OESO Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I am injured or become ill at work?   

If the injury or illness is serious, go to the ED for medical care.  Employees should tell their supervisor as soon as possible.  All injuries should be reported within 24 hours using the on-line reporting system on the HR website – there is a link to this page on our "Take Me Too..." Menu.

Employees should go to Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW - in Duke South) for medical care for most injuries/illnesses and for follow-up care if they went to the ED.  Supervisors will need to fill out a supervisor’s report of injury/illness. The supervisor should get an email with a link directing them to the appropriate page; if not, they can get to it through the same link the employee uses. 

Where can I be fit-tested?

If you are wearing the mask for protection against TB and other airborne pathogens, view our Upcoming Fit Test Sessions page or Call 684-5996.

How can I be medically cleared to wear a respirator? 

If you work in the pharmacy, ED or for Duke Police, or if you are wearing a respirator for protection against airborne pathogens (TB, SARS, etc), you can download the medical clearance form on-line by clicking on the “Respirator Medical Clearance” link under your required training (the link will be under “Employee Health Activity”, listed below the training).  

Other employees should contact Occupational Hygiene and Safety (OHS) to get a medical clearance form tailored to their work area (684-5996).

The on-line training website says I need to take respiratory protection training, but I don’t wear a respirator. 

If the required respirator training mentions “Airborne Pathogens” in the title, the person should talk to OESO Biological Safety (684-8822) about whether or not respirators are required.

If the required training does not mention “Airborne Pathogens” in the title, the person should talk to Occupational Hygiene and Safety (684-5996) about the requirement for respiratory protection.

How do I get rid of my lab’s chemical waste?   

OESO's Environmental Programs (EP) provides chemical waste pick-up/disposal service for all labs on the Duke University/Medical Center Campus.  The lab must first register online using the Waste Pickup Request System.  After registration, they will be provided with the necessary labels and forms to request a waste pick-up.  Chemical wastes are collected Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Our lab is planning to generate radioactive waste; how do we dispose of it?  

OESO’s Environmental Programs (EP) provides a radioactive waste pick-up/disposal service for all labs on the Duke University/Medical Center Campus.  The lab must first register online using the Waste Pickup Request System.  Upon registration, they will be provided with the necessary labels, forms and containers for collection of the radioactive waste.  Radioactive wastes are collected Monday through Friday from 8am - 5pm.

Where can I get chemical/radioactive waste labels?

You can order them through the Waste Pickup Request System.  We will mail them to your lab.

I have mercury thermometers in my lab; how do I dispose of them?

Label them as a Waste Mercury Thermometer, date, and submit them as chemical waste.  If you want to exchange them, click here.

What is the new Laboratory Chemical Waste Management Practice, and where can I get a copy?

This Practice defines procedures for generators of chemical wastes, including container labeling and marking, container management and proper laboratory storage procedures.  Specific roles and responsibilities for Principal Investigators (PIs), Laboratory Waste Managers, and OESO personnel are also defined.  A copy of the practice can be found on the Environmental Programs website.

How do I recycle batteries?

To find out more information, click here.

How do I dispose of regulated biological waste?

Biological waste (human blood, bacterial and viral cultures, sharps) must be managed appropriately to ensure proper protection of personnel and environmentally sound disposal.  Waste generated in patient care areas is placed in biohazard containers and collected by Environmental Services' Biomedical Waste Division and ultimately incinerated.  To request a pickup, call 681-2727.  Research lab waste may be decontaminated by autoclaving according to procedures outlined in the Lab Safety Manual, section 1.

How do I properly ship biological materials?

All individuals involved in the process of shipping a biological material through a commercial service (e.g., FedEx) must be trained at least every two years.  "Shipping Biological Materials" is an on-line training offered through the OESO web site.  Click for the training supplement guide

We’re a new lab – what do we need to do?

Communicate with OESO as soon as possible (prior to arrival if possible) to ensure regulatory compliance. Once notification is received, an OESO representative will contact the Principal Investigator to schedule an on-site visit to discuss all applicable safety policies and procedures.

My lab is closing (or relocating) – how do I properly shut down my lab?

Assure proper transfer and/or disposal of hazardous materials during a laboratory closeout. These closeout procedures apply both to researchers permanently closing out their labs and those that are closing out their current lab space to relocate to a different location on the Duke campus.  More information on lab closeouts/relocation can be found here.

What is a BioSafety level?

A biosafety level is an assigned containment, which involves a combination of lab practices and techniques, safety equipment and laboratory facilities.

I was told that my work must be conducted at a BioSafety Level-2 (BSL-2).  What do I have to do?

Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) containment is typically assigned for work involving agents that pose moderate hazards to personnel and the environment.  Such agents may be spread via percutaneous injury, ingestion and/or mucous membrane contact.

In Duke Labs, work at BSL2 requires the following:

  • Laboratory personnel have specific training in handling pathogenic agents and are supervised by scientists competent in handling infectious agents and associated procedures. To assist with the documentation of agent-specific training, The Biological Safety Division has created a BSL2 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Template. The online training module “Biosafety Level 2 Training” is required (this is found on the on-line training section of OESO’s site). If working with human blood and body fluids, the online training module “Bloodborne Pathogens Training” is required and the employee(s) must be offered the Hepatitis B Vaccine through Employee Health (684-3136).
  • Access to the laboratory is restricted when work is being conducted.
  • All procedures in which infectious aerosols or splashes may be created are conducted in BSCs or other physical containment equipment.

For more information regarding work at BSL 2 visit Section IV of the 5th edition of Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.

I just found out that a patient I have been caring for might have tuberculosis (TB) – what should I do?

Notify OESO Biological Safety (684-8822) or Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW - 684-3136).  Your name will be added to those who will be provided with follow-up as to whether the patient ruled in or out for TB.  If the patient ruled in, EOHW will offer you the appropriate follow-up care.

My unit/clinic does not have an isolation room – how do we handle a known or suspected TB patient?

Place a surgical mask on the patient as soon as TB is suspected.  Isolate the patient in an enclosed room with the surgical mask on, until the patient can be relocated to an isolation room.  The patient will wear a surgical mask during transport.  If relocation will be delayed, order a PAPR (a respirator that does not require fit-testing) and a portable HEPA from Equipment Distribution (681-2727).  Order the disposable PAPR hoods from Material Services through SAP.  Contact OESO Biological Safety (684-8822) with questions.

What are safer sharps devices, and do we always have to use them?

Safer sharps devices are those needles and sharps used on patients or in laboratories that work with human blood or body fluids and tissues to help reduce the incidence of needlesticks or sharps exposures.  They are engineered to provide a safer means of use by providing either a sheathing or push-button mechanism to cover a used sharp.  OSHA requires that safer sharps devices be evaluated and used wherever work with human material occurs.  Sometimes, however, they cannot be used for specific procedures for clinical reasons (ex. the needle size is inappropriate and the correct needle size does not come in a safety version).  These situations must be reported to the Biological Safety Office (684-8822) to be recorded in the Duke University Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Program. 

How do I request an ergonomic evaluation?

Visit the Duke Ergonomics Division website to complete the necessary steps for submitting an online request.

Ergonomic services are also available for accommodating employees with disabilities, returning previously injured employees to work, evaluations for multiple employees and laboratory evaluations.

Who pays for any of the recommended items?

While there are no charges for the services, it is the responsibility of the employee's department to purchase any recommended items.

What ergonomic services are provided for employees who are returning to work (with work-related or non-work-related injuries)? 

Recommendations which will assist employees with accommodations to allow them to work safely and productively, and avoid re-injury if the injury was work-related.

How do I check on the status of my IACUC protocol?

Call the OESO main office at 684-2794. 

Why do I have to take safety training?

Training requirements are set based on federal, state and Duke regulations and recommendations (i.e., OSHA, EPA, NRC, Joint Commission, CMS, Durham Fire Marshal).

How is my required training determined?  

Assigned exposures are based on your job responsibilities and potential exposures.

Is all safety training available on-line?

Most all safety training is available on-line.  If a training course is not available on-line and it is listed under your required training, you will see a number to call to set up the “live” training session.  Most of the training not offered on-line is the training that is required to be “hands-on”, such as fire extinguisher training, respiratory protection and forklift operator training, and there are also items listed under your required training that are activities rather than training, i.e.  PPD skin testing, respirator medical clearance.

How am I notified when my training is about to expire?

Email notifications, from Safety@mc.duke.edu, go out 30 days and 7 days in advance of a training due date, and 1 day after the training due date has passed (if the training has not already been completed).  After that, an email notification goes out once/month, on the first of the month, until the training has been completed.

How do I get a record of the training I’ve taken?

You can print out your “Training History”, which is a link on the left-hand side of the page once you’ve logged into the OESO training site.

How do I log into the on-line training?

Go to the OESO home page.  From this page, click on the “On-line Training” link at the left.  You will be prompted to enter your Duke NetID and password in order to log in (if you don’t know your Duke NetID and/or password, you can call 684-2200 (OIT Help Desk) or 684-2243 (DHTS Help Desk)).  

A welcome page will come up, with your name and your assigned training.  For all of the training that is available on-line (it will be noted as “available online”), you can click on the course link to access this course.  When you go through the course and pass the quiz at the end, your training record will automatically be updated.  If you want, you can print the “Congratulations! You passed the quiz for….” page to keep this documentation in your file.  This is the case for any course you complete, even if the course is not a requirement for you (you can see the entire list of courses which are available by clicking the “Courses Available On-line” link).

The date next to each course listed under your "Required Training" is the date the training is due.

How can I check someone else’s training records?

 Once you have logged in, to the top left of your training requirement screen is a link – “Check Employee Training”.  When you click on this link, you will be prompted to enter an employee’s Duke Unique ID (this can be found on the back of an employee’s ID badge).  Doing so will bring up the required training and due dates for the employee. From here, you can also check the employee’s training history by clicking on the “Training History” link to the left. 

How do I RUN a training report?

The instructions are posted on-line.

How do I READ a training report?

The instructions are posted on-line. 

What is an EAP?

Emergency Assembly Point - a department's meeting place outside of the building if they are required to evacuate.

How much clearance is required in front of electrical panels?

The clearance needs to be 36" wide, 36" deep, and 78" high; this needs to be clear working space.

Can I park in the fire lane for just a minute?

No – you cannot leave a vehicle unattended for any period of time in the fire lane.

Can I bring my old space heater from home to use in my work area?

No - Maintenance needs to evaluate the situation.  If the heat cannot be supplied within the appropriate range, Maintenance will supply an approved heater. 

Can I bring in my old toaster oven from home to use in my work area?


Can I use an extension cord?

No.  Extension cords are only intended to provide temporary power, and may not be used as a substitute for installing a receptacle where it is needed. 

What should I do if I’m pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and work with radioactive materials?

Pregnant radiation workers may voluntarily notify Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW) of their condition.  EOHW will arrange for a confidential consultation with Radiation Safety staff to discuss specific precautions and concerns.

What should I do if there is a spill of radioactive material in my lab?

  • Seek immediate medical attention for anyone injured.  Contact Radiation Safety (RS) immediately if anyone got radioactive materials on themselves. 684-2194.
  • For large spills, cordon off the area, alert others in the lab, and contact Radiation Safety for assistance.
  • For minor spills, cleanup spill using standard radioactive material handling techniques. 

What is the annual whole body dose limit? The limit for skin and extremities?  And the limit for a fetus?

  1. 5 rem/yr to the whole body
  2. 50 rem/yr to the skin or extremities
  3. 0.5 rem/9 month gestation period for the fetus of a declared pregnant individual.

What requirements must I meet to be issued a dosimetry badge?

What if I request a badge but do not meet this requirement? A person must be issued a dosimeter if they are likely to receive any dose in excess of 10% of the applicable limit.  When someone requests a badge, even if unlikely to reach this limit, it is usually prudent to provide for monitoring in some capacity to objectively demonstrate to the person the actual doses being delivered. 

How do I get a dosimetry badge?

Dosimetry badges are ordered from Radiation Safety either by using an on-line form on the OESO-Radiation Safety web site or by calling the Radiation Safety Office (684-2194).

How do I get radioactive material from my lab to a colleague at a different university or institution?

Complete the “Radioactive Material Shipment Request” form on the OESO-Radiation Safety web site and fax it to the number on the form.  Radiation Safety staff will quickly contact you to assist in preparing the shipment in compliance with the applicable regulations.  Do not attempt to ship the material yourself - strict US and international regulations govern the shipment and transport of radioactive material, and specific radioactive material licensing regulations may also apply.

What is the predominant radiation emission type from the radionuclides used at Duke?

In biomedical research labs, it’s mostly beta with some gamma.  In the hospital, it’s mostly gamma emitting nuclides with some beta.

How do I detect H-3 (tritium)?

Because the beta emitted by H-3 is so weak, contamination must be monitored by liquid scintillation counting of wipe test samples rather than using a portable GM survey instrument.

How do I find more answers to radiation FAQ’s?

Go the OESO Radiation Safety FAQ page