Medical students work in the gross anatomy lab at the Anschutz Medical Campus

By Chris Casey | University Communications

AURORA, Colo. – The main goal of the Environmental Health & Safety Department is to ensure safe and uninterrupted work environments for all university research and academics. Toward that goal, the department has launched several initiatives this year, including an online chemical inventory system and a lab training program for undergraduate students.

EHS provides training to ensure research safety and health in the workplace. Areas of training include Biological Safety, Chemical Waste Management, Radiation Safety Training, Respiratory Protection Training, Skillport (the university training delivery system) and additional areas. Lab Safety is a new training for incoming lab personnel and different from the lab training program for undergraduate students.

The department also facilitates compliance with applicable federal, state, city and funding agency regulations and requirements. The EHS compliance team conducts annual inspections for each lab at CU Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus. EHS staff works to ensure that non-compliance issues are corrected and to maintain a safe lab environment.

The compliance audits can catch such issues before something becomes a problem. “A regulatory entity can not only fine the institution, but it can ask us to stop specific activities that can halt research operations altogether or result in increases to support funds paid from everyone’s research funds,” said Christina Aguilera, MPH, CHMM, manager of environmental compliance and industrial hygiene for EHS.

Added Alison Welch, MS, environmental health specialist: “We try and approach compliance from more of an outreach and resource perspective.”

Recent initiatives in EHS:

  • Establishment of an Online Chemical Inventory Program. The program requires that all laboratories complete and maintain a chemical inventory for all of their laboratory chemicals using the EHS online chemical inventory system at
    Aguilera said EHS has hired a student aide to help laboratories with their inventory work. The student is available for a limited time on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The EHS has launched a lab safety guidelines and training program to prepare undergraduate students for research settings. A staff member on the CU Denver campus provides in-person training sessions. “So by the time students come to the Anschutz Medical Campus, they’re ready to go and get started because they’ve completed those trainings and know what the major laboratory safety issues are,” Welch said.
  • Also new is the EHS Facebook page, which features articles, environmental compliance notices, reminders and services information. Anyone who “likes” the EHS page will be entered to win a prize.

Aguilera reminds researchers that EHS also has a reverse-distributor permit, allowing it to collect pharmaceutical waste. “We’ll take back any pharmaceutical material, including your controlled substances,” she said. “This is all at no charge to the researcher.”

Aguilera also points out that formaldehyde is newly listed as a human carcinogen. As such, EHS monitors who may be exposed to formaldehyde, and the department’s industrial hygiene staff will visit labs to conduct air sampling to ensure that no one is exposed to formaldehyde at dangerous levels. If you have questions about potential exposures, call EHS at 303-724-0345.

The department will provide respirators where respiratory protection is necessary. Recently, EHS and Facilities Management worked on renovations to ensure that the ventilation systems were vastly improved in the gross anatomy labs at the Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Denver.

For any peculiar occurrence on campus — such as a strange odors or foaming drain — the EHS department should be contacted, Aguilera said. “We’re kind of like the CSI of the campus, when it comes to finding the source of unusual or safety related concerns.”

For more information, please contact EHS at 303-724-0345.

(Photo: Students work in the gross anatomy lab at the Anschutz Medical Campus. The lab has a newly renovated ventilation system.)


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