Brief Safety Briefs


COE Safety – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advisory for Cleaning & Disinfecting Research Labs

Just a reminder that the CDC recommends cleaning visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection as a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses. Any hard surface that you and others contact in the research labs need to be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Guidelines on how to clean with diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and others can be found on the CDC website at



Did you know that gremlins, trolls and elves may cause trouble when you are not around? Well maybe we don’t have real evil critters but it seems buildings issues can get very bad when no one is around to feed and take care of them. And power glitches can come from sources outside NMSU. So please help keep the evil critters and the building in check by turning the power off, and/or unplugging, non-essential equipment such as computers, monitors, fans and heaters. If your computer has a plug strip with an on/off switch, then press the off switch after you shut down the computer. In labs, turn off and/or unplug equipment that is not essential. Some lab examples are empty ovens, hot plates, shakers, ultrasonic cleaners, and analytical instruments. Equipment that is essential such as aging ovens with samples, sensitive instruments, refrigerators and freezers all need checked to ensure they are running properly before you leave for holiday break.


Did you know that thousands of people die each year from choking? According to the National Safety Council choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death. If the person is able to cough forcefully, encourage him or her to continue doing so to clear the food or object. But, if the person can’t cough, speak or breathe, immediate help is warranted. First Aid in the form of the Heimlich Maneuver can successfully prevent suffocation. This procedure is not recommended for children younger than 1 year old. The basic steps to perform the Heimlich Maneuver are listed below along with links to more details and a video demonstration:

  • Stand behind the victim with one leg forward between the victim’s legs

  • For a child, move down to their level and keep your head to one side

  • Reach around the abdomen and locate the navel

  • Place the thumb side of your fist against the abdomen just above the navel

  • Grasp your fist with your other hand and thrust inward and upward into the victim’s abdomen with quick jerks

  • For a responsive pregnant victim, or any victim you cannot get your arms around or for whom abdominal thrusts are not effective, give chest thrusts from behind; avoid squeezing the ribs with your arms

  • Continue thrusts until the victim expels the object or becomes unresponsive

  • Even after choking stops,  seek medical attention

Additionally, according to Medic First Aid, if you are alone you can try pressing your abdomen quickly against a rigid surface, such as the back of a chair. You can also try abdominal thrusts on yourself.


Did you know that, according to the NFPA, Christmas tree fires are uncommon, but are much more likely to be deadly than most other kinds of fires—one of every 45 reported home Christmas tree fires results in a death, as opposed to an annual average of one death per 139 reported home fires. And, that a heat source too close to a Christmas tree caused one in every four fires?

Attached are some tip sheets on Christmas Trees and Holiday decorations from NFPA that you may find helpful. If you want to see how fast a Christmas tree can burn, watch the short NST video by following the link below:


Did you know, according to NFPA, between 2011 and 2015 portable and stationary space heaters accounted for more than 43% US home eating fires and 85% of home heating deaths ?The number of home heating fires increases from November through February with the most frequent time of day for a fire between 4 pm and midnight. Here are a few more tips on space heater safety from NFPA:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.

  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from anything that can burn, including people.

  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.

  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.

  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.

  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.

  • Keep children (and pets) away from the space heater.

  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.

  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

    For more information from NFPA see


Did you know that, according to Hartford Insurance, 67,000 wildfires were reported in 2016? These destroyed over 4000 structures and of those 3000 were residential. Here are some recommendations from Hartford Insurance that you can do to defend your property from a wildfire. You can also read more at

Before a Wildfire: Secure your property for a wildfire. One of the first steps you can take to defend against a wildfire is limiting the fuel sources around your home or business.

Within 30 Feet From Your Home

  • Clear combustible materials such as dried leaves and pine needles.

  • Cut down any tree limbs that are 15 feet or closer to the ground. This will help prevent the fire from spreading into your property’s tree line.

  • Remove any vines or vegetation that is on the side of your house or business.

  • Place any flammable lawn furniture in storage when not in use.

  • Opt for non-flammable decor, such as gravel as opposed to wood chips.

Within 100 to 30 Feet From Your Home

  • Create “fuel breaks” in your property. Hopefully, these areas will help stop the spread of a fire. These can be gravel pathways or driveways.

  • Cut any trees branches that are 8 feet or closer to the ground.

  • Clear combustible vegetation.

Within 200 to 100 Feet From Your Home

  • Place any stacked firewood or scrap wood.

  • Continue to clear combustible vegetation.

  • Plant trees far enough apart so their branches do not touch.

You can also stop by and look at my Safety Bulletin Board outside EC1 125,  which has posters from the NFPA Firewise USA promotion Titled, “Reducing Wildfire Risks in the Home Ignition Zone”.


Did you know that rechargeable and high capacity batteries cannot be put into the regular trash? Only non-rechargeable alkaline batteries can go into regular trash. High capacity batteries such as Lithium Ion, Lead Acid, Nickle Cadmium, etc. contain materials that need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. They can also leak, or interact with each other or with other items in trash, and start a fire. And button batteries can be dangerous to children and animals since they can be swallowed. Please dispose of these batteries properly by completing an NMSU Waste Tracking form, attaching it to the battery and calling EHS for collection. And you may always contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety, for assistance with these forms and waste disposal.


Did you know that statically, the best way to put out a fire is with sprinklers? During our fire in ECIII, a single sprinkler head was activated. It did its job in putting out the fire, but it caused extensive damage to the building from running water at floor level.  This water was likely about 2 inches deep in some places and less in others . Much damage to office items (e.g. books, boxes of papers etc.) and equipment could have been prevented if those things had not been placed directly on the floor.  Consider placing any items currently on the floor, on blocks or shelves to protect from any future incidents. For more information about fire safety and prevention, please contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety and/or the NMSU Fire Department.



Did you know that extension cords and cables which run across walkways must be securely taped down? These present a tripping hazard and must be secured so people do not get their feet caught and fall. And falls are the largest cause of injuries in the workplace and home. Be sure to use tape materials that are durable such as gaffers or duct/grey tape and can stand up to traffic. You will need to inspect the taped cords/cables regularly for damage and wear. You can also purchase cord covers for short temporary runs in high traffic zones and these must also remain secure also. Please contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety, for an evaluation of your area and/or additional information.


Did you know that the use of a respirator requires special training and fit testing? And equipment that are “classified” as respirators are readily available in most hardware stores. These are the masks with cartridges, or paper masks with plastic buttons, that are marked N95. All of these are classified by OSHA as respirators. The only type of dust protection that can be used, without special training, is a nuisance dust mask which are simple paper masks usually white or blue. If you have a situation that requires dust control, please contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety, to evaluate your situation and determine what type of dust control is right for you.


Did you know that a fire can double in size as fast as every 30 seconds and that most people die of smoke inhalation rather than burns? Smoke from fire is usually very toxic and dense, which makes breathing difficult. Make sure you look for exits from offices, classrooms, auditoriums, etc.  If you hear a fire alarm, do not assume it is false. Proceed quickly to the nearest exit and leave the building. If an exit appears blocked with smoke, use an alternate exit path. If you have questions or would like a presentation on Fire Safety, please contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety.


Welcome to “Brief Safety Briefs” where you will receive a short safety message each week about things that effect you, your students and labs. This week’s message involves Mercury Containing Equipment.

Did you know that mercury is poisonous and it vaporizes when released? If you have any thermometers, hydrometers, barometers, switches etc. that contain mercury, they are a serious hazard and need to be removed from your area. As an example, a very small broken thermometer recently resulted a Civil Engineering lab being closed for an entire day while the spill was cleaned up and environmental testing completed. If you have any of this equipment, please contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety, to assist with its disposal.



Have you noticed that Google Translate has problems with technical terminology? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is developing a web platform to provide better translations, at least for NFPA’s technical documents. This could have benefits for the entire engineering community.

NFPA is currently looking for volunteers, especially those proficient in languages other than English, to be become testers of the developing technology. Those interested in participating should contact Joe Gochal at jgochal at nfpa dot org



This is an archive of brief safety topics sent to faculty and staff at NMSU during the semester. The goal is to send out a new, and exciting, topic once per week. If you would like to learn more about any of these subjects, contact Juanita Miller, COE Safety.

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