I had the opportunity to address the use of elevators for chemical transport while I served as CHO at Cal Poly SLO. We had (I had) a specific attitude about elevators and chemicals that simply stated is: nobody rides on an elevator with the chemicals. It was written in the training document we used for new employees to EH&S (most often Student Assistants). This writing laid out our practices concerning elevators and chemicals. Is this "policy"; within EH&S I like to think so. In those days EH&S didn't "make policy" for campus departments and perhaps still doesn't. Deans and Department Heads did that, but this is a different conversation.
My every-day use of this elevator protocol involved the removal of Hazardous Waste (HW) from buildings on campus, some of which were 2 to 4 stories. At the time the Chemistry department was in an older 1-story building, so life was simple there. Now Chemistry/Biochemistry is in a new 5-story building. I'm not sure what EH&S or the Chemistry department does about elevators now. I think the new building has a freight elevator - one that requires a key to access.
I recall reading one of those worst possible case histories involving two people moving bottles of 98% sulfuric acid (perhaps other things too) between floors using a public elevator in a research building. The details are long ago lost to me, but the punch line is that somehow one or more of the sulfuric acid bottle were broken while in the elevator, contacting both occupants. Both had to stand around in the descending elevator waiting for the doors to open. Both gained access to emergency showers after leaving the elevator. One victim showered for about 1 minute then ran on the get himself to the hospital. The other victim stayed in the shower for 15 minutes before proceeding on to further medical treatment. The 15 minute guy survived; one-minute man didn't. This anecdote was originally intended to emphasize the importance of the 15 minute rule for emergency showers, but I was impressed by the role played by the elevator trap. I had images of screaming victims stuck in a penalty box before being allowed to proceed to the first step of rescue. This one always stuck with me, hence: nobody rides on an elevator with the chemicals.
In practical terms, whenever I had a HW pickup scheduled, I always used two people for the task - multiple floors or not. In the case of elevators (most were "public" - push the button and wait) we would leap frog floors down to the ground floor for loading into our vehicle. We assembled our own Lab Packs or used DOT compliant containers to insure that no spills or leaks would complicate our on-campus transport. The couple of serious leakers I recall managed only to mess up the overpack container and not affect the vehicle. -- For example, Biology has a stockroom on the 3rd floor. We would roll a cart of lab packs into the elevator on 3. One of us would hustle down the stairs to 2 and call the 3-guy (we had 2-way radios at the time) to send the load (push the 2 button and step out of the elevator). 3-guy would then run down 2 flights of stairs to 1 and call the 2-guy to send the load (push 1 and step out of the elevator). At each intervening floor one of us was there to hold up any public traffic.
I think transport of any chemical collection of 2 bottles or more needs to be in a container. A medium 1-bottle load (or 2 very small bottles) can be carried in one hand, leaving the other hand to manipulate doors and stair railings. A bunch of bottles in a 5- gallon bucket still leaves one hand free. Other sizes and types of buckets will do as is convenient and available, but the "5-gallon bucket" is ubiquitous. But I digress.
I have qualms about a person riding in an elevator with a large dewar of liquid nitrogen he is moving. An elevator malfunction would be slowly fatal - same with dry ice. If the dewar were of a design that could be dropped or spilled, a functioning elevator could be life threatening.
I just don't like the thought of being stuck in a box with something that could kill me ONLY IF AND BECAUSE I can't get out of the penalty box before time is up. I never saw the movie "Snakes on a Plane", but that title alone gives me the same adrenaline spike as does the thought of sitting on a case of glacial acetic acid in an elevator.
At the time of the design of the new science building we actually proposed the inclusion of a dumb waiter(s) between specific rooms/floors for chemical movement. I believe the architects eventually settled on a key-access freight elevator. At least in that case, trained employees are the only ones involved in chemical transport and any elevator protocols about riding or not riding with the chemicals.
Thanks for listening
Have run into this a number of times in buildings without service elevators. In some instances, relegated transfer of any materials of potential concern, such as chemicals, higher risk biological and research animals to use of only one of the "public use" elevators, prominently marked for such transport use. This allowed other "public" passengers to avoid the use of that elevator if they had concerns. However, this also was accompanied by requirements on safely preparing such materials for transit from A to B, depending on the potential risks. In some instances, stockroom would not provide chemicals to individuals unless the individual provided proper carry case for larger size containers, etc.
From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU]
On Behalf Of Jeffrey Lewin
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2017 11:57 AM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Chemicals and passenger elevators
I'm looking for others for guidance (preferably written) on how you handle moving chemicals in passenger elevators. Consider a building 7 story building (plus a basement and sub-basement) with three elevators, none of them with local control, with a chemical stores and other receiving takes place in the "basement" (the basement level has an outside entrance). Or, a research building that only has one passenger elevator that services a 9 story building with research labs on multiple floors.
In particular, I'm interested if you have written policies, and have successfully implemented them in busy buildings, on restrictions on what time of day to transport, maximum amounts you allow transported, and under what conditions you routinely exclude other passengers from the elevator.
Although I am most interested in chemicals carried by hand or on a (sturdy) cart, I would also be interested if you have specific policies on elevators and "bulk" chemicals on a large flatbed cart or pallet, cryogenic liquids, or gas cylinders.
Feel free to post them here or send them to me directly (I can summarize what I receive directly if there is interest).
Chemical Safety Officer
Compliance, Integrity, and Safety
Environmental Health and Safety
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI 49931
--- This e-mail is from DCHAS-L, the e-mail list of the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety. For more information about the list, contact the Divisional secretary at secretary**At_Symbol_Here**dchas.org
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