The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) provides guidance and resources for a variety of occupational safety programs designed to protect faculty, staff and students from injury and illness. These programs take a proactive approach in identifying workplace hazards and safely managing these hazards through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and engineering and administrative controls. In collaboration with the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Facilities Management and Planning, we are able to create a safe work environment for the Hunter College community.
EHS Occupational Safety
Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) refers to products that contain greater than one percent by weight and volume of asbestos. These materials may include, but are not limited to, pipe and boiler insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, mastic, spray applied fireproofing, gaskets, roofing, window caulking/glazing and plaster, to name a few.
Prior to any planned renovation, maintenance or emergency that may involve presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM) or asbestos-containing material (ACM), an investigation request must be conducted and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety should be notified by filling out the Asbestos Survey and Sampling Request Form below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Asbestos Removal
Q. Is it safe to be doing asbestos abatement in an occupied building?
A. Yes. Asbestos abatement contractors must follow strict regulations when performing asbestos abatement to ensure that asbestos is not dispersed outside the work area. The abatement area is segregated from occupied/non-abatement areas using plastic sheeting and in some cases, plywood. Only the abatement contractors are allowed to enter the abatement area once the project begins.
During the removal process, the contractors take several precautions to minimize dispersal of asbestos fibers, which includes wetting the materials. A "negative air" machine draws air from the abatement area through a series of filters, including a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, to remove asbestos fibers and dusts that may contain asbestos. This ensures that the abatement area is "negative" with respect to the uninvolved area, such that air does not flow out of the abatement area into occupied areas, except through filters. The filtered air is exhausted to the exterior of the building.
A third-party firm conducts testing outside of the abatement area to confirm that there is/are no elevated fiber levels outside the work area.
Given these precautions, people outside of the abatement area are not at risk for exposure to asbestos from these abatement projects.
Q. It looks like there is an air hose coming out of the abatement area. Is there asbestos coming out of it?
A. In most asbestos abatement containment areas, a "negative air" machine draws potentially contaminated air across a series of filters, with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, to remove any asbestos fibers and dusts that might contain asbestos. The exhaust from this machine may be placed outside of the abatement area. The air coming from it has been filtered through filters that are proven to trap asbestos fibers. Thus, it does not pose an asbestos exposure risk.
Q. During the abatement, can asbestos travel to other areas through the ventilation system?
A. During the preparation of the abatement area, any vents connected to the building's ventilation system are sealed. In most cases, the ventilation system is turned off to the work area during the abatement. Thus, protective measures are taken to prevent asbestos from traveling to areas outside of the containment area.
Q. How do we know that asbestos is not coming out of the abatement area?
A. Asbestos abatement regulations require the owner to hire a third-party firm to conduct air testing for asbestos outside of the abatement area. Testing is conducted on-site. Test reports are available to the abatement firm and the Hunter College project manager.
Q. How do we know that the area is safe after an asbestos abatement?
A. Asbestos abatement regulations require the owner to hire a third-party firm to conduct clearance testing after the area has been cleaned up and before the area may be reoccupied. Testing is conducted on-site and test reports are available to the abatement firm and the Hunter College project manager. A work area will not be released to the building until successful final air clearance in the work area has been achieved.
Q. Are the people removing the asbestos Hunter College employees?
A. No. Hunter College faculty, staff and students are prohibited from intentionally disturbing asbestos-containing material and from removing such materials. The owner hires certified, licensed asbestos abatement contractors with a proven positive work record.
Q. How do we know that the asbestos abatement contractors are doing their job correctly?
A. Regulatory inspectors conduct unannounced inspections of many abatement projects that take place on campus. The Hunter College project manager follows up on all abatement jobs and will not rehire a firm that does not conduct their work in accordance with regulatory high standards. In addition, a third-party environmental consultant is retained by the owner to ensure that the contractor is performing work per applicable regulations.
Q. What happens to the asbestos that is removed?
A. While still in the abatement area, the contractors place the wet asbestos debris in specially marked bags. Before bringing them out of the abatement area, the sealed bags of debris are washed and then placed in secondary bags that are also marked "Asbestos-Containing Materials." The sealed bags are placed in locked dumpsters before being transported to a secure landfill that accepts asbestos waste.
Q. How do the asbestos abatement contractors avoid bringing asbestos out of the abatement area on their clothing?
A. Asbestos contractors wear disposable suits, hoods, gloves, shoe covers and respirators. Between the abatement area and the non-abatement area, there is a clean-up/decontamination area where the contractors remove their protective clothing before entering the clean zone. At no time does a worker exit the abatement area without properly decontaminating himself/herself.
In all cases, the regulations require air monitoring outside the abatement area, which confirms that there is no contamination outside the abatement area.Training on Asbestos Awareness
Confined Space Definition
A confined space is a space that:
- is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work
- has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, vaults and sewers are spaces that may have limited means of entry)
- is not designed for continuous employee occupancy
Permit Required Confined Space
A permit required confined space is a confined space with one or more of the following characteristics:
- Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
- Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section
- Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard
All employees whose work involves entering a confined space must be properly trained in the correct entry and work procedures in advance. However, all permit required confined space entry is currently performed by outside contractors. Please notify EHS if you believe your work activities involve confined space entry.Learn More About OSHA Confined Spaces
Electrically powered equipment can pose a significant hazard to workers, particularly when mishandled or not maintained. Many electrical devices have high voltage or high power requirements, carrying even more risk.
Electrical Shock Hazards
The major hazards associated with electricity are electrical shock, fire and arc flash. Electrical shock occurs when the body becomes part of the electric circuit, either when an individual comes in contact with both wires of an electrical circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, or a metallic part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor.
The severity and effects of an electrical shock depend on a number of factors, such as the pathway through the body, the amount of current, the length of time of the exposure, and whether the skin is wet or dry. Water is a great conductor of electricity, allowing current to flow more easily in wet conditions and through wet skin.
The effect of the shock may range from a slight tingle to severe burns to cardiac arrest. The chart below shows the general relationship between the degree of injury and amount of current for a 60-cycle hand-to-foot path of one second's duration of shock. While reading this chart, keep in mind that most electrical circuits can provide, under normal conditions, up to 20,000 milliamperes of current flow.
|1 Milliampere||Perception level|
|5 Milliamperes||Slight shock felt; not painful but disturbing|
|6-30 Milliamperes||Painful shock; “let-go” range|
|50-150 Milliamperes||Extreme pain, respiratory arrest, severe muscular contraction|
|1000-4,300 Milliamperes||Ventricular fibrillation|
|10,000+ Milliamperes||Cardiac arrest, severe burns and probable death|
Hand and power tools are a common part of our everyday lives and are present in nearly every industry. These tools help us to easily perform tasks that otherwise would be difficult or impossible. However, these simple tools can be hazardous and have the potential for causing severe injuries when used or maintained improperly. Special attention toward hand and power tool safety is necessary in order to reduce or eliminate these hazards.
- Pneumatic power tools must be secured to the hose in such a way as to prevent accidental disconnection. Safety clips or retainers must be securely installed to prevent attachments from being inadvertently expelled.
- Never exceed the manufacturer’s safe operating pressure for all fittings.
- Hoses exceeding ½ inch inside diameter must have a safety device at the source of supply or branch line to reduce pressure in the event of hose failure.
- All hand tools, whether furnished by the department or employee owned, must be maintained in safe condition.
- Hand tools must be inspected before each use. Unsafe hand tools must not be used on any campus worksite.
- Hand tools must be used for the designed purpose.
- Impact tools must be free of mushroomed heads.
- Wooden handles must be free of cracks or splinters and be tight to the tool.
- Wrenches must not be used when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs.
- Electric power operated tools must be double-insulated or properly grounded.
- Appropriate personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses with side shields, face shields, leather work gloves, or leather work boots must be worn when using hand tools.
Portable Power Tools and Equipment
Portable power tools are designed for a wide variety of uses. Circular saws, jigsaws, drills, hammer-drills, sanders, grinders, routers and numerous other power tools, save time and effort on the job. The increased use of power tools heightens the need for awareness of the hazards they present if not operated properly. While each type of tool has its own unique hazards which must be taken into account, the following safety rules are common to all power tools.
- Do not operate power tools or equipment unless you have been authorized to do so.
- Inspect tools daily to ensure that they are in proper working order. Do not use damaged or defective tools.
- Use tools for their intended purpose and in the manner intended.
- All power tools and electrical devices must be properly grounded.
- Keep guards and protective devices in place at all times. Never use equipment or tools from which guards have been removed.
- Do not use electric power tools and equipment when standing in water.
- Only qualified persons are to repair electric tools or equipment.
- All extension cords must be the 3-pronged type and made for hard use.
- No employee may operate any powder-actuated tool unless properly trained in all manufacturers’ instructions and authorized by their shop supervisor, manager, or foreman.
- Powder-actuated tools must not be left loaded and unattended.
- Used shots must be disposed of properly.
- Follow all manufacturers’ instructions, which must be located with the tool at all times.
The purpose of the Hazard Communication Program is to ensure all Hunter College employees are informed about the identity and hazards of the chemicals in their workplace and how to handle these chemicals safely. This program applies to staff working with chemicals in any area, except laboratories. Laboratory workers should refer to the Laboratory and Research Safety Program. This program also complies with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.
The program includes provisions for assuring chemicals are properly labeled as to their constituents and hazards, obtaining and making available safety data sheets (SDSs) for all hazardous materials, developing a written Hazard Communication Program (coming soon) and assuring all employees have received appropriate training. Learn more about Training.
Important LinksTraining on Hazard Communication
When an employee’s noise exposure cannot be reduced to safe levels, then hearing protection must be worn. Employees may also request hearing protection to be worn proactively and voluntarily. There are several options for hearing protection available that include ear plugs, ear muffs, and hearing bands, which are also known as canal caps. Each should be carefully considered for the noise reduction they will provide, as well as for comfort and fit. EHS will assist departments with hearing protection selection to ensure that these variables are properly addressed.
Typical Hearing Protection Devices
- Pre-molded Ear Plugs - Come in different sizes and shapes to fit different sized ear canals. They have virtually no expansion or contraction, so obtaining a good seal with the ear canal may be challenging.
- Formable or Foam Ear Plugs - When placed in the ear correctly, this type of ear plug, will expand to fill the ear canal and seal against the walls. This expansion allows foam ear plugs to fit ear canals of different sizes.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to air quality in indoor office, classroom or laboratory environments, as opposed to industrial or outdoor settings. These areas have either natural ventilation from openable windows, or mechanical ventilation from a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Common causes of air quality complaints include mechanical ventilation failures, inadequate outdoor air supply, odors from indoor or outdoor sources, and mold.
Industrial environments, as well as some laboratories and classrooms, contain sources of air contaminants: chemical, particulate, aerosol, or fumes. These contaminants should be controlled by localized exhaust hoods (e.g., fume hoods), or sometimes by increased general dilution ventilation.
Hunter College employees, students and visitors should have a clean, healthy environment in which to work, study and perform various activities. If the air quality is poor it can affect a person’s comfort, health, and productivity. The purpose of the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) program is to provide and maintain healthy and comfortable environments free of contaminants. A key part of the program is responding to and resolving concerns of building occupants about problems in their work environment.
Air Quality Issues
EHS or Hunter's Office of Facilities Management and Planning will respond to and evaluate IAQ concerns. First, we determine if the issue is an emergency and, if so, take immediate action to protect the occupants.Learn How to Report IAQ Concerns
A job hazard analysis or JHA is a process for breaking down a task or process into its component steps and then evaluating each step for hazards. Each hazard is then corrected or a method of worker protection (safe practice or PPE) is identified. Additional requirements such as worker training, certification, authorization or additional supervision may also be identified.
While the analyses for some tasks are very detailed, for many tasks a thorough review of the operation or work plans by the affected people is usually sufficient. The final product of a JHA is a written document outlining the safe operation for a particular task or process.
Potential benefits of the job hazard analysis process include:
- Protection of employees
- Reduction of injuries
- Establishes performance standards
- Standardizes operations based on acceptable safe practices and personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Provides training documentation regarding a worker's knowledge of the job requirements
- Assists in compliance with regulatory requirements
Portable ladders are used at Hunter College come in a wide variety of settings, both academic and administrative. Misuse of portable ladders can result in serious injuries from falls or, in the case of metal ladders, electrical shock. Portable ladders must be maintained in good condition at all times, and inspected at regular, frequent intervals.
Stepladders (or A-frame ladders) are designed to be self-supporting. There are several important points when using stepladders:
- The spreaders must be fully extended and locked in place before climbing.
- The maximum working height of a stepladder may not be exceeded.
- Paint trays are not steps and should only be used for holding paint cans and trays.
- Unless designed for such use, the back of the ladder may not be used for climbing.
- Stepladders should never be leaned against a wall for use as a straight ladder.
Set up and placement of a ladder is important in safe use. Straight ladders should be positioned:
- So that the ladder is set to a 75 degree angle from the ground. There are several ways to approximate this angle:
- To measure this, the horizontal distance between the foot of the ladder and the support against which it is placed is equal to one-fourth the height of the ladder at the top point of support.
- So that both upper contact points rest firmly against the structure.
- So that the ladder extends at least three feet above the point of support.
- Users should make sure that both rung locking mechanisms are fully engaged.
Ladders come in a variety of types, duty ratings and composition materials. Selecting the right ladder for the task is extremely important.
There are several different ladder types. Selecting the proper type will depend on the task required.
|Ladder Type||Best Used For|
|Stepladders||Temporary tasks. Minimal storage space required.|
|Straight or extension ladders||Generally used for higher climbing heights. Extension ladders allow for a variation in height.|
|Platform ladders||Combination ladder/scaffold allows for both climbing structure and work surface.|
|Rolling staircases||More gradual climbing angle and stable work platform. Requires larger area for storage.|
Each ladder is rated with a specific duty rating. Remember that the capacity rating includes all personnel, tools and equipment.
|Ladder Type||Duty Rating||Load Capacity|
|Light Duty Household||Type III||200 lbs.|
|Medium Duty Commercial||Type II||225 lbs.|
|Heavy Duty Industrial||Type I||250 lbs.|
|Extra Heavy Duty Industrial||Type IA||300 lbs.|
|Special Duty Industrial||Type IAA||375 lbs.|
Ladders are typically made of wood, aluminum or fiberglass. Each material has characteristics which make it best for certain situations. Only wood or fiberglass ladders may be used for electrical work or where exposure to electrical equipment may occur.
Fixed ladders are subject to different standards and requirements than portable ladders. The following are just some of the requirements for fixed ladders.
Ladder safety devices, such as cages or climbing systems are required if the total length of climb on a fixed ladder equals or exceeds 24 feet in length. Fixed ladders must be able to support at least two loads of 250 lbs. each. Rungs must be shaped to minimize slipping.
For more information on the requirements for fixed ladders, see the OSHA Standard, 29 CFR 1910.27 Fixed Ladders.
There are a few climbing guidelines that help to prevent accidents when using a portable ladder.
- Wear shoes with nonskid soles that are free of mud or grease. Clean ladder rungs of mud, grease, or ice before climbing.
- Place ladders on stable bases. Boxes, barrels, or other unstable surfaces should never be used to obtain additional height.
- If necessary, have another person hold the base of the ladder. If no one is available, the ladder should be securely lashed or fastened top and bottom to prevent it from slipping.
- Overreaching can cause instability. A good rule of thumb is to not let one's belt buckle outside the uprights.
- Always face the ladder and maintain a 3-point contact when climbing or descending.
- Always check to ensure tools and equipment have been removed from the top of the ladder before moving it.
- Only one person should climb a ladder at a time.
- Inspect ladders on a regular basis.
Storage and Maintenance
Proper storage and maintenance of ladders is important for safety. Whenever possible, ladders should be hung horizontally on wall hooks in a dry place not subject to extremes of temperatures. Users can do minor maintenance, like lubricating hinges and tightening hardware. However, ladder repair is specialized work and should be completed by qualified persons or the manufacturer.
If conditions exist that make a ladder unsafe for use, it should be removed from service immediately and marked with a warning such as "Dangerous - Do Not Use". If a ladder cannot be repaired, it should be destroyed prior to disposal.Training on Ladder Safety
Lockout/tagout is the control of hazardous energy, such as electricity, high temperature water, steam, pneumatic pressure, mechanical pressure and other sources of stored energy. When service or maintenance work is required, lockout and tagout devices help ensure personal safety from possible energy releases.
All employees whose work involves hazardous energy sources must be trained in lockout/tagout procedures. Learn more about training.
Important LinksTraining on Lockout/Tagout
Moving machine parts must be safeguarded to protect operators from serious injury. Belts, gears, shafts, pulleys, flywheels, chains, and other moving parts must be guarded if there is a chance they could come in contact with an operator.
All operators are required to be trained in, and familiar with, the operation of machinery used in their respective job assignment(s) by their supervisor. EHS will begin conducting shop audits for machine guarding compliance and shop safety.
- OSHA Machine Guarding - Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injures the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled. This page contains general information on the various hazards of mechanical motion and techniques for protecting workers.
- OSHA’s Machine Guarding eTool - This eTool focuses on recognizing and controlling common amputation hazards associated with the operation and use of certain types of machines.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used in almost every work environment on campus. The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) offers a PPE training to help users learn about the different types of PPE, how to determine which PPE is right for your work tasks and how to select and care for your PPE.
Please contact EHS if you have any questions regarding the use or selection of PPE.
- CDC PPE Resources
- OSHA PPE Fact Sheet
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 Appendix D-Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required
Powered industrial trucks is a term that means any piece of equipment that is powered by electricity, battery or propane that is used to transport or haul material.
Mandatory training is provided when the employee is initially assigned to the vehicle or work area and again when an employee has been involved in an accident, has been careless, the conditions of the workplace changes or has been assigned to a different truck.
In addition, a Performance Driving Test Evaluation must be conducted once every three years by an experienced driver.Learn About Powered Industrial Trucks
Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to, modifying work schedules, granting breaks or providing leave, relocating the employee, reconfiguring work spaces or equipment, providing assistive technology or equipment, or reassigning the employee to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified.
Current employees seeking accommodations should contact the Office of Human Resources. Employees will be asked to complete an intake form and provide supporting documentation. The employee relations director and the employee will engage in an interactive process, which may involve a consideration of a number of factors, such as the employee’s limitations and the job requirements, essential duties, and office size and structure, with the goal of finding an acceptable accommodation.
If you should have any questions regarding reasonable accommodations, which would include questions regarding COVID-19 accommodations, please the Office of Human Resources.
You might need respiratory protection if inhalation hazards exist in your work environment. If you wear a respirator at Hunter College, you must use it according to the Hunter College Respiratory Protection Program designed to protect employees and students by establishing accepted practices for assessing respiratory hazards and selecting, using and caring for respirators.
Whenever engineering or administrative controls are not feasible or practical, or in emergency situations, you may need to use respirators and other personal respiratory protective equipment to protect employees and students from inhalation hazards.
The Respiratory Protection Program outlines the requirements and the University’s procedures for using respiratory protection in a safe and effective way that is compliant with applicable regulations.
If you are required to use a respirator, you must be trained and fit tested every 12 months.
- Medical clearance is required before you can wear a respirator. Wearing respirators can put additional stress on the heart and lungs, and may cause some to feel anxiety or claustrophobia.
- You fill out a simple, confidential questionnaire that will only be reviewed by a licensed health care provider.
- If you are not medically cleared, you are not authorized to work in an environment where respirators are required.
- Online training is available for some commonly used respirator types. In-person training is also offered for specific user groups as appropriate. Learn more about Training.