Research Sparks New Emphasis on Laboratory Safety

Posted: October 18, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Scientific research at Mason has increased significantly in recent years and is expected to continue to grow as Mason presses forward with its goal of becoming a leading research institution. The recent award of a $25 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for construction of a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at the Prince William Campus is one example of the giant leaps forward Mason is making in research.

Coinciding with this expansion is an increased need for laboratory safety resources. The Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) plays a critical support role for scientific research, providing regulatory guidance and assistance to laboratory investigators.

“We are recruiting faculty with international reputations, and we already have faculty working here who have worked in national laboratories. We are on the verge of entering the big leagues,” says Matt Kluger, vice president for research. “Now we have to view safety in a different way.”

Created in 2002, OLS has grown by more than 50 percent in staff in the last three years. In 2004, a chemical hygiene officer, radiation safety officer and biosafety officer were hired. This increase in staff has allowed OLS to enhance many of the services it provides and to establish new programs.

OLS currently serves more than 200 laboratories at the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses, providing training, signage, waste handling services, lab coat laundering services, assistance with laboratory cleanouts, safety equipment evaluations and guidance for regulatory compliance.

A major role of OLS is to ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations regarding laboratory safety. OLS has been working diligently to establish policies and procedures for Mason research and instructional laboratories that ensure regulatory compliance without hindering the research endeavor.

“It is important for everyone to understand that we are a service-oriented department committed to facilitating laboratory instruction and research,” says Julie Zobel, director of OLS. “By streamlining regulatory compliance, we hope to make life easier for faculty.”

Zobel is pleased with the progress her department has made in the past year. “OLS has made significant improvements in laboratory safety that allow us to better serve the Mason community,” says Zobel. “This is an exciting time for us, as we continue to expand our services and implement programs that enhance the operation of research and instructional laboratories.”

OLS is currently developing new procedural manuals for laboratory safety, chemical hygiene, biosafety and radiation safety that will clearly outline regulatory requirements, safety guidelines for laboratory operations and emergency response procedures for all Mason laboratories. These documents, along with other services, will be available in the coming months.

For more information on OLS and the services it provides, visit the web site.

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