Minors in Laboratories

George Mason University is dedicated to providing enriching educational opportunities to volunteers and minors interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  The university is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment for all members of the campus community and visiting members of the public.

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Minors Definition

This section applies to minors conducting activities in laboratories at George Mason University and outlines the process in place to authorize laboratory activities for minors.  It also outlines restrictions on work involving minors and provide clear guidance on how to register laboratory activities involving minors.  Restrictions in place serve to address the following concerns specific to minors:

  • Minors may be more susceptible to certain toxic agents and chemicals
  • Minors may be less aware of the potential risks and hazards in laboratories
  • Minors require supervision and oversight.

A minor is defined as an individual under the age of 18.  A laboratory is defined as a room where hazardous chemicals, radiation, or biological materials are handled or stored (to include animal facilities, instructional laboratories, and research laboratories).  This Guide is not applicable to George Mason University students that are enrolled in laboratory courses, even if under the age of 18.

Work Restrictions

The following restrictions are in place for projects involving minors:

  • Minors must be supervised at all times in the laboratory.
  • Minors are not permitted to visit or work in laboratories operating at BSL-3 or ABSL-3 or other high hazard locations such as a machine shop.
  • Minors may not perform work involving:
    • Agents on the federal select agent list (www.selectagents.gov),
    • Highly hazardous substances including pyrophorics and explosives,
    • Large quantities of flammable substances,
    • Controlled Substances, and
    • Substances of high acute toxicity having a rat LD50 less than or equal to 50 mg/Kg (e.g. sodium azide, nicotine, etc.).
    • Radioactive materials or other sources of ionizing radiation

Age Restrictions

Children under the Age of Twelve
Children under the age of 12 are permitted in university research laboratories only when they are participants (subjects of study) in an approved research study; children under the age of 12 are not permitted in university research laboratories for any other reason. Laboratories must never be utilized as a substitute for child care.

Visitors Ages Twelve to Seventeen
Persons between the ages of 12 and 17 may visit research laboratories as part of officially supervised educational activities that have been approved by the Principal Investigator/Laboratory Supervisor (PI/LS). These visiting minors must be under the direct supervision of a university employee who is trained and knowledgeable of applicable hazards. Visits to laboratories should not take place when hazardous material is in use. Prior to allowing minors to tour or observe in a laboratory, the supervising employee must conduct a basic safety orientation, including both general safety information and any hazards particular to the lab in question. The PI/LS should maintain documentation of dates of training and a list of attendees.

Minors Conducting Research Activities
George Mason University is committed to providing educational and research opportunities, when feasible, to minors. PI/LS are permitted to have minors participate in and perform educational activities and routine education-related duties in a research laboratory. Any research conducted by minors must comply with University Policy 2228 Children and Minors in the Workplace and must have been reviewed and approved by EHS. A risk assessment must be on file with EHS for all projects involving minors.

Age Registration Process

Work involving minors must be approved by EHS prior to project start.  The PI/LS is responsible for submitting all required paperwork to EHS for review.

    1. Upon agreeing to mentor a minor in the laboratory, the PI/LS must complete a Risk Assessment for Minors in the Laboratory and submit it to EHS safety@gmu.edu
    2. EHS will review the submission and approve or deny the project.
    3. PI/LS will forward approval to the minor, and minor’s parent/guardian along with the Acknowledgement of Laboratory Risk for Minors.  A copy of the signed Acknowledgement of Laboratory Risk for Minors must be on file in the laboratory and with EHS before beginning work.
    4. Minors must attend safety training relevant to the work to be performed.

Requirements for the PI/LS Supervising Minors

The following requirements are in place for PI/LS who will be supervising minors.  If the responsibility of supervising the minor will be delegated to a staff member, the staff member must meet these requirements.

  • Ability to provide direct supervision (must be able to hear and see the minor at all times). during laboratory activities.
  • Successful completion of a background check through the university in accordance with University Policy Number 2221, Background Investigations.
  • Current on all safety training.
  • Knowledge and understanding of laboratory hazards and proper safety controls.

Responsibilities of the PI/LS

  • Provide information to the minor regarding hazardous substances and other laboratory hazards.
  • Provide adequate training to the minor on hazards present in the laboratory, procedures to be performed, and materials to be used to include review of the Supplemental Laboratory Safety Plan. Maintain written documentation of this training.
  • Ensure the minor is supervised at all times.
  • Update the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) protocols as necessary.
  • Maintain copies of forms related to the minor’s laboratory activities in the Safety Records and Resources binder within the laboratory.

Responsibilities of the Minor

  • Understand hazards associated with the work to be performed.
  • Attend safety training relevant to laboratory procedures.
  • Follow guidelines outlined in EHS safety training, laboratory-specific training, relevant manuals, and the Supplemental Laboratory Safety Plan.
  • Sign the Acknowledgement of Laboratory Risk for Minors form.

Responsibilities of the Parent/Guardian

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