CfA Safety: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I'm a supervisor. What safety training do my people need?

A: Everyone gets basic safety training, including Hazard Communication ("Right to Know") training when they go through HR orientation. In addition, anyone who works with chemicals needs Lab Safety training. You can arrange for this training by calling or emailing the Safety Office (5-7478;

Q: I've been spending a lot of time at my computer and my hand (or wrist, or shoulder, or back) hurts. What should I do?

A: First, tell your primary care physician. This could be the start of carpal tunnel or other debilitating conditions associated with repetitive stress. The sooner you get medical help, the better. Second, often this indicates that your workstation is not set up as well as it could ergonomically. Call the Safety Office (5-7478; and we can arrange for a workplace evaluation. An industrial hygienist from Harvard's Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) will come by and make recommendations which can be acted upon by you and/or your supervisor. Incidentally, if you are not experiencing pain, you can take the on-line Computer Workstation training.

Q: I've tried to take online training available through EH&S, but it asks for a Harvard ID and PIN. What do I do?

A: Your SI ID will work in the Harvard system. You can get a Harvard PIN by clicking where it says "New user/forgot your PIN?/password" and entering the requested information. PLEASE NOTE: to protect your privacy, your birthday should be entered using the year 1900.

Q: How do I report an unsafe condition at the CfA?

A: Just call or email the Safety Office Office (5-7478; or fill out a reporting form and send it to the safety Office (MS 17).

Q: As a supervisor, how often am I required to fill out a Hazard Assessment form for my area(s)?

A: Supervisors are required to fill out Hazard Assessment forms annually. You should fill one out when you start as supervisor and every year after that you will receive an email from the Safety Office prompting you to reassess your area(s) and send a copy to the Safety Office. Forms are available from the Safety Office upon request.

Q: Am I required to keep hard copies of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in my lab?

A: Not if you and everyone in your lab can access the Harvard MSDS site AND if all the chemicals in your lab are listed at the site. Hard copies of any chemicals NOTon the site must be kept in a binder in the lab.

Q: Who needs safety shoes?

A: Anyone whose work puts them at risk of foot injury at least 10% of their work day. Contact the Safety Office ( for information about how to purchase safety shoes.

Q: Does the CfA have a policy about working alone?

A: Yes. No one who is performing hazardous operations may work alone.This includes persons working with machines in the machine shops and those working with hazardous substances in the labs. Supervisors should assess the hazards in their areas and determine which, if any, operations performed by their personnel should not be performed alone and notify their people of this fact. Prohibitions against working alone should be written into standard operating procedures where applicable. Supervisors are encouraged to call the Safety Office if they have questions.

Q: What can I do to improve the indoor air quality in my office?

A: First, keep your windows closed. This may seem counter intuitive, but filters in the air intakes remove particulates. Open windows, on the other hand, serve as pathways for outdoor allergens and other pollutants in the outside air. Also, the temperature control system in the building is not designed to provide adequate heating or cooling when the windows are open.

Second, if at all possible, arrange your furniture so that it does not block air vents in your room. Proper air circulation in the room depends on unobstructed vents.

Finally, keep horizontal surfaces in your work area clean and avoid clutter that makes cleaning difficult.


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