Laboratory Safety Guidelines








1. Laboratory Awareness

a. Report all accidents regardless of how minor to the Project Leader and to the Laboratory-Person-In-Charge. Report any job-related injuries or illnesses to the supervisor and seek treatment immediately.

b. Learn the location and proper usage of the safety shower and office intercom telephone.

c. Request information and training when unsure how to handle a hazardous chemical/procedure/equipment.

d. Be alert to unsafe conditions and actions, and call attention to them so that corrections can be made as soon as possible.

e. More concentrated solutions must be poured into less concentrated solutions to avoid violent reactions.

f. Be familiar with the appropriate measure to take in case of exposure to the following:

  • Corrosive chemicals
  • Radioactive Materials
  • Carcinogens
  • Biohazards
  • Compressed Gases
  • Toxic Chemicals
  • Reactive Chemicals
  • Flammable Substances

Note: a more detailed description is provided in the Biosafety Section of the NIH Operations Manual.

g. Remain knowledgeable of hazards of chemicals in the laboratory and how to handle them safely.

h. For minor skin burns, immediately plunge the burnt area into cold water and promptly seek medical help for more serious burns.

i. If any chemical gets into your eye, immediately wash the eye with running water and promptly seek medical help.

j. Never place chemicals directly on the pan balances. Use weight boats and paper.

k. Appropriately label all storage areas, refrigerators, cabinets, etc. and keep all chemicals in properly labeled (noting date of receipt or generation and the date of the opening of the chemical) containers.

l. Return all laboratory materials and equipment to their proper places after use.

m. Upon completion of work, clean your work area.

n. Maintain cleanliness and orderliness in the laboratory at all times.

o. In general, laboratory users are responsible for the daily maintenance of their areas. The scope of cleaning by maintenance workers/custodian workers/ janitors should be limited to floors, windows, emptying of non-hazardous trash and blackboards. Laboratory users should conduct cleaning of counters and shelves.

p. If the experiments involves biohazardous materials, all workbenches, glasswares and other equipment should be decontaminated before and after each experimentation

q. All biohazard-contaminated trash should be decontaminated by autoclaving prior to disposal as regular garbage.

r. The use of the autoclave is scheduled except in emergency cases.

2. Personal Safety [go to top]

a. Primary barriers should be used as appropriate, such as splash shields, face protection, eye protection.

b. Laboratory coats/aprons should be worn in the laboratory at all times.

c. Gloves should be worn as needed.

d. Mouth pipetting is forbidden; mechanical pipetting devices are used.

e. Eating, drinking, smoking, handling contact lenses, applying cosmetics are not permitted in work areas and are especially forbidden in areas where hazardous chemicals are used. These shall be done only in well-defined designated areas.

f. Food, drinks and gums are prohibited in the laboratory. Food should not be stored in the same refrigerator with chemicals, biohazards or radioactive materials. Food is stored outside the work area in cabinets or refrigerators designated and used for this purpose only.

g. Due to the dangers of broken glass, corrosive liquid spills and other toxic chemicals in the lab, wearing of open sandals, open slippers or being barefooted are not permitted.

h. Use fume hoods when handling volatile chemicals at all times.

i. Wash hands after handling viable materials, after removing gloves and before leaving laboratory.

j. Separately wash clothing worn in the laboratory from other clothing.

k. Avoid having long hair, loose sleeves/cuffs, rings, bracelets, etc. in close proximity to open flames or when operating electrical machinery.

l. Keep exposed skin covered. Shorts, skirts, or open-toed shoes should not be worn in the laboratory.

m. Policies for the safe handling of sharps should be instituted.

n. All procedures must be carefully performed to minimize the creation of splashes or aerosols.

o. Work surfaces are decontaminated before and after each experimentation and after any spill of viable material.

Note: Please refer to the NIH Operations manual regarding the appropriate use of decontaminating agents.

p. Immunizations against infectious diseases should be the responsibility of the user (ex. hepatitis, tetanus)

3. Fire Prevention [go to top]

a. Be aware of ignition sources in your laboratory area (open flames, heat, electrical equipment).

b. Purchase and store flammable reagents in the smallest quantities possible.

c. Do not store flammable liquids in standard refrigerators.

d. Store flammable liquids in appropriate cabinets and/or safety cans.

e. Do not store incompatible reagents together (e.g. acids with flammables). Do not store ether for extended periods as explosives, peroxides could form.

f. Make sure that all electrical cords are in good condition. All electrical outlets should be grounded and should accommodate a 3-pronged plug.

4. Housekeeping [go to top]

a. Eliminate safety hazards by maintaining laboratory work areas in a good state.

b. Inspect all equipment before use.

c. Use borosilicate glassware for laboratory work. If dichromate/sulfuric acid glass cleaner is used in the laboratory, make sure that cleaning is confined to the fume hood (toxic chromyl chlorides are released from the dichromate/sulfuric acid solution). Better yet, use a non-chromate containing cleaning solution (e.g. NoChromix).

d. If experiments are to be continued unattended overnight, place a note next to the experimental apparatus indicating the chemicals involved, your name, and a number where you can be reached in case of an emergency.

e. Keep the laboratory floors dry at all times. Immediately attend to chemicals/water spills and notify other laboratory workers of potential slipping hazards.

f. All machinery for repair and adjustment should be properly locked out and tagged before servicing. Only authorized personnel should do all service work.