Those in the know, know that I've had a stressful week at work leading up to today. This is due to the university being due for an audit by the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead of having tax dollars actually pay for the EPA to perform the audit, which I guess they can't actually do because they don't have enough staff, the university hired an outside contractor to perform the audit and report back to the feds, and charge us massive fines if we are in violation. By massive, I mean $10,000 per violation, which isn't a lot in corporate terms, but for us that money has to come out of research grants or department budget, both of which are extremely tight after Congress decided to restrict the NIH funding budget (that's a topic for another time).
During July we had been receiving updates almost daily on what specifically was allowed and not allowed. Yes you can wear shorts, but if you have long hair it must be tied back or put up. Any organic solvents near sinks must be in secondary containment. Regulated medical waste containers shouldn't be able to walk around by themselves. A lot of time was spent re-labelling bottles "Phosphate Buffered Saline" instead of "PBS", just to be in compliance. That particular example doesn't sound like a huge deal, but if you've got a tube of DNA in a Tris/EDTA buffer, the label must say, "Deoxyribonucleic Acid in Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane and Ethylenediamine Tetraacetic Acid" which is pretty difficult to write on a 1.5 mL microcentrifuge tube.
On Friday we were informed that ours was the first building on Campus to be inspected, a mixed blessing. I show up early (for me) at about 9 and wait. And wait. And go to lunch. And wait. Finally, around 2:30 they arrive, and Nerd-ette the inspector does her thing. I gues she was out of college for a couple of years, probably had a chemical engineering degree. Her safety goggles were not sexy. After a cursory glance, she starts in with the questions in rapid-fire. I try to be as amicable as possible and answer cheerfully. She noticed we had one label on a waste bottle without a name identifying it's contents. Luckily I fixed it right away and that's considered okay to do, and not a violation. Then she makes a lap around the lab and heads out the door. No inspection of tubes of DNA or anything. I kind of felt bad she didn't look harder since I gave everyone in the lab such grief over this.
But the good news is we passed with no violations, no fines, and it's Monday so the rest of the week can go back to normal. YA-HOOOOOOOO! I deserve a beer.