Minimize Exposure to Chemicals

For the general safety of laboratory personnel, all chemical usage must be conducted in adherence with the general safe laboratory practices. In order to minimize chemical exposure always follow these guidelines:

  • Assume that any unfamiliar chemical is hazardous and treat it as such.
  • Substitute less hazardous chemicals in your experiments whenever possible.
    • Micro-scaling the size of the experiment to reduce the amount of chemical usage.
  • Minimize chemical exposures to all potential routes of entry - inhalation, ingestion, skin and eye absorption, and injection through proper use of engineering controls and PPE.
  • Use PPE as appropriate for that chemical.
  • Do not smell or taste chemicals. When it is necessary to identify a chemical's odor, lab personnel should hold the chemical container away from their face and gently waft their hand over the container without inhaling large quantities of chemical vapor.
  • Never underestimate the potential hazard of any chemical or combination of chemicals. Consider any mixture or reaction product to be at least as hazardous as - if not more hazardous than - its most hazardous component.
  • In order to identify potential hazards, laboratory personnel should plan out their experiments in advance. These plans should include the specific measures that will be taken to minimize exposure to all chemicals to be used, the proper positioning of equipment, and the organization of dry runs.
  • Know all the hazards of the chemicals with which you work. For example, perchloric acid is a corrosive, an oxidizer, and a reactive. Benzene is an irritant that is also flammable, toxic, and carcinogenic.
  • Follow all chemical safety instructions, such as those listed in Safety Data Sheets or other trusted resources or on chemical container labels, precisely.
  • Clean up spills and leaks immediately.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water after handling chemicals and remove personal protective equipment, such as gloves and lab coats, before leaving the lab.
  • Visitors to the laboratory shall abide by all laboratory safety rules, including requirements for the use of eye protection.
  • Use extra care with Dewar flasks and other evacuated glass apparatus; shield or wrap them to contain chemicals and fragments should implosion occur. Use equipment only for its designed purpose.
  • Wash areas of exposed skin thoroughly before leaving the laboratory.
  • Avoid behavior that might confuse, startle or distract another worker.
  • Do not use mouth suction for pipetting or starting a siphon.
  • Avoid working alone in a laboratory while hazardous procedures are being conducted.
  • Warning signs with personnel contact information shall be posted on the door and on equipment where special or unusual hazards exist.
  • Provide for the containment of toxic substances in the event of failure of utility service when operating unattended equipment. Also, ensure that the warning signs are in place.
  • Work areas shall be maintained clean and uncluttered with chemicals and equipment properly labeled and stored; clean up the work area on completion of an operation and at the end of each day.
  • Use a fume hood for operations that might result in release of toxic chemical vapors or dust.
    • Use a fume hood or other local ventilation device when working with any volatile substance with a TLV of less than 50 ppm.
    • Confirm adequate hood performance before use.
    • Keep hood closed when operations are not being performed in the hood. Do not allow materials to block vents or air-flow.
    • Do not store chemicals in the hood.
  • Be aware of unsafe conditions and see that they are corrected when detected.
  • Report any accidents or near-miss accidents to your Principal Investigator and/or Laboratory Supervisor and RMS.

Risk assessments must be performed prior to using any chemicals covered by a standard, carcinogens, and highly toxic materials. Laboratory specific procedures including a work procedure which identifies each workstation/ task involving these chemicals, list of the required controls and equipment that will be needed when handling these chemicals, and information on the exposure limits should be completed prior to using the chemical and documented by the PI and/or Laboratory Supervisor and kept on hand in event of emergency.

Chemical Hygene Plan - Table of Contents