General & Safe Work Practices

This section provides general guidance on work practices and procedures in the laboratory. Additional information is provided during chemical safety and waste training, and from laboratory supervisory personnel.

Be Prepared

  • Be alert to unsafe conditions and actions and call attention to them so that corrections can be made as soon as possible. Someone else’s accident can be as dangerous to you as a potential accident of your own
  • Think, act, and encourage safety until it becomes a habit. Avoid distracting or startling any other worker. Horseplay and practical jokes have no place in the laboratory.
  • Determine the potential hazards (e.g., physical, chemical biological) and appropriate safety precautions before beginning any new operation. Know the safety procedures that apply to the work being done. Review in advance Safety Data Sheets and equipment operating manuals.
  • Know where the closest emergency equipment is located, including emergency eyewash stations and showers, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, landline phone, and first aid and spill supplies. For work with pyrophoric chemicals and other air/water reactive materials, keep an appropriate portable fire extinguisher ready for use nearby.
  • Follow standard operating procedures, posted instructions, supplier or manufacturer guidelines, and document experiments in a laboratory notebook.

General Laboratory Procedures

  • Use equipment and reagents only for their intended purpose and seek advice for new procedures. Combine reagents in appropriate order and avoid adding solids to hot liquids.
  • Stop, re-assess, and seek assistance anytime that something in the lab is not going as expected (especially if the procedure is being attempted for the first time). The use of makeshift tools and shortcut methods leads to equipment damage and injuries.
  • Use mechanical devices when aspirating chemicals - never pipette by mouth. Never purposefully smell, taste, or touch chemicals.
  • When diluting concentrated acids, always add acid to water – not the other way around. Work behind the sash of a chemical fume hood or a portable splash shield, consider the need for an ice bath, and proceed slowly. Upgrade personal protective equipment to include a face-shield and arm protection using disposal coated “sleeves.”
  • Labelling- Original labels must remain on chemical containers. In addition, the date of opening and initials of the person first opening a chemical should be marked on the label. However, glassware and other vessels used for handling, transferring, or mixing chemicals need not be labeled if they will remain in full control of the same person and are used only temporarily and immediately (i.e., not left unattended).
  • All other secondary containers (e.g., squeeze bottles, laboratory-prepared stock solutions) must be labeled with their name or commonly recognized acronym or abbreviation, e.g., 70% EtOH, 1 M NaCl, Luria Broth.
  • Promptly notify laboratory supervisory personnel of any maintenance problems or equipment malfunctions. Until repaired, tag equipment as “out of service” and advise maintenance/service personnel of any hazards they may encounter.
  • No unaccompanied unauthorized visitors are allowed in laboratory areas at any time. Please, make sure that your visitors follow all safety rules listed in this manual. It is your responsibility to provide them with proper personal safety equipment.

Working Alone and Unattended Operations

  • To the extent possible, avoid working alone in a laboratory. Under ordinary circumstances, someone else should be present in your designated laboratory area to render emergency help should this be required. At a minimum, someone else should be on the same floor within hearing distance. When working at night or on weekends, make sure that someone else is notified of your presence.
  • If solo work is absolutely necessary, review in advance with laboratory supervisory personnel. For work with high hazard materials, put additional safeguards in place, including pre- and post-work notifications to supervisory personnel and colleagues. Consult EHS for additional information and advice.
  • Unattended operations that are high hazard. Review high hazard procedures in advance with laboratory supervisory personnel. Any equipment or experiment that is operated unattended for any length of time and requires either special shutdown procedures and/or has a warning about an unusual hazard must display an Emergency Notification form (see Appendix B).

Consumption/Storage of Food/Drink in Labs

  • Eating, drinking, smoking, vaping, chewing gum, and applying cosmetics or lip balm is prohibited in the laboratory and all other areas where chemicals are stored or used.
  • Glassware or utensils that have been used for laboratory operations should never be used to prepare or consume food or beverages.
  • Laboratory refrigerators, ice machines, ice chests and such must not be used for food storage. Laboratory ice is not for human consumption. Lab refrigerators, freezers should be clearly labeled "Not for Storage of Food for Human Consumption". Refrigerators used for food storage should be located outside of laboratory areas. Should the location of such refrigerators create confusion, they should be labeled “Food storage only”


  • Keep work-space uncluttered. Keep floors, benchtops, and chemical fume hoods clear, uncluttered, and clean. Only the required materials, instructions, notebook, tablet/laptop and pen should be present.
  • Crates and solvent bottles should be removed from laboratory areas within 24 hours after receipt to reduce fire hazards and general clutter Dispose of empty cardboard boxes.
  • Ensure that aisles always remain unobstructed with at least 36 in. width and that lighting is adequate (e.g., no burned- out lightbulbs)
  • Ensure that surplus supplies, equipment, containers are stored appropriately (e.g., not on floor, work areas, student desks), and that storage clearance below ceiling is appropriate (18” for sprinklered, 24” for non-sprinklered)


  • Never use glassware that is chipped, cracked, etched, or flawed in any way. Carefully handle and store glassware to avoid injury. Inspect before use and discard damaged pieces.
  • Shield or tape-wrap Dewar flasks and other glass apparatus that is either under vacuum or elevated pressure. Avoid chromic acid for glassware cleaning.
  • A common injury sustained in the laboratory occurs from the improper insertion of glass tubing into a rubber stopper. To avoid injuries while cutting glass tubing, hold the tubing against a firm notched support, make one quick firm stroke with a sharp file, rocking the file to extend the deep nick one-third around the circumference. Hold the tubing in both hands, away from the body, with the nick turned directly opposite the body. Place the thumbs on the tubing opposite the nick about an inch apart. With hand protection, push out on the tubing with the thumbs. All glass tubing and rods should be fire polished before use. When inserting glass tubing into a stopper, use a glove or towel for protection and be certain that the tubing is lubricated lightly, and that excess pressure is not applied to the tubing.
  • Place non-contaminated broken glassware and other glass items in a bag-lined cardboard box and label it with an EHS “Waste Laboratory Glassware” sticker. Once full, close the bag and tape the box shut. These materials are managed as regular trash and can be removed by Housekeeping or taken directly to a trash dumpster. Make sure that you do not overfill these containers leaving enough room to be able to tape the containment bag taped and the box shut.
  • Glass Ampules- ampules are often opened by hand by applying a torque to the top of the ampule vial. The ampule glass is scored to facilitate a controlled break upon application of a reasonable amount of torque. To prevent injury, use cut-resistant gloves, or disposable ampule openers. Additional information on the proper technique to open an ampule can be found at:


  • All laboratory and graduate student office entry doors must be locked when not occupied.
  • Report immediately any person whom you believe is an intruder to the University Police. Do not confront such individuals, but retreat to your office or lab, lock the door, and call 911 if you feel it is an emergency or 4-7166 otherwise.
  • Report any missing or stolen item whether they are lab or personal belongings.


  • Hypodermic needles require special attention. Safe lab practice requires that sharp objects, especially needles and syringes, be protected to avoid accidental injection into the skin. A GC septum or a plastic syringe cap will protect these points adequately.
  • If a needle does not need to be re-used and can be disposed at the location of use (there should be no walking or turning around with uncapped needles), it should be discarded in appropriate needle waste box without attempting to recap it them.
  • If a needle is to be re-used or cannot be disposed at the point of use, it should not be left unprotected to avoid injury and accidental injection. To safely re-cap the needles, one should leave the cap lying on bench surface or in rubber septum or clamp (rather than in one’s hand), insert the needle into the cap, and only pick up the capped syringe after a successful insertion.
  • All sharps (razor blades, scalpels, other objects that pose a puncture or laceration hazard), whether they are contaminated with trace chemicals or uncontaminated, must be placed in a sharps container. Always use the sharps container with the top in place and only fill no more than two-thirds full. Sharps container are available from EHS

Reporting of incidents, injuries and near misses

  • To achieve a safe workplace both within our laboratories and office space takes everyone’s involvement. The motto, ‘If you see something, say something’, is important to help identify and resolve potential safety situations before they get worse. When in doubt, it is better to stop, re-assess, and ask someone.
  • All chemical exposures, injuries, and incidents (no matter how small) and near misses with the potential to cause harm or damage, should be promptly reported to the faculty or supervisor in charge of the lab / area, followed up with notification via email or phone call to the ChE Safety Committee or to the Department Chair.
  • In case of potential or actual chemical exposure, EHS must also be notified.


  • Headphones/ear buds are discouraged in the laboratories since they can prevent recognizing hazards and hearing safety communications. Should you choose to wear them, they are permitted if only one ear is covered, if the volume is kept low, and if there are no loose cords.
  • Do not cover windows of laboratory doors except for special experimental requirements, as passers-by should have an unobstructed view to notice if someone needs help.
  • Pets of any kind are not allowed in the laboratories.
  • Bicycles may be kept inside office rooms and in laboratories if they do not block emergency equipment (e.g., safety showers), aisles or corridors.
  • All departing graduate and undergraduate students, staff, post-docs, visitors, and faculty, who have worked in a ChE research laboratory must complete and sign a form available from the department office ATTESTING THAT ALL CHEMICAL WASTES GENERATED HAVE BEEN PROPERLY DISPOSED AND THAT THE LABORATORY AREAS USED ARE BEING LEFT IN GOOD ORDER. The form must be approved and signed by a designated senior lab member and by the faculty advisor. Completion / approval of the form is required prior to receiving a degree.

Machine Shop

Graduate students and undergraduate researchers may request permission from the shop supervisor to use the departmental machine shop for research-related projects. The shop supervisor will need to approve the use of any shop equipment and will assist you in starting-up equipment fabrication and modifications of existing equipment.

  • Safety glasses are required when using equipment in the shop area. Full face shields, welding goggles, welding masks and fixed safety shields on shop equipment are also available in the shop and must be used as the job at hand requires.
  • Remove rings, watches, bracelets, pendants, and neckties which may be caught in moving machinery. Roll-up your long sleeves and secure long hair for the same reason.
  • Do not operate any shop equipment unless you are authorized to do so by the shop supervisor. If you are uncertain of any shop procedure, ask the shop personnel for assistance.
  • Always clean up the work before you leave.

Contact Information: