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Laboratory Safety

Chemical Safety

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 for responsibilities of the laboratory Principle Investigator (PI), contains general requirements implemented by the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) office, in the Department of Risk Management. 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.

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, shown below. 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, i.e., a truck load of material. The four color-coded squares, within the larger square, measures 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 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.

Chemical Information Links

Listed below are some web addresses on general chemical information:

Chemical Procurement

The Principle Investigator is responsible for chemical requisitions made in his/her lab. A written notification, per the Hazardous Materials Management policy, must be submitted to the Hazardous Waste Manager and the EH&S Manager 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 (p list). Purchases should be made through the authorized purchaser in the department.

Hazardous Materials Notification list

To access the Hazardous Materials Notification list

Incompatible Chemicals

If you mix some chemicals together bad things can happen, such as an explosion or fire. Refer to the link below for help on compatibilities of certain chemicals:


Standard Operating Procesdures (SOPs)

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.

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.

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 you from breathing harmful contaminants.

Some low to moderately toxic chemicals can be used safely in the open air of the room. The 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 bench tops 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 MSDS, under the Control Measures section, 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 (303-871-2200) for repairs, or the EH&S Director (303-871-7501) for support.

Chemical Storage

Proper storage is a crucial safety element both for the protection of personnel and property. Chemicals which are not appropriately stored i.e. left out on the bench tops or on the floor increase the risk of an accident 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. The following labeling procedures must be followed:

  • Each container must have a label when waste is first placed in it.
  • Include name, room #, building, and department or unit.
  • List % of all components.
  • Accumulation Start Date is the day that the container becomes full

Waste Removal Request

When hazardous chemical waste needs to be discarded, notify the Hazardous Waste Manager, in writing to have the material removed. Click for Waste Removal Request form.

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. If a spill occurs your first priority is your health and your co-worker’s health. You should be fully aware of an appropriate spill response before a spill occurs, i.e. locally controlling and cleaning up the spill or evacuating the lab or building and calling emergency services at Campus Safety, ext. 1-3000.

Contact the Hazardous Waste Manager (303-871-4044) regarding the proper disposal of spilled chemicals. Contact the EH&S in case of potential personal exposures.

Floor Drains and 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 the MSDS regarding proper disposal methods. You can also contact the Hazardous Waste Manager at 1-4044 or the EH&S Director at 303-871-7501 for support.


DU personnel working in the lab are required to have the following OSHA training (see EH&S Training), prior to working in the lab:

  • Lab Safety
  • Bloodborne Pathogen
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Hazard Communication
  • Fire Safety

Additionally, the PI’s are required to provide specific training on the particular hazards associated with each laboratory. Contact the EH&S Manager at 303-871-7501 if you have any questions about training.