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Minors in Laboratory Program

Laboratories are common sources of hazardous activities involving chemical, biological, and radiological risks, high-pressure activities, electrical hazards, lasers, and other dangerous equipment.  Due to their lack of experience, restrictions are placed on minors to help ensure a safe and educational laboratory experience.  The Minors in Laboratory Program is implemented by the Safety & Risk Management Office to ensure that minors under the age of 18 are protected from exposure to potentially hazardous materials and equipment.

Registered WCU students under the age of 18: The Minors in Laboratory policy does NOT apply to students under the age of 18 enrolled in a laboratory course as a registered WCU student.  A registered student receives laboratory safety training as part of the course requirement.

University Policy #126 - Protection of Minors on Campus:  WCU has implemented standards and procedures for the protection of minors participating in programs or activities that are under the control or direction of the University, regardless of location.  University Policy # 126 stipulates the approval process in place for accepting minors on campus and the requirement for criminal background checks for WCU personnel supervising or working directly with the minor(s).  Departments should review University Policy #126 to determine applicability and initiate background checks, liability waivers, training, and parental consent requirements administered through WCU’s Legal Department prior to submitting any additional approval forms (described below) to the Safety and Risk Management Office.

Safety and risk management approval process

In addition to University Policy #126, minors under the age of 18 are NOT permitted in University laboratories, or office spaces located inside a laboratory area, except in the following situations:

  • Approved for observational events only such as a laboratory tour or demonstration.  The minor will not have any hands-on activity in the laboratory.
  • Approved laboratory work for an officially sanctioned group education program (i.e. science camp, science fair, open house event, etc.).
  • Approved laboratory work while participating in research or clinical activity (i.e. mentoring program for a high school student conducting research).

Minors in the laboratory must be under direct supervision and closely monitored by a trained and knowledgeable employee at all times.

laboratory definition

As used in this program, “laboratory” refers to any part of a building used by the University for scientific or technical activities which may be hazardous, and includes teaching laboratories, research laboratories, visual art studios, theatrical scene shops, and other shop areas where hazardous chemicals, machinery, and tools are stored and/or used.  This program also applies to field work locations where approved educational activities are conducted.

observational tours or demonstrations

Non-University students under the age of 18 who are touring a laboratory for observational purposes only, must be under the direct supervision of the faculty member responsible for the laboratory or a designated lab employee who is trained and knowledgeable of the laboratory’s hazards.  Prior to allowing minors to tour a lab, the supervising employee must conduct a safety orientation and require strict adherence to personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety policies.  Tour participants may not conduct any research or clinical activities or be present during an activity with the potential for exposure to hazardous materials.

Observational Event Approval Process:

  • Approval from the faculty member responsible for the laboratory and the Department Head is required. Approval documentation is retained by the supervising department.
  • Approval documentation is NOT required by the Safety and Risk Management Office for observational tours or demonstrations.

group education laboratory programs

Non-university minor students under the age of 18 who are working in the laboratory as part of an officially sanctioned education program such as a group science camp or other hands-on laboratory activity is permitted.

To protect the health and safety of the participating minor, adult supervisors must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • The sponsoring faculty must receive approval from the Department Head using the Laboratory Minor Approval Form.  When signatures are obtained from the responsible parties, the form is submitted to the Safety and Risk Management Office for review.
  • The sponsoring faculty must follow all relevant safety and compliance requirements and adhere to the approved supervisory plan. The sponsoring faculty may act as the minor’s direct supervisor or designate another faculty or staff member to serve in that role.
  • The supervising employee must conduct a lab specific safety orientation and require strict adherence to personal protective equipment and lab safety policies. The training should be documented using the Laboratory Minor Training Checklist and be available during a laboratory audit.

mentoring in research or clinical programs

Minors may request an opportunity to participate in an approved research or clinical activity while under the mentorship and supervision of a sponsoring faculty member or designated employee.

To protect the health and safety of the participating minor, adult supervisors must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • The sponsoring faculty must receive approval from the Department Head using the Laboratory Minor Approval Form. When signatures are obtained from the responsible parties, the form is submitted to the Safety and Risk Management Office for review.
  • The sponsoring faculty must follow all relevant safety and compliance requirements and adhere to the approved supervisory plan. The sponsoring faculty may act as the minor’s direct supervisor or designate another faculty or staff member to serve in that role.
  • The supervising employee must conduct a lab specific safety orientation and require strict adherence to personal protective equipment and lab safety policies. The training should be documented using the Laboratory Minor Training Checklist and be available during a laboratory audit.

work restrictions for minors

Non-university minor students who are approved to work in a laboratory are restricted from working with the following hazardous materials or equipment:

Biological Hazards

  • Minors are prohibited from working with biohazardous materials at Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) or higher.
  • Minors may not be exposed to, or work with, biological material or agents that require medical surveillance.
  • Minors may not perform duties in which they are required to work directly with human and/or non-human primate blood, body fluids, and tissue.
  • Minors may not work directly with research animals.

Radiological Hazards

  • Minors may not work with radiation sources (sealed or unsealed).
  • Minors may not work with radiation generating equipment (i.e. X-Ray).
  • Minors are not permitted in areas with open beam Class 3B or 4 lasers.

Chemical Hazards

  • Minors are not permitted to work with carcinogens, reproductive toxins, controlled substances, highly reactive materials, or other acutely toxic chemicals.
  • Minors may handle lower risk chemicals in limited circumstances, with the proper safety equipment, and at the discretion of the sponsoring faculty and laboratory safety officer.

Hazardous Equipment

  • Minors are not permitted to operate hazardous equipment such as lathes, drill press, laser cutters, etc.
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