Additional Information on Audit Findings

Lab auditing is for the benefit of the entire University community. EHS strives to educate the research community on why these findings are important, what impact they may have on yourself and others, and therefore encourage compliance and awareness of the potential hazards to enhance safety. Whether or not EHS conducts a follow-up inspection is determined by the Lab Audit Team. The notification of a need for a follow-up inspection will be included in the Laboratory Safety Audit Report. The follow-up inspection is to ensure that all violations for that lab are addressed. The follow-up will be scheduled no later than 30 days after receiving the Laboratory Safety Audit Report or by appointment. We encourage at least one member of the laboratory to be present at the time of the follow-up. 

Violations that would prompt a follow-up inspection:

  • Poor housekeeping
  • Electrical cords are damaged
  • Biohazardous waste stored in public areas
  • Chemical or radioactive waste was found in the biohazardous waste
  • Chemical containers unlabeled or labeled improperly
  • Chemical containers are in poor condition
  • Chemicals not segregated by compatibility
  • Acids are stored with flammables
  • Oxidizers are stored with flammables
  • Water-reactive chemicals are stored near water
  • Peroxide-forming chemicals not dated upon receipt and opening
  • Peroxide-forming chemicals stored beyond expiration date
  • Unauthorized radioactive material is present in the lab
  • Biosafety cabinets not tested annually
  • Chemical waste not labeled with constituents and date
  • Chemical waste containers in poor condition
  • Chemical waste containers open or unsealed
  • Chemical waste is stored in excess of regulatory limits
  • Sprinkler heads are obstructed
  • Combustibles within 18 inches of ceiling 

Below is a summary of common areas that are often the focus of laboratory audits. Expand the links below to see discussion on how to resolve specific findings. Contact EHS at 410-706-7055 or ehsaudits@umaryland.edu if you have additional questions or require assistance.

Biological Safety

Many labs on campus work with cell cultures, DNA, RNA, animals, and needles. These research materials can contain potentially infectious substances. Always decontaminate equipment after using biohazardous material. Decontamination includes utilizing a solution of warm soap and water, then a solution of 1:10 household bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) or Wescodyne. Dispose of any loose or used sharps in the proper sharps container.  Identify any refrigerator, freezer, incubator, or centrifuge used with biological material with a Biohazard Sticker. 

Common findings relevant to biological safety include: 

Unprotected sharps are in the laboratory: Unprotected sharps in the laboratory increase the risk of puncture wounds and exposure to bloodborne pathogens. When not in use, razor blades and other sharps must be stored in a protective device or disposed of in a disposable sharps container. Manual recapping of needles is prohibited. 

Biohazard warning stickers not prominent: Research materials and/or sterile equipment could become contaminated with infectious agents. All equipment and materials used to store or process potentially infectious agents must be labeled with a biohazard sticker.

Clean bench: Improper use/infectious agent work in a clean air bench: Clean air benches provide a sterile material work environment by blowing fresh air across the work surface towards the user. Clean air benches do not provide protection to workers. Working with infectious material could result in exposure. Clean air benches are not biological safety cabinets. These benches should never be used when handling cell culture materials or drug formulations or when manipulating potentially infectious materials. These devices only provide product protection and should not be used in research, biomedical, or veterinary laboratories at the University. For more information, contact the Biosafety Officer at EHS by calling 410-706-7845

Vacuum line filter missing or clogged/unprotected vacuum lines: Unprotected vacuum lines could result in exposure of infectious agents to maintenance personal who service HVAC equipment in the building. Building and laboratory vacuum systems must be protected during vacuum filtration or aspiration procedures. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) disposable cartridge filters must be used to prevent fluid and aerosol contamination of laboratory vacuum lines, and vacuum pumps. HEPA disposable cartridge filters are available from various scientific supply vendors.

Biological Safety Cabinets (BSC)

A biological safety cabinet is a piece of equipment that is designed to provide worker and product protection. The BSC is designed to protect you from infectious material and protect the material you work on inside the cabinet from outside contamination. You should use your biological safety cabinet any time you work with infectious material. Note the importance of airflow in the proper function of a BSC, as a major safety element is the "air curtain" established at the front grille. Safe work practices when using a biological safety cabinet include:

  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment, including, at a minimum, a laboratory coat and gloves.
  • Interior-surface BSCs should be surface decontaminated with disinfectant at the beginning and end of your work, between users, and even between cell types to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Do not block the front grille, which includes leaving notebooks or resting your arms in this area.
  • Ensure that the front sash is lowered at an appropriate height for you to provide full face protection while still allowing enough freedom of movement to perform your tasks.
  • Locate your work material as far back in your biological safety cabinet as possible. Operations should be performed at least 4 inches from the front grille.
  • Move your arms in and out only as necessary and use slow movements to reduce air flow disruption.
  • Plastic-backed absorbent toweling can be placed on the work surface (but not on the front grille) to aid in clean-up and spill containment.
  • Your work should flow from a clean area to a contaminated area to reduce cross-contamination.
  • Open flames create turbulence that can disrupt the air flow in your biological safety cabinet and should not be used. If  necessary, touch-plate microburners or electrical furnaces should be used 

Common findings relevant to biological safety cabinets: 

Biological safety cabinet is inaccessible: Material that impedes access to the biosafety cabinet must be removed. 

Biological safety cabinet is used for storage: Too much clutter will disrupt air flow in the cabinet. BSCs must remain clear of all excess chemicals and equipment. The BSC sash should be lowered to approximately 4 inches when not in use and must be capable of closing fully in an emergency. Ample space must be kept clear to allow the technician a safe working area. All chemicals and equipment not actively being used must be stored appropriately.

Biological safety cabinet exhaust filter is obstructed:Obstructed exhaust filters decrease the amount of air flowing through the cabinet. The air curtain protects the user from the material within and the material within from the user and the environment. Blocking air flow will reduce protection of people and material. Remove obstructions to maintain proper air flow.

Biological safety cabinet certification past due: BSCs must be certified annually, after repairs, and after relocation to ensure proper function and worker protection. Several vendors offer this service, including B&V at 800-851-9081 and LFC at 703-404-4300. If the BSC has failed inspection, all biological and material hazards must be removed and stored appropriately. Work may not be resumed until the unit is fully operational and recertified.

Please contact EHS at 410-706-7055 if you would like to request additional one-on-one training or advice regarding working in a BSC. 

Biohazardous Waste Containers

Biohazardous waste containers must be kept in good condition while in the lab. Biohazard boxes ("burn boxes") must be lined with bags provided by EHS. Tape the bottom of the burn box with packing tape before using for waste disposal. If leaks occur, the box should be disposed of immediately. If the boxes are damaged because of flood or large spills, have them removed immediately. Damaged boxes can break open when handled by EHS personnel. Once the burn box is full, tie off the bag (using gloves), fold flaps over, and tape the top with packing tape. Never overfill a burn box. Overfilled burn boxes tend to rip apart at the seams. Do not leave burn boxes and sharps containers in the hallway when waiting to be removed by EHS. Please keep biohazardous waste in a secure lab or autoclave room. EHS can access your lab even if the lab is locked. 

Sharps containers are not provided by EHS but can be purchased from various vendors.NEVER ATTEMPT TO RECAP A SHARP NEEDLE. Never overfill sharps containers. Make sure the lid stays on sharps containers at all times. Use packing tape to secure lids when disposing of sharps containers. If you dispose of your sharps in EHS bio carts, do not throw the sharps container in the cart. Please tape the lids of the sharps container and place them on top of or beside a gray bio cart, located in your facility's autoclave room. Full sharps containers also may be picked up by EHS by contacting us directly at 410-706-7055 or filling out the Special Medical Waste Removal Form on the EHS website. 

Additional burn boxes or biohazard waste bags may be requested 

Gray bio carts are only for autoclaved bags of waste and euthanized specimen. Do not place burn boxes inside of bio carts. Neatly stack burn boxes next to bio carts to await EHS disposal. Specimen must be bagged and secured to prevent the leaking of blood products. Do not overfill bio carts. Waste in bio carts is disposed of weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays. If a cart is full, call EHS at 410-706-7055 to have it exchanged for an empty one or use another cart (if provided).

Common findings relevant to biohazardous waste containers: 

Biohazardous waste containers are unlabeled: Unidentified waste may result in injuries to employees, damage to the environment, and fines from regulatory agencies. All biomedical waste containers must be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol. For more information regarding management of infectious materials, consult the Bloodborne Pathogen Control Plan.

Improper storage of biohazardous waste:Do not store biohazardous waste on the floor, in hallways or in other areas accessible to the general public, where it may be mistaken for regular trash. Waste must be stored in secondary containment or within lined biohazardous waste boxes (available from EHS). Do not overfill containers.

Liquid disposal in dry waste or sharps containers:No liquid material is permissible in the biomedical waste containers. 

Biohazard waste boxes are used improperly: Biohazardous waste boxes are not built to contain other waste such as chemicals and radioactive fluid and may break and leak material. Only biohazardous materials may be disposed of in the biohazardous waste containers. Remove chemical or radioactive materials from the containers and dispose of them properly. Place paper towels, equipment wrapping, and cardboard boxes in the regular trash.

Biologically contaminated waste found in regular trash or glass recycling: Broken glassware boxes must be lined with durable plastic bags. The boxes may only be used for the disposal of noninfectious, noncontaminated glassware. No biohazardous, chemical, or radioactive materials can go into these containers. Paper towels, gloves, and other debris must be placed in the regular trash. Gloves, used paper towels, contaminated Petri dishes, etc., should not be disposed of in broken glassware boxes.

For the proper management of these waste streams, please consult the Special Medical Waste web page.

Chemical Safety

Chemicals are an important component of laboratory work. If used carelessly, they can cause severe physical, structural, and/or financial damage to the University and its employees. These damages may be brought about by an immediate reaction or long-term misuse/neglect of a chemical. To prevent the misuse of chemicals, employees must identify any hazards associated with chemicals in their workspace. This can be done by reviewing the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) before working with the chemical. Plan work carefully. At the beginning of complex research projects, conduct a risk assessment. Ask these questions: What are the hazard(s) associated with the chemicals involved in the research? What engineering and environmental controls are in place to protect me and protect the environment? What kind of personal protective equipment is needed? Will the process generate waste?  Will the waste be hazardous? What type of reactions take place when using the chemicals?

If you are leaving the University or moving to another building (or lab space), be sure to remove all unwanted chemicals from the lab before you leave the building (or lab space). The EHS Audit Team has on numerous occasions found chemicals left behind that current lab staff were not aware were there. Old or expired chemicals present serious hazards for lab personal and EHS employees who manage the disposal of these chemicals. Updated chemical inventories and frequent housekeeping will prevent unnecessary accumulation of chemicals. EHS (410-706-7055) provides lab chemical cleanouts if you do not want to take chemicals with you.

Common findings relevant to chemical safety:

Chemical labeling inadequate or missing: The improper handling of chemical waste can result in injuries to employees, damage to the environment, and fines from regulatory agencies. All chemical containers must be labeled, in English, as to their contents. Chemical formulae are not permitted as the sole means of identification. Reused containers must be completely defaced of the old label, prior to relabeling with the new contents. Unlabeled containers are automatically considered unknown hazardous waste and are problematic and expensive to dispose of. Relabel any chemical containers found to be improperly labeled.

Chemical container management issues identified: All chemical containers must be in good condition with no visible damage or deterioration. Caps must be secure, intact, and without chemical residue. Labels must be intact and fully legible. Any container found to be leaking, rusted, or forming precipitates must be disposed of immediately as chemical waste. Storage of hazardous chemicals for speculative use is illegal. Itemize chemicals to be removed and submit the list to EHS for a chemical waste pickup.

Corrosive chemicals stored above eye level: Eye damage could result from spilled corrosive chemicals. Storage of corrosive material below eye level minimizes the risk of damage to the eye. Move corrosive chemicals to storage below eye level.

Chemicals are being used outside a fume hood: Chemicals representing an inhalation hazard must be used only in a chemical fume hood. When not in use, chemical containers must be securely capped and free from exterior contamination. Retrain individuals in the lab on safe working procedures with chemical hazards.

Chemical storage — inadequate flammable storage: The improper handling of flammable material can result in injuries to employees, damage to equipment and the environment, and fines from regulatory agencies. Flammable solids and liquids must be isolated from potential sources of ignition, including acids. No more than 10 gallons of flammable liquids in a laboratory may be stored outside a flammable storage cabinet. Move flammable materials away from ignition sources and into proper containment.

Chemical Storage

Many laboratories find it convenient to store their chemicals alphabetically. This may seem like good lab organization, but it can lead to incompatible hazardous chemicals being stored together. For example, say we store all the chemicals starting with "S" together. What usually happens in this situation is Sulfuric Acid (Strong Acid) gets stored on the same shelf or in the same cabinet as Sodium Nitrite (Strong Oxidizer). If one of these containers leaked (or the shelf falls), an acid gas could result as a reaction between the two chemicals. Consult the chemical's SDS for identifying hazards and compatibility issues. See below for tips on chemical storage.  Resources and information can be found on: Chemical Segregation Tip Sheet,  Segregation of Waste Chemicals, and Chemical Substance Incompatibilities.

  • Separate solids from liquids. Note: Within the solids group, separate metals from non-metals. Keep metals away from water and moisture to prevent corrosion or reaction.
  • Separate non-hazardous from hazardous. While not comprehensive, an easy way to start identifying hazardous chemicals  is to look for any of the GHS hazard symbols, the signal words "danger" or "warning," or other hazard symbols if purchased before 2015.
  • Separate toxic from irritants (non-hazardous). Note: Irritants are usually denoted by a black "X" on the bottle. Toxic are labeled with a skull-and-crossbones symbol. Toxic chemicals should be stored away from sink and sanitary areas.
  • Separate flammable liquids (or solids) from all other hazardous chemicals. Note: If you have more than 10 gallons of flammable liquid in your lab, they must be stored in a flammable storage cabinet. Flammable liquids also can be stored in cabinets underneath fume hoods.
  • Separate reactives/oxidizers from remaining hazardous chemicals. Note: Oxidizers can be stored on shelves, preferably below eye level. Some oxidizers can be stored in explosion-proof refrigerators to prevent peroxide formation. Water-reactive chemicals should be stored clear of a sink or any areas of moisture.
  • Separate corrosives from remaining hazardous chemicals including flammables. This category contains most acids and bases, which should be separated from each other. Acids and bases can be stored in the same cabinet as long as they are stored in secondary containment separate from each other. Corrosives can be stored in cabinets underneath fume hoods (usually in the cabinet provided on the right). They may not be stored above eye level.
  • Separate organic acids from inorganic acids. Inorganic acids (also known as mineral acids) are generally stronger than organic acids and include sulphuric, hydrochloric, boric, and hydrofluoric acid. They often are oxidizing agents while organic acids may be combustible, so they should not be stored together. 

Common findings relevant to chemical storage:

Chemicals not segregated by compatibility — acids are stored with flammables; oxidizers are stored with flammables:Various adverse events that may occur because of reactions between incompatible materials include fire, explosion, violent reactions, and/or release of toxic gases. Chemicals must be classified by hazard class and stored with regard to reactivity. Alphabetic order alone is insufficient, and chemicals must be stored in a single layer. Use the printed hazard icons on chemical labels to determine hazard class, or use the SDS if the icons are not present.

Flammables found in household refrigerators or household refrigerators not labeled to prohibit flammables: A non-explosion-proof refrigerator does not have the proper electrical wiring for storing flammable liquids and can be an ignition source for accumulated flammable vapors. If your flammable material must be chilled before use, use an ice bucket as needed or purchase an explosion-proof refrigerator. An explosion-proof apparatus is defined in the National Electric Code as follows: "Apparatus enclosed in a case that is capable of withstanding an explosion of a specified gas or vapor that may occur within it and of preventing the ignition of a specified gas or vapor surrounding the enclosure by sparks, flashes or explosion of the gas or vapor within, and that operates at such an external temperature that a surrounding flammable atmosphere will not be ignited thereby." An explosion refrigerator needs to be listed by Factory Mutual (FM), Underwriters Laboratory (UL), or other recognized testing laboratory, and labeled as such. Flammable liquids stored in a non-explosion-proof refrigerator need to be removed.

Water-reactive chemicals are stored near water: Water-reactive chemicals must be stored away from faucets, sinks, and other sources of moisture. Store in a desiccator or under inert atmosphere, if available.

Some examples of water-reactive chemicals:

Lithium

Lithium aluminum hydride

Magnesium (fine)

Calcium (powders)

Calcium nitride (powder)

Calcium carbide (phosphide traces)

Strontium (powder)

Aluminum (fine)

Beryllium hydride

Calcium hydride

Phenyl aluminum

Phenyl zinc

Carbides of 2A

Aluminum carbide

Aluminum nitride

Aluminum hydride

Lithium amide

Sodium

Potassium

Rubidium

Cesium

Hydrides of 1A, Magnesium hydride, Barium hydride

Alkyls of 1A, 2A, 3A (13) metals, Zinc and Cadmium

Phenyls of 1A, 2A metals

Carbides or acetylides of 1A metals

Sodium amide

Nitrides of 1A

Phosphides of 1A, 2A metals, Zinc

Boron tribromide

Dichlorophenylboronate

Triflouroacetic anhydride

Oxalyl chloride

(chloromethylene)dimethyliminium chloride (Vilsmeier Reagent)

Sodium oxide

Magnesium chloride (anhydrous)

Aluminum chloride (anhydrous)

Silicon tetrachloride

Phosphorus pentachloride

1,2-phenylene phosphorchloridite

Phosphorous pentaoxide

Triflouromethanesulfonic anhydride

Methyl flourosulfonate

Sulfuric acid (Fuming)

Sulfur trioxide

Chlorosulfonic acid

Chlorosulfonyl isocyanate

Diethylaminosufurtriflouride (DAST)

Thionyl chloride

Titanuim tetrachloride

Chemical Waste Containers

The improper handling of chemical waste can result in injuries to employees, damage to the environment, and fines from regulatory agencies. Hazardous waste containers must comply with EPA regulations. The container must be labeled "Hazardous Waste," dated on the day that waste is first accumulated, and have the constituents of the container spelled out in full, in English. At the end of the work day or experiment, be sure that any funnel that collects waste into a container is taken out of the container and the container recapped.  See the guidelines on labeling containers and prefilled Chemical Waste Labels under Hazardous Material Management.

Storage of hazardous chemicals for speculative use is not permitted. Itemize chemicals to be removed and submit the list to EHS for a chemical waste pickup. 

It is the responsibility of laboratory custodians to ensure that containers of hazardous waste stored in the laboratories under their control are managed properly. To ensure proper management of these containers, follow these guidelines:

1. All hazardous waste designated for disposal must be placed in appropriate glass, metal, or chemically inert, non-reactive, non-flexible plastic containers with tightly fitting screw caps. Corrosives should not be placed in metal containers. Leaking, visibly damaged, or rusted containers are not acceptable. Used containers should be clean. Do not refill used reagent containers with potentially incompatible waste chemicals. Open containers or containers with cut glass, aluminum foil, Parafilm, rubber, or cork stoppers are unacceptable. Do not overfill waste containers.

2. All containers labeled as containing hazardous waste must be stored in a secondary containment device (i.e., tub or basin) to prevent environmental contamination in the event of a spill or leaking container. Each basin must be leakproof and constructed of a chemically inert material. It must be capable of containing either the total volume of the largest waste container in the basin or 10 percent of the total waste volume in the basin, whichever is greater.

3. The exterior of each waste container must be clean and free from chemical contamination so that labels will adhere to the container. All markings not pertaining to the actual waste contents must be completely removed or obliterated.

4. Waste containers must be kept closed at all times except when in the process of adding waste to the container. Waste containers must not be filled to the top. Two inches of space must be left at the top of every container larger than a quart.

5. Waste containers must be inspected weekly for leaks and/or deterioration. If a container is leaking or deteriorating, transfer its contents to a new, suitable container.

Chemical containers that have been emptied (generally this means drained of their contents by normal means including pouring, pumping, aspirating, etc.) are not regulated as hazardous waste; however, they should be triple-rinsed with water or other suitable solvent and air dried to ensure that they are free of liquid or other visible chemical residue. Additionally, all labels identifying the contents of the container should be removed or defaced. Containers meeting this criteria should either be placed into a broken glass container or the general refuse containers provided by General Services. The generator must determine whether the washings must be collected and disposed of as hazardous waste. For volatile organic solvents (acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate, ethyl ether, hexane, methanol, petroleum ether, toluene, xylene, etc.) not on the list of acutely hazardous wastes (P-List), the empty container can be air dried in a ventilated area (e.g., chemical fume hood) without triple-rinsing.

If residues remain after, the container should be disposed of as chemically contaminated solid waste and consigned to EHS for disposal.

Common findings relevant to chemical waste containers:

Not labeled "Hazardous Waste":All containers used for the collection of hazardous wastes must be labeled with the words "Hazardous Waste."

Not labeled with constituents and date: All containers used for the collection of hazardous wastes must be labeled with the chemical names, spelled out in English, of all components and dated from the day of first accumulation. Chemical abbreviations, formulas, and structures are not acceptable. In addition, all constituents of a solution must be broken down and listed by percentage. 

Chemical container management issues identified/containers in poor condition: All chemical containers must be in good condition with no visible damage or deterioration. Caps must be secure, intact, and without chemical residue. Labels must be intact and fully legible. Any container found to be leaking, rusted, or forming precipitates must be disposed of immediately as chemical waste. 

Chemical waste containers open or unsealed: Tight-fitting lids are required on all chemical containers. Funnels remaining in the containers, corks with holes, aluminum foil, and Parafilm are examples of unacceptable lids. 

Chemical waste not stored in secondary containment: All containers storing liquid chemical waste require secondary containment, such as a plastic tub capable of containing the contents in the event of breakage or leakage. 

Good examples of secondary containment:

Chemical Waste Storage

Chemical waste must be disposed of according to University policy. In general, chemical waste should not be placed in areas accessible to the general public (e.g., hallways, restrooms, stairways, outside buildings, loading docks, parking lots, or open motor vehicles). 

In addition, chemical waste must be segregated from chemicals in use in a safe and conspicuous location. Do not place hazardous waste in a location where it could be mistaken for ordinary trash and accidentally disposed of by general service (housekeeper) personnel. 

Chemical waste may not be disposed of in domestic waste containers (dumpsters, trash cans, etc.), evaporated in a fume hood, poured down drains, rinsed down sanitary sewers, or in any other way released to the environment without consulting EHS. 

The improper disposal of chemical waste can result in injuries to employees, damage to the environment, and fines from regulatory agencies. 

Common findings relevant to chemical waste storage:

Waste is not stored at the point of generation: All chemical waste must be stored in the laboratory in which it was generated. Taking hazardous waste to central accumulation areas, or consolidating the waste with other laboratories, is not permitted. Do not place chemical waste in hallways, areas accessible to the general public, or where it may be mistaken for general trash. 

Chemical waste is not under the control of the generator: Chemical waste must be located in the area it is generated. Chemical waste stored in locations away from where it is generated must be removed immediately, and that practice needs to be discontinued. 

Waste storage exceeds regulatory limits: The maximum amount of waste that can be stored in a laboratory is 55 gallons. The exception to this pertains to the generation of acutely hazardous waste (P-listed), for which the limit is 1 quart. 

Empty containers are being disposed of improperly: Empty chemical containers may be disposed of in the regular municipal trash or broken glassware boxes, provided they are completely empty and the chemical labels are completely defaced. The container must be triple-rinsed, with the rinsate collected as hazardous waste. The only exceptions are containers previously holding acutely hazardous waste (P-listed), which must be disposed of through EHS as hazardous waste, by submitting a chemical waste pickup request. 

Compressed Gas Cylinder Safety

Compressed gas cylinders pose mechanical, physical, inhalation, and/or other health hazards if used carelessly. Falling cylinders can cause damage to lab equipment, exposure to toxic, corrosive, or flammable gases, and personal injury. Here are tips for working with compressed gas cylinders:

  • Secure them to wall or vertical support by means of restraining straps or chains.
  • When moving cylinders, use a cylinder cart with a chain restraint in place.
  • Valve-protection caps should be installed on cylinders at all times when not in use.
  • Cylinders should never be dropped, rolled, or carried in a horizontal position.
  • Cylinders should never be used as rollers for moving equipment.
  • If a cylinder or cylinder valve is leaking, call EHS.
  • NEVER stick anything into the cylinder cap holes in an attempt to loosen the cap.
  • Use an adjustable strap wrench to remove stuck caps.
  • If the cap is still difficult to remove, attach a tag or label to the cylinder identifying the problem and return the cylinder to the supplier.
  • Wrenches should not be used on valves equipped with a handwheel. If the valve is difficult to operate or faulty, contact your supplier.

In addition, liquid nitrogen cylinders that release their contents can purge an area of oxygen. Never enter a room if a liquid nitrogen cylinder releases its contents and do not ride on an elevator that is transporting a liquid nitrogen cylinder .

Common findings relevant to compressed gas cylinder safety:

Compressed gases not properly capped while stored: Cylinder regulators must be removed when not in use, and protective shipping caps must be replaced. Store only cylinders needed for immediate use in the lab; excess inventory should be stored in loading dock cages or ordered as needed. 

Compressed gases not secured/gas cylinders not properly secured: Compressed gas cylinders must be secured to a wall, bench mount, floor bracket, or other stable fixture to prevent falling. Protective valve caps must be tightly in place when regulators are not in use. Many vendors provide fixtures and mounting units. Have your department administrator contact Facilities Management at 410-706-7570 to have mounting fixtures installed. (Facilities Management will not provide these.)

Electrical Safety

Simply put, electricity can kill. It also is a leading cause of fires in laboratories. Types of electrical injuries include electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns, and falls caused as a result of contact with electrical energy.

  • Immediately take out of service any equipment with frayed wires, giving off smoke, or that causes a tingling sensation when touched.
  • Store flammable liquids and gases away from electrical sources.
  • Keep electrical cords away from sources of water.
  • Do not use extension cords in place of permanent wiring .

Common findings relevant to electrical safety: 

Electrical panels obstructed: Remove equipment and material that impedes access to the electrical panel. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that you maintain 36 inches of clearance in front of and to the side of electrical panels.

Electrical cords are damaged: Electrical cords must be securely plugged into wall outlets with the grounding prongs intact. Equipment with cracked, frayed, or damaged cords must be taken out of service until the cord is repaired or replaced.

Extension cords in use (instead of permanent wiring): Extension cords may not be used as permanent wiring and must be removed. If additional outlets are required, ask your department administrator to arrange for additional outlets to be installed within the laboratory. More information on Extension Cord Use is available.

Eyewash Stations

An eyewash station/drench hose is a piece of equipment designed to provide water to a person who has splashed corrosive or toxic material on their body. The University requires an eyewash station/drench hose to be placed within a reasonable distance of your laboratory and that you ensure that access to it is not blocked. Lack of or improperly functioning eyewash stations may result in injury to the eye because of the inability to rinse corrosive or toxic chemicals. Eyewash stations may be installed or repaired by contacting Facilities Management at 410-706-7570 or through the Facilities Management Work Order Request Link

Common findings relevant to eyewash stations: 

Eyewash station/drench hose is unavailable: Have your department administrator contact Facilities Management to have an eyewash installed. Personal or disposable eyewash bottles are not acceptable and must be discarded when expired. 

Eyewash station/drench hose is inaccessible: Remove all material that blocks access to the eyewash station. 

Eyewash station/drench hose is not working: Submit a work order to have the eyewash station repaired. 

Eyewash station/drench hose is not tested on a weekly basis:  Eyewash stations and drench hoses must be activated regularly to ensure that clear, fresh water is available. Laboratory staff must test the station weekly and document compliance at or near the station. 

Eyewash station/drench hose does not have a visible sign posted: Purchase or print a sign to be posted near your eye wash station. 

Fire Safety

Fires can destroy years of research, put your laboratory out of service for extended periods of time, cause significant financial impact on the University, and result in serious injuries or death. To reduce the risk of fire, follow these simple work practices:

  • Store flammable liquids in a flammable storage cabinet.
  • Keep flammable liquids and gases away from sources of ignition such as electrical outlets and open flames.
  • Take out of service equipment with damaged electrical wiring.
  • Do not hang items from sprinkler heads.
  • Do not store flammable liquids in non-explosion-proof refrigerators.
  • Make sure emergency exits are not blocked.
  • Evacuate the building when the fire alarm sounds.

Common findings relevant to fire safety: 

Sprinkler heads are obstructed: Remove all obstructions from around sprinkler heads, including combustible material from within 18 inches of sprinkler heads or other large pieces of equipment.

Items stored less than 18 inches from ceiling or sprinkler head: Remove all combustible material from within 18 inches of ceiling. Examples include cardboard boxes, paper files, and flammable liquids.

Fire extinguisher is inaccessible: Remove equipment and material that block access to the fire extinguisher. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that people who are expected to use a fire extinguisher at work are trained on how to use it. Please contact the University Fire Marshal at 410-706-3494 if you would like to have your staff trained on how to use a fire extinguisher.

Fire extinguishers have not been tested annually: A fire extinguisher must be tested annually or discarded. Several vendors offer testing and recharge services. To discard of a fire extinguisher, contact Facilities Management at 410-706-7570.

Laboratory Door Sign

Federal and state regulations require that information on the hazards in the laboratory be posted at entrances to laboratories, along with emergency contact information. Door signs may be requested or updated at MyEHS  for registered UM users. 

Updated door sign not posted: Updated door signs must be posted at all entrances leading into a laboratory. A door sign must include the current principal investigator (PI), emergency contact information (with non-campus phone numbers), and all laboratory hazards. 

Laboratory Fume Hoods

A fume hood is a piece of equipment designed to provide you with protection from the inhalation of toxic material. You should use your fume hood any time you work with chemicals that present an inhalation hazard to you. Safe work practices when using a fume hood include:

  • Always use your fume hood when working with toxic chemicals you may inhale.
  • Work at least 6 inches back from the front of the hood. A stripe on the bench surface is a good reminder.
  • Elevate large equipment 1 to 2 inches above the working surface of the hood.
  • Do not place your head inside the hood when contaminants are being generated.
  • Do not use the hood as a chemical waste disposal mechanism.
  • Do not store chemicals or apparatus in the hood.
  • Keep the hood sash at the lowest possible position and use the sash as a shield.
  • In general, fume hoods should not be used to work with biological material 

Common findings relevant to use of laboratory fume hoods: 

Fume hood inaccessible: Improper air flow in the fume hood or the inability of people to work safely in the fume hood may result in potential injury. Remove all material and equipment that block access to the fume hood.

Fume hood used improperly or used for storage: Extra equipment in a fume hood decreases the performance of the fume hood and can cause you to inhale the chemicals you work with. Fume hoods must remain clear of all excess chemicals and equipment. Materials that are not in use for ongoing experiments must be removed.

Fume hood not tested annually: Contact EHS at 410-706-7055 immediately to schedule a fume hood inspection. If the fume hood has failed inspection, all chemical and material hazards must be removed and stored appropriately. Contact Facilities Management at 410-706-7570 to have the fume hood repaired. Once repaired, contact EHS to have the fume hood recertified before resuming work.

Laboratory Hygiene Standards

A clean and well-organized laboratory sets the foundation for a safe working environment. It also is important to follow basic personal hygiene practices such as not eating or drinking in laboratories and washing your hands after working with hazardous materials. Eating, drinking, or the application of cosmetics in the laboratory is strictly prohibited.

There are no "clean areas" in a laboratory. Separate break rooms or kitchenettes must be used for all food, drink, cosmetics, and free from the storage of any biological, chemical or radioactive hazard.

Common findings relevant to lab hygiene:

General laboratory housekeeping unsatisfactory: Routine maintenance in the laboratory must be improved. Chemicals and equipment that are not in use must be properly stored or disposed of. Walkways, benches, and active workspaces must free from obstructions. Ongoing experiments must be organized, labeled, and contained, leaving ample workspace for safe work practices.

Evidence of eating and drinking/cosmetics used in the lab: Under no circumstances may food, drink, or cosmetic products (exception: hand cream) be present in the lab. This includes storage of unopened food, water bottles, coffee mugs, nail polish, lipstick, etc. Empty wrappers, cups, containers, etc., must be discarded before entering the laboratory. Samples specifically intended for analysis or animal use must be clearly labeled as such.

Trip hazards identified: Walkways need to be kept free of obstructions and/or cords that cross over walkways need to be removed or secured to the floor with duct tape.

Supplies for hand-washing not available: Paper towels and soap for your laboratory may be requested from General Services or purchased.

Spill response supplies not available: Absorbent pads, paper towels, vermiculite, or oil dry must be available to clean up spills. Materials used to clean up hazardous waste must be labeled and treated as hazardous waste.

Peroxide-Forming Chemicals

Peroxidizable chemicals can react with ambient air to form peroxides if they are stored for long periods of time. Peroxides, if not handled properly, can explode with impact, heat, or friction. Date peroxide-forming chemicals when you receive/open the container and dispose of the chemical if stored beyond expiration to prevent peroxide formation. Do not open any container that has solid formation around the lid. Neglected peroxide-forming chemicals can cause them to crystallize. The crystals are highly explosive when aggravated. EHS will remove any peroxides stored beyond expiration.

 Some peroxide-forming chemicals that may be found in the lab include:

  • Acetal
  • Acrolein
  • Acrylic acid
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Aldehydes
  • Allyl ethyl ether
  • Allyl phenyl ether
  • Anhydrous Ether
  • Benzyl ether
  • Benzoyl-n-butyl ether
  • Bromophenetole
  • Butadiene
  • p-Chloroanisole
  • Chloroprene
  • Chlorotriflouroethylene
  • Cumene
  • Cyclohexene
  • Cyclooctene
  • Cyclopentene
  • Decahydronaphthalene
  • Diacetylene
  • Dibutyl Ether
  • Dicyclopentadiene
  • Diethyl ether
  • Diethylene glycol
  • Diethylene glycol diethyl ether
  • Diethylene glycol mono-o-butyl ether
  • Diisopropyl ether
  • Dimethyl ether
  • Dimethyl isopropyl ether
  • 1,4 Dioxane
  • p-Dioxane
  • Divinyl ether
  • Divinylacetylene
  • Ether
  • Ethyl Methyl ether
  • Ethylene Glycol Dimethyl Ether
  • Ethylene Glycol Ethers
  • Furan
  • Isopropyl ether
  • Indene
  • Methyl isobutyl ketone
  • Methyl acetylene
  • o-Methylanisole
  • Methylcyclopentane
  • Methyl Methacrylate
  • m-Methylphenetole
  • Phenetole
  • Organic ethers >1 year old
  • Perchloric Acid
  • Tetrahydrofuran
  • Potassium Amide
  • Potassium Metal
  • Sodium Amide
  • Styrene
  • Tetrafluoroethylene
  • Tetrahydronaphthalene
  • Vinyl Acetate
  • Vinylacetylene
  • Vinyl Chloride
  • Vinyl Ethers
  • Vinyl Pyridine
  • Vinylidene Chloride
  • Vinylidene Dichloride 

Common findings related to peroxide-forming chemicals:

Undated peroxide formers identified: Peroxide-forming chemicals must be labeled once with the date of receipt and again with the date the material is opened. All peroxide-forming chemicals must be discarded six months after opening or by the expiration date, whichever occurs first.

Expired peroxide forming chemicals: Expired peroxide-forming chemicals may form very sensitive explosive material and must be removed from the lab immediately by trained personnel. NEVER handle expired containers or test chemicals for peroxides within the lab. Request removal by EHS.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided to lab personnel when any expectation may exist for exposure to hazardous materials. Lab personnel must be trained on the proper use of any PPE issued to them and are responsible for their proper use and replacement when damaged. Eye protection, protective gloves, and a laboratory coat must be worn while conducting laboratory experiments. These are minimum requirements applicable to all laboratories.

Eye protection: Protective eye and face equipment must be used where there is a risk of injury from hazardous chemicals. The principal investigator (PI) or lab supervisor should determine the proper type of eye protection needed per lab activity.

  • Safety glasses/goggles with side shields offer protection against flying fragments, chips, particles, sand, and dirt.
  • Chemical splash goggles (acid goggles) offer the best eye protection from chemical splashes. Safety goggles should not be worn when danger of a splash exists
  • Faceshields protect the face and neck from flying particle and splashes. Always wear additional eye protection under faceshields.

Skin and body protection: The use of gloves and lab coats provides minimal protection from chemical and biological hazards. Coveralls, aprons, or protective suits should be used when working with extremely hazardous substances. Open-toed shoes, sandals, shorts, etc., are not permitted when working in University laboratories.

Respirators: Respirator should only be used when engineering controls are not feasible or where they are being installed.

Common findings relevant to personal protective equipment:

Proper PPE not worn and/or available: Ensure PPE is available and retrain individuals on the proper use of PPE. Perform a risk assessment to determine if additional measures are necessary. Provide PPE to individuals and ensure procedures are in place for assessing damage or replacement of PPE as needed. Perform a risk assessment to determine if additional measures are necessary.

Unauthorized respirator usage is present: Failure to be properly fit-tested for the appropriate respirator can lead to inhalation of hazardous chemicals. Respirators should not be necessary in the laboratory when proper safe work practices are employed. Contact EHS at 410-706-7055 to review the issue specific to your needs. 

Radiation Safety

Radiation Safety performs periodic audits independently of our Annual Laboratory Safety Audit. Any work with radiation at University or University-affiliated labs must be registered with the Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) and additional training taken by any researcher who may handle or be exposed to radiation. Radiation users may also need to be enrolled in the radiation exposure (dosimetry) program, and this need will be reviewed by the RSC. Areas where radioactive work may be performed must be registered and any waste generated must be accumulated and disposed of in the proper manner. Unauthorized use of radioactive material may result in injury to lab personnel as well as fines from state and government agencies. Please contact the Radiation Safety Officer and consult the Radiation Safety Program page for additional information.

Common findings relevant to radiation safety:

Authorization for use of radioactive materials is not current/unauthorized material is present: Radioactive material may only be stored and used in areas designated for such use by the Radiation Safety Office. Contact the Radiation Safety Officer to register this area, or cease the use of radioactive materials in this area.

Area is not registered for the use of lasers: Lasers may only be stored and used in areas registered with the Radiation Safety Office. Contact the Radiation Safety Officer to register this area, or cease the use of lasers in this area.

Safety Showers

A safety shower is a piece of equipment that is designed to provide more than 30 gallons of water per minute to a person who has spilled corrosive or toxic material on their body. The University requires that you have a safety shower within a reasonable distance of your laboratory and that you ensure that access is not blocked. Death or severe injury because of the inability to rinse corrosive or toxic chemicals from the body may result from the lack of, inaccessibility, or the non-functioning of safety showers. 

Common findings relevant to use of safety showers: 

Safety shower unavailable: Contact your department administrator to request installation of a safety shower in your work area. EHS can assist with selecting the proper type and location of safety shower.

Safety shower inaccessible: Remove all material that blocks access to the safety shower.

Safety shower not tested annually:Contact Facilities Management at 410-706-7570 to have the safety shower tested. Safety shower inspection logs must be maintained at or near the site of the shower.

No visible signage for safety shower: A sign identifying the location of the safety shower needs to be installed. Several vendors provide pre-printed signs for this purpose.