Risk Management & Safety

Please note that the information in archived safety tips may not reflect current policies. These are maintained primarily as a historical archive. For the latest policies, check other sections of the RMS website.

November 2009: Laser Pointers

Despite legislation prohibiting them, many high-powered laser pointers are being manufactured in other countries—primarily Russia and China—and sold on the internet. These laser pointers are overpowered, lack the appropriate warning labels and are unsafe when not used properly. Lasers greater than 5 milliwatts (mW) power are illegal to be used as laser pointers in the United States. The lasers from other countries typically range from 5mW to 500 mW or greater making them more hazardous than a Clas 3B laser.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the commerce of laser pointers in the U.S. All laser pointers must have certfication and identification labels clearly visible on the product. Information should state that the product complies with CFR 21, has the manufacturer's name and date of manufacture, the laser classification (2 or 3), the maximum output power (in m W), and a warning label similar to the one below:

Laser danger sign

It is prudent not to purchase or use unlabeled laser pointers.

Safety Considerations

The following safety considerations should be observed when using laser pointers:

  • Never look directly into the laser beam.
  • Never point a laser beam at a person.
  • Do not aim the laser at reflective surfaces.
  • Never view a laser pointer using an optical instrument, such as binocular or a microscope.
  • Do not allow children to use laser pointers unless under the supervision of an adult.
November 2009: FAA Penalty Against UNLV

You may think it won't happen! The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently assessed UNLV a civil penalty of $6,000 for improper shipping of hazardous materials. The assessment was paid by the College of Sciences.

You may also think that $6,000 is not a significant amount. However, during this economic crisis and huge budget cuts $6,000 is a lot of money to withdraw from a dwindling expense budget to pay a fine for something that could—and should—have been prevented.

For those employees that ship hazardous or infectious materials you are required to complete the appropriate training in the proper transportation of these substances. The training is offered by the Risk Management and Safety Department (RMS). RMS will also assist you in shipping the materials.

Individuals should also review Federal and State regulations to determine what other training is required to be completed in order to perform their duties and avoid civil penalties.

October 2009: Security

Recently, a faculty member and teaching assistant were in a computer lab when the two unauthorized individuals entered. The trespassers were immediately asked to leave, but refused refused to do so and threatened UNLV employes with pepper spray. UNLV Police Services was called to the scene. The responding officers asked the unauthorized individuals to leave peacefully. Again they refused and sprayed the officers with pepper spray. The trespassers were then placed under arrest and taken into custody.

This incident is a stark reminder that our campus is open to the community around us. Our buildings and rooms are vulnerable to intruders who can use UNLV computers unlawfully, steal UNLV or personal property, or commit other illegal activities.

Risk Management and Safety strongly encourages the campus community to keep doors and cabinets locked when appropriate. Do not bypass security measures by placing objects in doorways thus preventing doors from closing. Always wear your badges and please do not hesitate to contact UNLV Police Services if you discover unauthorized individuals in a facility.

In case of an emergency, contact UNLV Police Services via campus phone by dialing 911 or via cell 895-3668.

September 2009: Perchloric Acid Safety

Over the last few years there have been several incidents involving the use or storage of perchloric acid in laboratories, which have resulted in explosions, severe injuries and death in some cases. Many of these incidents occurred due to improper cleaning or rinsing of hoods after the use of perchloric acid. Other incidents were caused by the improper storage and use of the acid near organic material such as wood, organic solvents, or other compounds containing organic chemicals. In one accident, a maintenance worker was killed when he used a chisel on an area where perchlorates had formed from previous perchloric acid use.

The Department of Risk Management and Safety (RMS) has noticed a wide range of users and differing practices regarding the use or storage of perchloric acid. The biggest problem appears to be storage of perchloric acid with other chemicals. Storage of perchloric acid in locations not near an approved perchloric acid washdown hood is an indication that departments are using perchloric acid improperly and therefore are at risk.

For more information on Perchloric Acid safety, please visit the Laboratory Safety page and click the Perchloric Acid Safety link under "Documents".

August 2009: Material Safety Data Sheets

Risk Management and Safety (RMS) is proud to announce that Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are available for every chemical in the inventory!

An MSDS is a form containing detailed data regarding the properties of a particular chemical or substance. An MSDS includes information such as physical data, toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill handling procedures. The exact format of an MSDS can vary from manufacturer to manfacturer.

An MSDS is intended to provide employees with procedures for handling or working with that respective chemical in a safe manner.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that MSDSs be available to employees for potentially harmful substances handled in the workplace under the Hazard Communication regulation.

This information is available on the RMS website at rms.unlv.edu/msds. Off-campus users must first log into CHIMERA to access MSDS information.

July 2009: Heat stress and protection from the sun

The hot summer months in Las Vegas are upon us. Working outside in extreme hot weather could pose significant health hazards to employees. To protect yourself, you should know how to manage these hazards.

Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to cool itself in hot environments. Several factors lead to heat stress including physical exertion, physicals conditioning, insufficient water, etc. The following precautions should be taken to prevent the effects of heat stress:

  • Replace fluids. Drink small amounts of cool liquid frequently, e.g. one cup every 20 minutes. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Take frequent short breaks. Use air-conditioned rooms or shaded areas to allow the body to cool.
  • Clothing. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing that reflects heat.
  • Reschedule jobs. Delay physically exerting jobs for cooler parts of the day.

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts and skin cancer. The amount of damage depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure and type of protection used. Be especially careful in the sun if you burn easily, spend a lot of time outdoors and have fair skin or blond, red or light brown hair. Observe the following precautions:

  • Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing that blocks out light.
  • Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays.
  • Wear a hat. A wide brim hat (not basebal cap) is ideal because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
  • Wear UV-absorbent sunglasses. Even inexpensive sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 am and 4 pm.
June 2009: Fire On Campus—Caused by Spontaneous Combustion

Risk Management and Safety (RMS) would like to thank Star Wharton, William Halley and Hector Figueroa of the Student Recreational and Wellness Center (RWC) for their quick response to a recent fire on campus.

On Thursday; June 4, 2009, UNLV Police Services was dispatched to the southwest comer of the RWC. Upon their arrival they met with Ms. Wharton who informed police that she noticed a fire in the dumpster when coming back from a break. A co-worker called 9-1-1 and Ms. Wharton, Mr. Halley and Mr. Figueroa put water on the flames until the fire was out. They then moved the dumpster away from the building.

When Oark County Fire Department #18 arrived on the scene, they added more water to the smoldering fire. There was no damage to anything but the dumpster.

An investigation revealed that the dumpster contained plastic bags filled with wood dust from sanding during the refinishing project of the basketball courts on the third floor. Along with the wood dust, used towels dipped in paint thinner were found. Spontaneous combustion appears to be the cause of the fire.

Representatives of the RWC and the refinishing contractor met to discuss the proper disposal of chemical waste generated on the job.

RMS would like to remind everyone on campus to please follow proper safety policies and procedures so as to avoid risk and potential bodily injury; death and/or property damage.

May 2009: Safety Concern & Near-Miss Report Form

Risk Management and Safety (RMS) has developed an online form to report Safety Concerns and Near-Misses on campus.

The purpose of the "Safety Concern" form is to provide a means for the UNLV campus community to report safety issues which need to be addressed. Examples of safety concerns may inlcude, but are not limited to:

  • Blocked fire exits
  • Odor complaints
  • Unsafe cart operation

All safety concerns will be responded to as soon as possible.

The purpose of the "Near-Miss" form is to allow UNLV employees to identify situations where an accident that could have resulted in bodily injury or property damage was averted. Examples of near misses include, but are not limited to:

  • Someone trips but retains balance to forestall falling
  • An employee was almost injured by a cart or other vehicle
  • A load falls from a forklift and does not hit anyone

These situations provide an excellent opportunity for RMS to evaluate and offer recommendations (such as better work practices, training, engineering controls, etc.) to prevent reoccurrences.

April 2009: Eyewash & Shower Safety

Recently, RMS recieved a report of an incident in which a graduate assistant sustained minor burns to her face due to acid. When the graduate assistant attempted to wash the acid via the eyewash station, it was discovered that the water line valve to the eyewash station was turned off. The individual had to go to another laboratory eyewash station, thus delaying first aid flushing of the face and eyes.

It is extremely important that both the eyewash and shower unit's water valves are turned on and are operable.

Eyewash and shower units must:

  • Not to be used for any other purpose
  • Be operational with both hands free
  • Be located in a well lit area, marked with a highly visible sign and within 10 seconds or less from any area in the labs
  • Be unobstructed.
This document was last modified on August 30, 2019.