Science Safety Handbook


I. Introduction


1. Priorities


1.1 Health and safety are paramount values in science classrooms, laboratories, field activities, and preparation rooms at Austin Community College (ACC). The Dean of Mathematics and Sciences, science Department Chairs, Science Safety Coordinators (SSCs), science faculty, Science Laboratory Coordinators, and Science Laboratory Assistants all have the responsibility to ensure that classrooms, laboratories, field activities, and preparation rooms are safe environments for work and instruction. These individuals must also ensure that hourly employees, work-study students, and students enrolled in science courses understand and comply with environmental, health and safety (EHS) procedures and protocols.


2. Background


2.1. Most science employees at ACC were educated in schools and colleges that adhered to less restrictive EHS procedures and protocols for laboratories, classrooms, and field activities than are required today by governmental agencies, insurance companies, and court decisions. Academic institutions have generally lagged behind the private sector and government agencies in complying with EHS requirements and in ensuring that their employees and students are protected from EHS hazards. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn’t try to get colleges and universities to comply with environmental regulations until 1999.


2.2. The need for improved EHS procedures and protocols is especially acute in science laboratories, classrooms, preparation rooms, and field activities where students and employees come in contact with hazardous materials, hazardous equipment, and natural hazards. Because of this, the Mathematics and Sciences Division is taking the lead in improving EHS procedures and protocols at ACC. 


 3. The Science Safety Committee


3.1. In January 2002, the Dean of Mathematics and Sciences established a Science Safety Committee to help employees and students comply with complex EHS requirements and to improve our working and learning environment.


This committee:

a. Provides input into college-wide EHS policies and rules. Through this committee,

science faculty and staff work with the ACC EHS & Insurance Office to establish effective and practical EHS policies and rules.

b. Establishes uniform EHS standards for science students, staff, faculty, facilities, and activities that apply to all ACC campuses.

c. Establishes uniform EHS procedures and protocols for laboratory exercises and field activities within each science course, within each academic discipline, and, where possible, among multiple scientific disciplines.

d. Provides a forum for faculty, staff, administrators, and students to discuss and resolve concerns about EHS policies, protocols, and procedures.

e. Ensures that the Division of Mathematics and Sciences complies with EHS laws, rules, regulations, and policies.


 4. EHS Regulations and Penalties


4.1. Federal, state, and local governmental agencies have established numerous rules and regulations to implement EHS laws. The Texas Department of Health (TDH), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and the local fire department administer most of these regulations.  Failure to comply with these rules and regulations can result in individual fines and incarceration in addition to institutional fines (Table 1.1). The EHS rules and regulations that apply to ACC are derived from a variety of sources (Fig. 1.1).  This handbook is designed to help science faculty, staff, administrators, and students comply with these regulations and avoid penalties.


 5. EHS as Part of the Curriculum


5.1. Modeling correct EHS procedures and protocols is an important part of the science curriculum.  Most ACC student, regardless of their major, will encounter EHS requirements in the workplace. At home, ACC students and employees can use their knowledge of EHS procedures and protocols to protect their own health and safety as well as that of their friends and family. Likewise, by using proper EHS procedures and protocols, ACC students and employees can help protect the natural environment of Central Texas.


6. EHS Requirements at ACC


6.1. Parts II and III of this handbook indicate that everyone at ACC has EHS duties and responsibilities (Fig. 1.2). The education and participation of science faculty and laboratory assistants are especially important for the College's EHS programs. Checklists in this handbook that are printed on colored paper, and annual professional development training are primary sources of EHS information for faculty and staff. SSCs and the EHS & Insurance Office are also available to answer questions by ACC employees and students.


7. Scope of the Science Safety Handbook


7.1. The first two parts of this handbook contain an overview of EHS at ACC and a listing of EHS responsibilities. Specific plans for emergencies, hazard communication, hazardous material spills, waste disposal, biohazards, chemistry/ biology laboratory hygiene, physics, astronomy, and engineering laboratory exercises/demonstrations, and field activities are contained in Part III.  Part IV of the handbook has checklists to help faculty and staff comply with the myriad of EHS requirements. Finally, the remainder of the handbook describes general rules for students and requirements for EHS training and facilities.


7.2. This handbook is a dynamic document whose contents will change as EHS procedures and protocols are refined and as regulatory requirements evolve. The Science Safety Committee encourages employees and students to make suggestions to improve EHS procedures and protocols found in this document.


Table 1.1 Examples of Why EHS Compliance is Necessary at ACC


EHS Program

Summary of the Rule

Responsible Parties

Penalties for


Hazardous Communications

Public employers must provide information to employees about any hazardous chemicals that they may be exposed to in the workplace


The College, staff, and faculty



ACC can be cited with a civil penalty up to $2,000 per day per violation, with a total not to exceed $20,000. ACC can also be cited with a criminal penalty of $10,000 per day per violation, with a total not to exceed $100,000


Hazardous Communications

Public employers must make information regarding hazardous chemicals accessible to fire departments, local emergency planning committees, and, through the TDH, to the general public

The College and its

administrative staff

ACC can be cited with administrative penalty of $50 per day per violation, not to exceed $1,000. ACC can also be cited with a criminal penalty with a fine of up to $25,000

Hazardous Waste

Any business or academic laboratory generating waste must comply with EPA and TCEQ hazardous waste regulations.

Any person who generates hazardous waste is liable and is responsible for assuring compliance with these   regulations

There may be civil, criminal, or administrative penalties that range from fines of up to $25,000 per day to individual prison terms of up to 15-years. These penalties can be cited against any employee or trustee of ACC who knowingly violates these regulations.



Figure 1.1 Primary Sources of ACC Science EHS Requirements