation in compliance with existing requirements for closed containers. For more information on the transition and what biohazardous waste producers need to know, check out our quick tutorial.

Texas Tech Laboratory Releases Report on 02/02/2015 Incident

Three undergraduate students and a graduate assistant were injured in February, and investigation has determined that improper segregation of waste was the culprit. In this case, the storage of nitric acid (an inorganic acid) with organic waste from the laboratory experiment resulted in the catastrophic failure of the container when one student attempted to open it to add waste. EHLS is committed to the safe and proper storage, handling and disposal of hazardous waste on campus. Should you have any concerns about your waste streams or other practices, please contact us so that we can determine the best practices for your waste. The full article is available from Texas Tech University's Office of Responsible Research

New Web-based Training and Registration System

EHLS has officially embarked upon the outward-facing transition to the use of integrated web-based training and registration systems for our courses. Many courses have already migrated, however some are still in the process. You can continue to find the appropriate method of registration by browsing our available training. Each course will have the appropriate link to register or take training. Completion of either method will still result in a recorded training completion for you. Should you have any questions, you can contact EHLS