When working with chemicals in a laboratory setting, it's essential that safety protocols are followed. Below, you can find information on those protocols, as well as additional resources for promoting lab safety.

Important Protocols

  • Chemical Hygiene

    In accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard on occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories, 29 CFR 1910.1450, the University’s Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP), has been implemented to protect the health and safety of personnel involved with laboratory activities. The CHP is a document that establishes protocols to protect employees from exposure to chemical hazards in the laboratory. The CHP, which is to be maintained in each lab, provides the responsibilities of the laboratory Principle Investigator (PI) and contains general requirements implemented by the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office. The CHP is also a living document in that it contains hazard assessments performed by the PI, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), accident and spill reports, annual and monthly inspection reports and documentation of training. All laboratory personnel including employees and students must comply with the CHP.

  • Chemical Storage

    Proper storage is a crucial safety element both for the protection of personnel and property. Chemicals that are not appropriately stored (i.e. left out on the bench tops or on the floor) increase the risk of accidents and personal exposures. Additionally, storage of chemicals in the lab hood is not an acceptable practice. Chemical containers that are not being used should be securely capped and placed in the appropriate cabinet or storage bin.

    All hazardous waste must be stored in accordance with the Hazardous Material Management policy. Chemical waste must be appropriately labeled and segregated from incompatible materials. 

    Each container of hazardous waste must have a label when chemicals are first added and must include the following:

    • The words "Hazardous Waste".
    • The date when the container becomes full.
    • A "Unique ID" to help track the container (not technically required but highly preferred).
    • A characteristic of the hazard (i.e. "Flammable")


    These labeling items are required under Federal and State Regulations and must be written on the containers of waste chemicals; failure to label hazardous waste properly will open up the University to potential civil penalties. A prefilled label with this information can be found here, which meets all of the requirements for hazardous waste labeling.

    Track the composition of the waste added to each container. Keep waste streams as segregated as possible (i.e. don't mix toxic chemicals with corrosive chemicals etc. if possible). Best practice is to keep waste from each specific experiment in separate waste containers and to keep those containers as small as possible (i.e. one-liter or four-liter glass bottles). Make sure the waste container is in good condition and compatible with the chemicals that are being added (corrosive chemicals can digest steel containers and solvents can degrade plastic); for most cases, a borosilicate glass container is ideal.

  • Chemical Procurement

    The Principle Investigator is responsible for chemical requisitions made in their lab. A written notification, per the Hazardous Materials Management policy, must be submitted to the Chemical and Biological Safety Officer and the EHS Director if the purchased chemical is on the notification list. The list includes particularly hazardous chemicals identified in the OSHA Lab Standard and in the EPA acutely hazardous chemicals list. Purchases should be made through the authorized purchaser in the department.

    Special accommodations must be made for procurement of DEA Controlled Substances and Radionucleotides. Please email the Chemical and Biological Safety Officer before purchasing one of these types of chemicals. 

  • Standard Operating Procedures

    The implementation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a very important means toward ensuring personnel are protected while using hazardous chemicals or performing hazardous lab work. The SOP is a simple document, in accordance with the DU Chemical Hygiene Plan, which establishes effective controls to be in place based on a hazard assessment that identifies the potential risks or exposures that exist. With the hazards identified, the SOP provides for the appropriate controls, such as performing the work only in a hood, and for the required personal protective equipment (PPE), such as eye goggles or impervious gloves. Additionally, the SOP establishes how waste material should be discarded and what should be done in the event of a spill.

  • Hazardous Waste Removal

    Chemical waste is a highly regulated industry in the United States and global community mainly because that utilizing the correct treatment methods for chemical waste is typically not a profitable endeavor for businesses. Currently, in unregulated countries, you can often times find examples of business owners dumping chemical waste illegally without treatment; the improper disposal of industrial waste into navigable waters was one of the main causes for some of the earliest environmental regulations such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and Refuse Act of 1899. Severe environmental disasters throughout recent history have resulted in major regulatory oversite to chemical waste with the specific focus in safety of personal and protection of the environment. Failure to abide by Hazardous Waste Regulations can levy severe fines from not only the State of Colorado, but as well as the Federal Government. 

    Hazardous Waste is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). When hazardous chemical waste needs to be discarded, please fill out the Hazardous Waste Pickup Request Form.

    There are roughly seventy-three million chemicals registered under the Chemical Abstract System (CAS) and this certainly does not cover every chemical. As you may expect, a majority of chemical waste is not regulated by the EPA, although it may be best treated for disposal using similar methods to hazardous waste treatment. For non-regulated or non-hazardous chemical waste, please fill out the Non-Regulated / Non-Hazardous Waste Pickup Request Form.

    Biological waste that poses a risk to infect humans is regulated under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Bloodborne Pathogens Regulations and by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). "Biowaste" includes items contaminated with blood and other potentially infectious materials such as spinal fluid or biological tissue. Needles, scalpels, and other sharps should be disposed of in sharps containers (not glass jars, boxes, cans etc.). To request a replacement Sharps Container, please fill out the Sharps Container Replacement Form. Other biowaste items, such as blood contaminated rags, animal carcasses, etc. should be placed in an OSHA Labeled Trash Can and can be removed using the Biowaste Pickup Request Form. Items not considered to be infectious should be disposed of in the regular trash. 

    Universal Waste covers hazardous waste that is common in everyday items. This includes batteries, aerosol cans, and mercury containing devices such as fluorescent light bulbs, mercury thermometers, and mercury thermostats; just because an item is commonplace, does not mean that disposal cannot have negative impacts. Universal Waste can be removed using the Universal Waste Pickup Request Form.

    Electronic Waste is currently only regulated by the State of Colorado under Senate Bill 12-133. Electronic items that are obsolete can be removed using the Electronic Waste Pickup Request Form. Electronic items that still hold value can be sent for surplus auction and can be removed using the Equipment Remarket Form. Anything that contains a hard drive must be removed by the IT Department due to DU Policy based on Colorado State Regulation C.R.S. 24-37.5-404.5.

  • Spill Response

    Chemical spills can range from insignificant (i.e. small quantity of a minimally hazardous material) to a major emergency (i.e. spilling a large amount of an extremely hazardous material). To handle contingencies, every lab should maintain an appropriate spill kit that is inspected monthly. Spill kits should contain the correct absorbent to not react with the chemicals being used in the lab; incompatible absorbents can be checked via the American Institute of Chemical Engineer's Chemical Reaction Worksheet.

    If a spill occurs, the first priority is workers' health. Make sure all lab members are fully aware of an appropriate spill response (i.e. locally controlling and cleaning up the spill or evacuating the lab or building and calling emergency services at Campus Safety 13000 or by using the DU Safe App) before a spill occurs.

    Contact the Chemical and Biological Safety Officer at 14044 regarding the proper disposal of spilled chemicals. Contact the EHS Director at 17501 in case of potential personal exposures.

  • Shipping Hazardous Materials

    Shiping Hazardous Materials (HazMat) is something that should not be taken lightly and can put logistic workers at risk if not executed correctly. During research, it may be beneficial to ship or receive HazMat to or from various research facilities or universities in the pursuit of moving forward science, however, this process needs to be done safely and in compliance with the Department of Transportation's Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Failing to abide by the HMR can not only potentially lead to injuries, fatalities, or property damage, but can also levy severe civil penalties (up to $83,000 per day, per violation or $194,000 per day, per violation for violations that results in death, severe injury, or severe property damage).

    For questions or concerns about shipping HazMat, please reach out to the Chemical and Biological Safety Officer at 14044. 

  • Potential Peroxide Forming Chemicals

    Peroxide forming compounds can be extremely dangerous when not stored properly. Peroxide Forming Chemicals must be marked with the date which they are received from the manufacturer and with the date when they are opened for the first time.

    Peroxide Forming Chemicals are classified into three categories with Group A chemicals being the most hazardous. Group A Peroxide Forming Chemicals must be tested every three months using the Potential Peroxide Forming Chemicals Evaluation Form or discarded. Group B Peroxide Forming Chemicals are more common and include chemicals such as THF and Diethyl Ether. Group B Peroxide Forming Chemicals must be tested every year or discarded. Group C Peroxide Forming Chemicals include common monomers that may polymerize if not inhibited. Group C Peroxide Forming Chemicals must be tested every six months or discarded.

    Failure to test for peroxides will result with proper disposal by the Denver Bomb Squad with costs incurred by the Private Investigator in charge of the laboratory. 

Laboratory Safety Equipment

  • Fume Hoods

    Arguably the most important safety feature in the laboratory is the lab hood. The primary purpose of a hood or any local exhaust ventilation system is to capture and remove vapors, fumes or particulates at the source, thereby keeping lab members from breathing harmful contaminants.

    Some low to moderately toxic chemicals can be used safely in the open air of the room, as general ventilation effectively dilutes the airborne concentration of the material to levels that are safe to breathe. However, chemicals that have a moderate to high toxicity should typically not be used on the benchtops but rather inside the lab hood to avoid personal exposures. Additionally, the lab hood provides some level of protection in the event of a spill, a fire or a splash from a rapid chemical reaction. Here are some questions that you might ask.

    How do you know when it’s absolutely necessary to use a chemical in the hood?

    It’s always a good idea to handle a chemical in the hood. Refer to the Safety Data Sheet, where it will recommend general ventilation or using only in a hood.

    How do you know if the hood is working properly?

    Hoods are monitored periodically by measuring the airflow across the hood face. A certification sticker is applied on the side of the hood, at the edge of the sash. A good qualitative check is to keep a strip of tissue hanging from the bottom of the sash. The tissue should be slightly pulled inward.

    What do you do if you don’t think the hood is working properly?

    Do not use the hood. Call Facilities Management at 12200 for repairs, or the EHS Director at 17501 for support.

  • Gas Cylinder Management

    Serious accidents have resulted from the misuse of compressed gas cylinders. If not handled properly, a compressed gas cylinder could become a missile with catastrophic consequences. When handling compressed gas cylinders take the following precautions:

    • Make sure the cylinder is properly labeled with the contents identified.
    • Move cylinders only after the regulators have been removed and the protective cap attached.
    • Move cylinders using a hand truck equipped with a chain or belt for securing the cylinder. Do not move cylinders by carrying, rolling, sliding, or dragging them across the floor.
    • Secure stored cylinders above the cylinder midline with chains or straps.
    • When not in use remove regulator and cap cylinder.
  • Hazard Warning Signs

    At the entrance of the labs are two types of hazard warning postings. One of them is the NFPA 704 warning symbol. The symbol, which is from the National Fire Protection Association, is used for identifying the hazards associated with materials, primarily by the Fire Department in the event of an emergency. It can also be referenced by anyone who may enter the laboratory room. The symbol, which you will also see on trucks, storage tanks, bottles of chemicals etc., measures the type of hazard associated with an area, i.e., a lab or a material. The four color-coded squares, within the larger square measure the following hazards: health (blue), flammability (red), reactivity (yellow) and specific (white), such as oxidizer or acid. A numbering scale is used to rank the hazard, from 0, meaning no hazard, to 4 which means extreme hazard.

    The second posting is a blue form called Laboratory Hazard Information. This form is used to identify responsible persons and a phone number for emergency notification. It provides instruction in the event of a fire or a chemical spill. Also contained on the form are specific warning labels (examples shown below) that identify hazards in the room, such as toxic chemicals, flammable materials, radioactive materials and lasers. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to provide accurate information on this form.

  • Floor Drains & Sinks

    Pouring or discarding chemicals into floor drains and sinks is not allowed. Inappropriate discharges to a sink or drain could also result in citations from government agencies. Refer to PubChem regarding proper disposal methods. You can also contact the Chemical and Biological Safety Officer at 14044 or the EHS Director at 17501 for support.

Additional Resources