Museum of Southwestern Biology

Health and Safety

The MSB is committed to providing a safe and healthful environment for staff, volunteers, and visitors, as well as minimizing risks to its collections. In compliance with all guidelines set forth by the UNM Department of Safety and Risk Services, the MSB will conduct all activities in a safe manner through recognition, evaluation, and control (reduction or elimination) of health and safety risks.  

Authority and Responsibilities

The MSB coordinates its safety efforts with the University Safety and Risk Services Office and complies with Federal, State and local laws and regulations. Safety efforts are shared by staff, Museum workers, and visitors alike. The Museum Director is ultimately responsible for implementation of and compliance with all environmental health and safety policies. Curators ensure compliance of their staff with the applicable requirements of these policies. Collection Managers (or those directly responsible for supervising workers) are responsible for providing safety orientation to new workers; training employees in safe work practices, and ensuring that employees have and use the appropriate personal protective equipment. It is the employee's responsibility to observe and follow all safety and health policies; wear personal protective equipment that has been provided; use all machinery and equipment in a safe manner; and report any accident, injury, or unsafe or unhealthful condition to their supervisor. Similarly, visitors are encouraged to observe and follow all applicable Museum safety and health policies. All volunteers are required to sign the Volunteer Agreement. Each division will provide for volunteer insurance as needed.

Hazard Recognition

Safety inspections of the collection areas and laboratory facilities are conducted on a regular basis to determine potential or actual safety, health, or environmental hazards. The inspection will be conducted by the University Safety and Risk Services Office and an ad hoc Museum Safety Committee. Any identified hazards will be brought to the attention of the curator of the division where the hazard occurs. The Committee and Safety and Risk Services Office will make recommendations to minimize or eliminate these hazards, and will evaluate the results of any previous action taken.

Hazardous materials can be biological (e.g., blood, tissues) or chemical (e.g., fixatives and preservatives, pesticides). They can be found throughout collections, in the museum specimens themselves (e.g., bird and mammal skins treated with arsenic or pesticides) as well as in the storage medium (e.g., fishes, amphibians, and reptiles stored in formalin or alcohol; and storage cabinets coated with lead-based paint). The Museum staff needs to be aware of the actual and potential sources of hazardous materials in the collections and work areas, as well as historical and current treatments of specimens.

Hazard Elimination or Control

Listed below are various types of safety equipment and supplies located within the divisions.

Safety Equipment and Supplies:

  • Environmental monitoring and detection devices (hygrothermograph);
  • First aid equipment (first aid kits, emergency eyewash stations);
  • Fire detection and suppression equipment (fire extinguishers, pull down fire alarms);
  • Clean-up equipment ("sharps" container, biohazard container);
  • Protective clothing and equipment (fume hoods, gloves, safety goggles, half-and full-face respirators with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and/or organic chemical cartridges. 

Good Museum Practices

Smoking, eating, drinking, and living plants and animals are prohibited in collection and work areas;

  • Do not discard hazardous wastes down the drain or in the trash; non- hazardous wastes may be diluted with water and flushed down the drain (refer to MSB's "Hazardous Waste Management Guidelines" for additional information);   
  • All accidents or spills must be cleaned up at once and reported to museum personnel immediately;
  • All containers must be properly labeled and stored (see MSB's "Hazardous Waste Management Guidelines");
  • "Sharps waste" (e.g., broken glassware, scalpels, hypodermic syringes, needles) must be deposited in a "sharps" container.
  • The fume hood must be used when working with volatile or hazardous chemicals (e.g., ammonia, alcohol, formalin);
  • All electric appliances must be turned off and unplugged after use;
  • After use, all equipment and supplies must be cleaned and properly stored. Work areas must be cleared and put in an "as found" condition.


Training: Supervisors are responsible for determining the training necessary for employees to recognize and handle on-the-job hazards. Supervisors shall supply employees with personal protective equipment, provide training, or make provisions for formal training if necessary. Examples of formal training include: respirator use, electrofishing, and formaldehyde hazard awareness. Supervisors may require periodic training or re-training in health and safety and will notify their employer to correct these deficiencies. 

Testing and Monitoring: All hazardous materials have established permissible levels and most can be easily monitored (e.g., formaldehyde, inorganic arsenic). The Museum coordinates with the University Safety and Risk Services Office, which has primary responsibility for these activities.