Department Contact Information

Physics Department

Location: 180-204
Phone: (805) 756-2448
Fax: (805) 756-2435
Chair: Jennifer Klay

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Physics Department Safety Guidelines

1.0 General Lab Safety

  • No food or drink in the lab.
  • No gloves in the hallways, on the doorknobs, computers, or phones. Only you know where your gloves have been.
  • Don’t put pens, pencils, or fingers in your mouth. Wash your hands when leaving the lab, before eating, and after using the restroom.
  • Contact technician or Faculty (Principal Investigator) upon any broken glass or liquid spills.
  • Leave your bench top as you would like to find it: neat, organized, and clean. Replace lids, and remove waste to the appropriate receptacle. Turn off equipment not being used.
  • If you see an unsafe condition or safety issue, alert your PI or a technician immediately.
  • Use care with open flames, Bunsen burners, and with hot surfaces. Tie up long hair.
  • Label everything you prepare. There should never be a beaker, tube, or container without a label. No one will know that it is just water in that tube.
  • When using fume hoods, make sure they are in working order. Check the air flow using the vaneometer, adjust sash to ensure 80-150 LFS, remove stored objects, and ensure that the vents are not blocked.
  • When moving compressed gas cylinders, remove the regulators and put on the metal cap. Never ride in the elevator with compressed gas cylinders.

1.1 Emergencies

  • There are phones in the labs. Call 911 for fire or serious accidents. If you use your cell phone, tell the dispatcher that you are on the Cal Poly Campus.
  • If there is a chemical spill and there are fumes, exit the room, and call 911. If there is a fire, do not try to put it out. Call 911.
  • There are fire extinguishers available; it is your responsibility to locate in advance the closest two fire extinguishers to your research area.
  • There are eye washes and chemical spill showers in some of the labs. In case of spills on your clothes, get the clothes off before the chemical can reach your skin. In the case of an eye splash, remove contacts first, then begin flushing eyes and continue to do so for 15 minutes. Seek medical care. The sinks can also be used for easily-washed extremities such as arms below the elbow and legs below the knees.
  • There are first aid boxes in the labs. If blood is present and it is not your own, wear gloves.
  • Cal Poly students may go to the CP Health Center for minor injuries.  Take a buddy with you in case you get weak or faint on the way over to the Health Center. 
  •  If you are a paid student assistant or a registered volunteer, you are covered by Workers' Compensation and need to go to Med Stop, 283 Madonna Rd., Suite B, San Luis Obispo. 
  • During earthquakes, take cover under counters and tables to protect yourself from falling objects.

1.2 Injury Reporting

1.3 Lab Security

  • Theft happens. Do not leave room unlocked and unattended.  Most importantly do not leave doors propped open when unattended.
  • Lock the classrooms and labs when you leave.

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2.0 Chemicals and Biohazards

  • What are (M)SDSs? Material Safety Data Sheets or Safety Data Sheets are documents that the chemical industry must legally provide for any products they manufacture, import, or distribute. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires (M)SDSs be available to employees, local fire departments, and local and state emergency planning officials. 
  • Know what you are working with. Material Safety Data Sheets, (M)SDSs, may be accessed on the web at DO not use any chemical or material if you have not received (M)SDS guidelines about safe handling from your PI. 
  • Know when to wear gloves, safety glasses, goggles, or lab coats. Know what you are working with.
  • Wear safety glasses or goggles when you are working with hazardous chemicals.  Examples of hazardous chemicals are acids, bases, flammables, toxic, carcinogenic, or mutagenic substances, corrosives, oxidizers, sensitizers and irritants.
  • Wear eye protection when anyone in your vicinity is using hazardous chemicals.  This protects you from accidental splashes.
  • Remove gloves when you leave the lab, and do not touch your face when you are gloved up.
  • Broken glass does not go in regular trash; contact your PI or technician to assist.
  • Read and follow the Bloodborne Pathogen Safety Procedures listed in the Cal Poly Code of Safe Practice.
  • Put chemical waste in a well-labeled bottle with a lid. Preprinted forms are available, see technician. Chemical waste needs to be labeled with:
    • What it is, no abbreviations, molecular formulas, or acronyms. Water is indicated as water not H20.
    • Date (waste must be removed before one year has lapsed). The start date must not be over a year old.
    • Circle all appropriate definers, liquid, solid, toxic, flammable, acid, alkali, or reactive. There may be more than one.
    • Your name or the name of the lab it is coming from.

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2.1 Liquid Nitrogen

  • Do not dispense or use liquid nitrogen until you have been trained by your professor or a qualified technician.
  • Liquid nitrogen is a very cold liquid with a boiling point of -195.8C. It can cause severe frostbite and will freeze skin within seconds of contact.
  • Liquid nitrogen can be an explosion hazard if containers are not vented. Do not completely seal containers as liquid nitrogen expands rapidly as it warms.
  • Wear cryogenic gloves (the big blue ones) and eye protection when handling liquid nitrogen. A face mask is also provided for your safety.
  • To prevent illness, use provided alcohol wipes to disinfect face mask and glasses before use.
  • Dispense liquid nitrogen only in well-ventilated areas, never in a small enclosed space. If the nitrogen displaces the oxygen in the air you will die, quickly and without warning.
  • Never ride in the elevator with more than a small dewar ( < 250 mL) of liquid nitrogen.

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3.0 Field Trip Safety


3.1 Trip Planning

  • Field trips are anything outside the campus core, such as Poly Canyon. Students must be notified of field trips at first class meeting, then must sign and return the Field Activities Sign Out Agreement
  • For overnight trips or trips that require travel forms or reimbursement, see Mikele Hushing-Kline in 180-204A, 756-1752.
  • Prior to departing, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Take along a charged cell phone, and be aware whether you have a signal and where you have a signal if it’s spotty.
  • Know the important contact numbers of the wilderness responders in your area.
  • Carry a well stocked first aid kit. 
  • Having a CPR trained associate on the trip is an added bonus.
  • Take extra food, water, and clothing, in case an emergency or a mechanical breakdown forces you to remain.

3.1 While in the Field

  • Drive only on maintained roads. Never park or drive over dry grass/vegetation as the vehicle’s catalytic converter could start a fire.
  • If you’re in an unfamiliar area, be aware of your surroundings and the route you intend to use to return.
  • Don’t work in the field alone. Have a buddy.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including sturdy closed-toed shoes, long pants, and a sun hat. Tuck pants into boots.
  • Bring sufficient water, and drink frequently to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, and take proper steps to prevent onset.
  • Wear insect repellant when necessary.
  • Check yourself for ticks periodically and at the end of your field session.
  • Don’t put your fingers or toes anywhere you cannot see or have not checked for snakes.
  • If you are bitten by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately. Do not try to suck out the venom or cut out the affected area. Do not use tourniquets, ice, or electric shock. Have your buddy (remember you should have a buddy in the field) drive you to a hospital. If necessary, call 911. Remain calm.

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4.0 Cal Poly Pier Safety

The Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences manages the Cal Poly Pier, the flowing seawater system, and the Scientific Boating and Scientific Diving Programs. The Pier website posts Forms, Guidelines and Manuals specific to these program areas. Contact Tom Moylan, Pier Operations Manager, at 805-756-0225 or by email, to coordinate research or work-related activity at the Pier.

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5.0 Physics Department Safety Policy and Laboratory Work Rules Agreement

The Physics Safety and Policy Lab Work Rules Agreement & Key/Key Card Agreement can be found here. If you plan to request a key card, you will be required to complete the Physics Department Safety Training PolyLearn. Please email the Physics Office to be enrolled.

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