40 Steps to Lab Safety
The Laboratory Safety Workshop offers these
suggestions for improving laboratory safety because we believe that having an
understanding of inherent hazards and learning how to be safe should be an integral and
important part of science education, work, and life.
Requiring Minimal Expense
1. Have a written Environmental, Health,
& Safety (EHS) policy statement.
2. Organize a departmental committee of
employees, management, faculty, staff and students which will meet regularly to discuss
3. Develop a Safety orientation for all new
employees and students.
4. Encourage employees and students to care
about their health and safety and that of others.
5. Involve everyone, employees and students,
in some aspect of the safety program and give each specific responsibilities.
6. Provide incentives to employees and
students for safety performance.
7. Require all employees to read the
appropriate safety manual (e.g. HazCom
Program, Lab Safety Guide, Bloodborne Pathogen Program, Rad Manual, Laser
Manual). Require students to read the institution's laboratory safety rules (Student safety guide, Lab Safety Guide-lab rules,
procedures for wet chem. lab). Have both groups sign a
statement that they have done so, understand the contents, and agree to follow the
procedures and practices (e.g. employee acknowledgement, student acknowledgement). Keep these
statements on file in the department office.
8. Conduct periodic, unannounced laboratory
inspections to identify and correct hazardous conditions and unsafe practices. Involve
students and employees in simulated OSHA inspections.
9. Make learning how to be safe an integral
and important part of science education, your work, and
10. Schedule regular departmental safety
meetings for all students and employees to discuss the results of inspections and aspects
of laboratory safety.
11. Require every pre-lab/pre-experiment
discussion to include the health and safety aspects.
12. Forbid working alone in any laboratory
and working without prior knowledge of a staff member.
13. Don't allow experiments to run unattended
unless they are failsafe.
14. When conducting experiments with hazards
or potential hazards, ask yourself these questions: What are the hazards? What are the
worst possible things that could go wrong? How will I deal with them? What are the prudent
practices, protective facilities and equipment necessary to minimize the risk of exposure
to the hazards?
15. Require that all accidents (incidents) be
reported, evaluated by the departmental safety committee, and discussed at departmental
16. Extend the safety program beyond the
laboratory to the automobile and the home.
17. Allow only minimum amounts of flammable
liquids in each laboratory.
18. Forbid smoking, eating and drinking in
the laboratory (safety policy/rules).
19. Do not allow food to be stored in
chemical refrigerators (safety policy/rules).
20. Develop plans and conduct drills for
dealing with emergencies such as fire, explosion, poisoning, chemical spill or vapor
release, electric shock, bleeding and personal contamination.
21. Display the phone numbers of the fire
department, police department, and local ambulance either on or immediately next to every
22. Store acids and bases separately. Store
fuels and oxidizers separately.
23. Maintain a chemical inventory to avoid
purchasing unnecessary quantities of chemicals.
24. Use warning signs to designate particular
25. Require good housekeeping practices in
all work areas.
26. Develop specific work practices for
individual experiments, such as those that should be conducted only in a ventilated hood
or involve particularly hazardous chemicals. When possible most hazardous experiments
should be done in a hood.
Steps Requiring Moderate Expense
27. Allocate a portion of the departmental
budget to safety.
28. Require the use of appropriate eye
protection at all times in laboratories and areas where chemicals are transported (safety policy/rules).
29. Provide adequate supplies of personal
protective equipment - safety glasses, goggles, face shields, gloves, lab coats, and bench
top shields. (safety policy/rules)
30. Provide fire extinguishers, safety
showers, eye wash fountains, first aid kits, fire blankets and fume hoods in each
laboratory and test or check monthly.
31. Maintain a centrally located departmental
"Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories" American Chemical Society, 1155 16th
St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036
"Fire Protection Guide on Hazardous Materials" National Fire Protection
Association, Battery- march Park, Quincy, MA 02269
"Manual of Safety and Health Hazards in the School Science Laboratory"
"Safety in the School Science Laboratory"
"School Science Laboratories: A guide to some Hazardous Substances" Council of
State Science Supervisors, Route 2, Box 637, Lancaster VA 22503
* "Handbook of
Handbook of Laboratory
Safety", 4th edition, CRC Press, 2000 Corporate Boulevard, N.W., Boca Raton, FL 33431
"Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Hazardous
Chemicals", 2nd Edition, 1995
in the Laboratory", National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20418
"Safety in School Science Labs", Clair Wood, 1994, Kaufman & Associates, 192
Worcester Road, Natick, MA 01760
"The Laboratory Safety Pocket Guide", 1996, Genium Publisher, 1 Genium Plaza,
"Learning By Accident", volume 1, 1997, The Laboratory Safety Workshop, Natick,
(All of these books are available from The Laboratory Safety Workshop.
32. Provide guards on all vacuum pumps and
secure all compressed gas cylinders.
33. Provide an appropriate supply of first
aid equipment and instruction on its proper use.
34. Remove all electrical connections from
inside chemical refrigerators and require magnetic closures.
35. Require grounded plugs on all electrical
equipment and install ground fault interrupters (GFI's) where appropriate.
36. Label all chemicals to show the name of
the material, the nature and degree of hazard, the appropriate precautions, and the name
of the person responsible for the container.
37. Develop a program for dating stored
chemicals and for recertifying or discarding them after predetermined maximum periods of
38. Develop a system for the legal, safe and
ecologically acceptable disposal of chemical wastes.
39. Provide fireproof cabinets for storage of
40. Provide secure, adequately spaced, well
ventilated storage of chemicals.
An expanded version of "Laboratory
Safety Guidelines" with a 200-500 word discussion of each of the guidelines is
available from The Laboratory Safety Workshop for $10.00. The Guidelines are also
available in a two-color, 2'x3' poster for $ 5.00. All requests should be prepaid and
include 8% shipping and handling ($4.00 minimum).
The Laboratory Safety Workshop
192 Worcester Road, Natick, MA 01760
fax 508-647-0062, www.labsafety.org