A broad spectrum of research at Harvard is conducted with materials that, if misused, may cause serious health and environmental consequences. Each researcher using these materials is required to be educated about proper laboratory safety. Critical areas requiring best practices include biosafety, hazardous waste, lasers, “controlled substances,” radiation, flammable materials, laboratory equipment, and emergency response.
Life-scientists should be aware that their work may be subject to export-control restrictions if it involves:
The Vice Provost for Research (VPR) oversees Harvard's compliance with U.S. export-control laws and regulations. Any questions regarding compliance or Harvard's policy and procedures should be directed to email@example.com.Back to Top
Federal and state agencies have regulatory oversight of various aspects of laboratory safety, both in academic institutions and the private sector. Most notably, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Drug Enforcement Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, and the Massachusetts Radiation Control Program all require Harvard to adhere to specific safeguards in the laboratory environment.
The most common concern about laboratory safety is the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created a Laboratory Standards website that provides an overview of the minimum safety requirements for hazardous chemicals.
Select Agents and Dual-Use Research
The Centers for Disease Control administer the Select Agent Program, which regulates the laboratories that may possess, use, or transfer select agents within the United States.
The U.S. Government established the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) in 2003 to advise how to oversee the generation and communication of new life-science technologies with the potential for malevolent use. The NSABB issued a 2007 report detailing a Proposed Framework for the Oversight of Dual Use Life Science Research. The report proposes a criterion for identifying dual-use research of concern ("research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied by others to pose a threat to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or material") and recommends strategies for the responsible generation and communication of such research. The development and implementation of the Framework is ongoing.
Investigators should be aware of the potential for malevolent misuse of their research findings and should contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.Back to Top
Harvard University's Environmental Health and Safety Department (EH&S) is responsible for ensuring University compliance with the laws and policies that apply to Harvard’s overall physical environment, including laboratory safety. The EH&S website provides a comprehensive overview of laboratory safety topics, including safety plans and manuals for the following topics:
There are various University committees that have oversight of laboratory research:
Schools may have local committees and policies that govern the research.Back to Top