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Chemical Laboratory Safety

 104. Chemical Laboratory Safety

Safe chemical practice is an attitude, knowledge and an awareness of potential hazards. Safety is a mutual responsibility and requires the full cooperation of everyone in the laboratory. This cooperation means that everyone must observe safety precautions and procedures, such as the following. These procedures are applicable to standard laboratories, as well as other areas that utilize hazardous chemicals.


  • All laboratory personnel are required to follow the University procedures as described in the Laboratory Safety Manual. Everyone in the laboratory is responsible for his or her own safety and for the safety of others. Before starting any work in the lab, become familiar with the procedures, equipment, and chemicals that are to be used. If you do not understand something, ask someone.
  • All laboratory workers must know the safety rules and procedures that apply to the work being performed. Determine the potential chemical and biological hazards associated with each activity and take appropriate safety precautions before beginning. Never assume all hazards have been identified. Carefully read the label before using an unfamiliar chemical or product and refer to manufacturer’s information before using new equipment.
  • Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for special handling and storage information before using the material.
  • Use proper equipment that is in good condition and only for its intended use. Shield pressurized or vacuum apparatus and safeguard against bumping or overheating. Always inspect equipment for leaks and other damage before using.
  • Know the location of emergency equipment in your area and how to use it (fire extinguisher, eyewash, safety shower, first aid kit, emergency phone, fire alarm), as well as how to obtain additional help in an emergency.
  • Be familiar with all emergency procedures.
  • Know the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) available and use the proper type for each job. Eye protection should be worn at all times.
  • Keep floors free of tripping, slipping and falling hazards (e.g. cords, cables, wires, equipment and tools).
  • Be alert to unsafe conditions and actions and call attention to them so that corrections can be made as soon as possible. Someone else’s accident can be as dangerous to you as any you might have.
  • Exposure to chemicals should be kept to a minimum.
  • Smoking, eating, and the application of cosmetics are not permitted in areas where hazardous materials are used.  Areas where food is permitted should be prominently marked and a warning sign posted. No chemicals or chemical equipment should be allowed into such areas. Food and drinks may not be stored in the same refrigerator or freezer with hazardous materials.
  • Safety carriers are always used when transporting chemicals.
  • All chemicals must be correctly and clearly labeled; no chemical formulas are used for labeling.
  • Entry doors to laboratories and other chemical use areas are prominently posted with signage that provides information on the hazards contained within and appropriate emergency contact persons.
  • Wash well before leaving the laboratory area.
  • Work areas should be kept clean and free from obstructions. Cleanup should follow the completion of any operation or at the end of each day.
  • All chemicals should be stored according to their hazards and appropriately labeled.
  • Wastes should be deposited in appropriate containers. These containers should be labeled for the type of waste that can be safely deposited.
  • Access to exits, emergency equipment and controls is maintained free of obstructions.
  • Frequently, laboratory operations are carried out continuously or overnight. It is essential to plan for interruptions in utility services, such as electricity, water and inert gas. Operations should be designed to be safe, and plans should be made to avoid hazard in case of failure. Wherever possible, arrangements for routine inspection of the operations should be made and, in all cases, an appropriate sign should be placed on the door. It is the responsibility of the principal laboratory supervisor of each lab to see that this is done.
  • One particular hazard frequently encountered is failure of cooling water supplies. A variety of commercial or homemade devices can be used to monitor water use so that its failure will automatically turn off electrical connections and water supply valves.
  • Avoid working in a laboratory alone. Under special situations, arrangements can be made with the principal laboratory supervisor to have someone conduct periodic crosschecks of the lab.
  • When dust is generated during the handling of geological samples, use a chemical fume hood or other local exhaust ventilation system.
  • Rags contaminated by chemicals such as solvents, heavy metals and cleaning solutions shall be properly stored and disposed of.
  • Any medical condition, such as epilepsy, should be reported to the instructor in the event of an emergency.
  • Refer to your Lab Safety Manual for additional specific information.


  • Only individuals who are trained in the hazards of the materials they could be using should be permitted to use these materials. MSDSs provide supplemental information, but should not be used in lieu of formal training.
  • Training should include the use and selection of proper personal protective equipment; laboratory safety equipment, such as fume hoods, emergency eyewash and shower units; emergency evacuation routes and spill response procedures.
  • Persons working in laboratories should be trained in all aspects of laboratory safety before they start work, including laboratory-specific practices.
  • Training programs should be coordinated with the individual designated by the institution as being responsible for chemical safety.


  • Chemical inventory system has been instituted to minimize chemical purchases.
  • Implement micro-scale chemistry whenever possible.
  • Implement “Green Chemistry” whenever possible.