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Environmental Safety
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Laboratory Safety

Laboratory Safety

Chemical Hygiene/Exposure To Hazardous Chemicals In Laboratories

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard on occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories (29CFR1910.1450) covers all laboratories engaged in the laboratory use of chemicals. The University's Chemical Hygiene Plan is an "umbrella" document that will cover the major activities conducted at University laboratories. Each laboratory will need to develop procedures and protocols for the unique equipment and chemicals and train those procedures to affected parties. Both the Chemical Hygiene plan and unique laboratory procedures must be accessible to anyone working in the laboratory setting. To request an evaluation of your laboratory for compliance with this standard or for assistance in developing special procedures applicable to your laboratory, please contact Environmental Safety at 6-6485.

Each employee engaged in laboratory work must attend a Laboratory Safety training session which includes the Chemical Hygiene Plan, emergency procedures, waste management and other required topics.

Chemical Labeling

According to Federal and State regulations, all hazardous chemicals used in the laboratory (whether in original or stock containers) must be labeled with:

  • the name of the chemical
  • identification of hazardous components
  • appropriate hazard warnings: flammable, explosive, corrosive, toxic, poison, oxidizer, caustic, irritant, carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen
  • name, address and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or responsible party
  • date of receipt or generation of the chemical

Any substance that is regulated by a specific OSHA standard must be labeled accordingly by the manufacturer.

Chemical labeling developed and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) includes a word warning, identification of key hazards, and statements of precautions to avoid the hazard.

Hazard warnings on labels may consist of words, pictures, symbols, or any combination thereof.

  • Word warnings are generally intended to capture immediate attention by identifying severe hazards (such as flammable, poison, fatal if swallowed). Word warnings may also indicate the degree of hazard. CAUTION indicates the lowest degree of hazard. WARNING indicates an intermediate degree of hazard. DANGER indicates the highest degree of hazard.
  • Picture warnings identify classes of hazardous compounds (such as a flaming letter "O" to indicate oxidizers or a skull and crossbones to indicate toxic chemicals).
  • Chemicals may also be labeled with the National Fire Protection Association symbol system (NFPA 704). Numbers are used to denote the severity of hazards associated with flammability (red), reactivity (yellow), health (blue) and other special hazards (white) on a color-coded diamond. Higher numbers indicate more severe hazards. Specifically:

    0 = no unusual hazard

    1 = minor hazard

    2 = moderate hazard

    3 = severe hazard

    4 = extreme hazard

  • Special hazards include OX (oxidizer), ACID, ALK (alkali), CORR (corrosive), and W (water-reactive).
  • This system is useful for alerting emergency response personnel to hazards and also for assessing storage and emergency needs. However, it does not adequately indicate precautionary measures or occupational hazards.
  • Labels on containers of hazardous chemicals should not be defaced or removed.
  • Unless being used in the same period by the same person who made the transfer, when chemicals are transferred from an original container to a secondary (stock) container, the new container should be labeled with the chemical's name as well as all relevant hazard information.

Flammable Liquid Storage

  1. When are flammable liquid storage cabinets required?

    NFPA 45 Table 2-2(a) In sprinkled laboratories, a maximum of 10 gallons of Class I flammable liquids per 100 sq.ft. of laboratory space are allowed outside of an inside flammable liquid storage room. Combinations of Class I, II, and IIIA may not exceed 20 gallons. An additional 10 gallons maximum of Class I flammable liquids may be stored in a flammable liquid cabinet. Combinations of Class I, II, and IIIA may not exceed 40 gallons in a flammable liquid storage cabinet. For help in the interpretation of this guidance, contact EHS at 6-6485 for an on-site evaluation of your laboratory.

  2. Where can a cabinet be located?

    NFPA 45 2-1: Anywhere within the laboratory unit. This means it cannot be located in a hallway or any means of egress.

    OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106(e)(2)(ii)(b): The quantity of flammable liquid that may be located outside of an inside storage room or storage cabinet in a building or in any one fire area of a building shall not exceed:

    • 25 gallons of Class IA liquids in containers.
    • 120 gallons of Class IB, IC, II, or III liquids in containers.
    • 660 gallons of Class IB, IC, II, or III liquids in a single portable tank.
  3. Alternatives to avoid flammable liquid storage in corridors:
    • Move cabinet to another location.
    • Do a careful inventory of what's on hand and compare it to what's really needed.
    • Where allowed, swap cabinet for a less hazardous item now in the laboratory.
    • Move cabinet into laboratory.
    • Reduce quantity of flammable liquids on-hand so a cabinet is not required.
    • Purchase smaller quantities when ordering flammable liquids.
    • Dispense flammable liquids from central location in daily use quantities.
    • Store permitted quantities of flammable liquids on shelves in lab.
    • Share flammable liquid cabinets among several labs.
    • Find alternatives to flammable liquids.

Unattended Chemical Reactions

When a chemical reaction must remain unattended in a laboratory for an extended period and/or overnight, the researcher must post a sign on the door which is observable from outside the laboratory. The sign describes the nature of the chemical reaction and potential hazards in the event one or more of the utilities for the building fail. The sign must be printed on canary (pale yellow) paper for visibility reasons and consistency with training provided to University Police and Physical Plant staff. The sign may be removed once the reaction is completed or from the time that it will be attended. View an electronic file of the unattended reaction sign.

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