New chemical hygiene officer position ensures safety

Courtesy of Maria Bianco

Lyndsie Yamrus, Staff Writer

A new position was recently created and filled aiming at the safe handling of dangerous materials.
Late last August, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Reynold Verret and University Safety Officer James Lennox appointed Maria Bianco to the new role of university chemical hygiene officer.
Maria Bianco is also the university’s chemistry lab manager, with responsibilities that include inventory, classification, storage and disposal of chemicals in the Stark Learning Center chemistry laboratories. It is also her duty to ensure that all laboratory safety procedures are being followed.
The newly-developed Chemical Hygiene Planning model that Bianco will be working on will extend into all academic departments that handle chemicals and hazardous materials.
“All departments will have the same format to make the process easier,” Bianco said.
Bianco said that the plan is completed, and preparation of the new inventory has begun. The model includes new procedures and guidelines for chemical procurement, inventory management and disposal.
Bianco’s responsibilities will include cataloging the chemicals with bar code labels and uploading them from each department by scanning the codes into a central database. This process will allow Bianco to know the exact location and amount of each chemical in the building.
The database will allow the university to be more in control of the materials to ensure the highest level of safety for its students.
Bianco said that chemicals must be handled properly “from cradle to grave” and that chemical management is an important responsibility.
Verret explained that it is important to know what materials are inside the building, especially in an emergency case that would require the fire department or hazardous materials team. Centralizing the process will save money and time, which is a large advantage of the model.
Upon completion of the database, each department will be able to search for and transfer chemicals to and from other departments as they are needed. This sharing of resources reduces the amount of chemicals in need of both purchase and disposal, which can get costly.
Bianco was chosen for this role because she is well known in the chemistry department and has the knowledge necessary to successfully execute the responsibility.
“She has the expertise,” Verret said, adding that Bianco is representing the university in this aspect of safety by guiding each department in the use and control of dangerous materials.
Bianco is working with Lennox and the Environmental Health and Safety Committee on the Chemical Hygiene Planning model.