Chemical Safety

Chemicals are an important component of laboratory functions.  If used carelessly, they can cause severe physical, structural, and/or financial damage to the University and it's 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, the employee must identify any hazards associated with the chemical in use.  This can be done by reviewing the MSDS 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?  (Nitric Acid, Xylene, Sodium Azide) What kind of PPE is needed? (fume hood, biosafety cabinet, apron, splash proof goggles) Will the process generate waste?  Will the waste be hazardous? (reactive, ignitable, corrosive, toxic)  What type of reactions take place when using the chemicals? (generate heat, acid-gas formation, freeze)

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 found on numerous occasions left behind chemicals (some chemicals 20+ years old) that lab personal never knew was in their lab.  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 the unnecessary accumulation of chemicals.  EHS (6-7055) provides lab chemical cleanouts if you do not want to take chemicals with you.

Audit Findings: