Principal Investigators or Lab Supervisors are responsible for training staff and students. This training provides a general understanding for working safely in laboratories and complying with State and Federal regulations. The two OSHA standards that comply with laboratories are Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemical in Laboratories (1910.1450) and Hazard Communication (1910.1200).

Chemical Hygiene Plan

According to 1910.1450, a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) is required where hazardous chemicals are used in the workplace. The CHP must incorporate the following: made readily available to lab personnel, have standard operating procedures, implement control measures to reduce exposures, insure fume hoods are functioning properly, insure personal protective equipment is made available, require employee safety training, designate personnel responsible for implementing the plan, assign a Chemical Hygiene Officer (ETSU OSHA Coordinator), and finally have procedures for removal of hazardous waste. OSHA requires the plan to be reviewed and evaluated annually. You can view a sample of the Chemical Hygiene Plan here to use as a guide to develop your departments CHP.

Hazard Communication

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According to 1910.1200, the Hazard Communication standard is designed to protect personnel against chemical injuries and illnesses. The two main issues that are addressed are chemical labeling and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Manufacturer's labels on chemical containers must not be removed or defaced. All containers of chemicals must be labeled as to the contents (i.e. hydrochloric acid) and hazards (i.e. corrosive). So, if you transfer chemicals to other containers it must be labeled. Material Safety Data Sheets are used by manufacturers and vendors to convey hazard information and the safe use of the product. MSDS must be made readily available to everyone. ETSU provides acces to MSDS through a online program. Click here to access ETSU's MSDS.

Upon the initial assignment of work in the lab, personnel must be provided with the safety information and training regarding the potential hazards in their work area, as well as instructions on the appropriate measures (i.e. personal protective equipment (PPE)) to protect themselves from chemical hazards. They also need to know where the locations of the CHP and MSDS are for the lab.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not feasible. PPE will be provided at no cost to you and is provided by the employer. As a lab worker, you must wear a lab coat to protect clothes and skin from chemical splashes. You must wear eye protection when mixing or transferring chemicals. You must wear appropriate gloves when handling chemicals.

Wearing the proper PPE is essential for the safety of all personnel working in laboratories. Unfortunately, there are many examples of injuries and fatalities in the workplace where PPE was not used or not used appropriately.

  • One instance occurred at UCLA when a researcher was not wearing the required protective lab coat while working with a pyrophoric chemical. Pyrophoric materials are water reactive and will ignite when they contact water or humid air. The researcher spilled the chemical on their synthetic clothing and was burned when the clothing ignited. Unfortunately this particular researcher died from complications from the burns.
  • An example where inappropriate PPE was used, that also resulted in a fatality, occurred at Dartmouth College. A researcher was using latex gloves while working with dimethylmercury and spilled a small amount of the chemical on her gloves. Methylmercury is extremely toxic and can penetrate latex gloves. Always make sure you have the appropriate gloves for the chemical you are working with. This information is available on the MSDS for the chemical. Also, we have provided the link below that can assist you as well in proper selection of gloves.

A glove selection guide that will help in determining the appropriate glove for the hazard can be found here

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Chemical Storage

There are specific storage requirements for hazardous chemicals. Incompatible chemicals should never be stored together. In general, group chemicals according to their hazard class (i.e., acids, bases, flammables, oxidizers, etc.). Always refer to a chemical's MSDS to identify specific storage requirements.

  • Always store strong acids like Hydrochloric Acid, Hydrofluoric Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Sulfuric Acid, Chromic Acid, and Nitric Acid together and only with other inorganic acids.
  • Store containers in cabinets and in a cool dry place. If not stored in cabinets, at a minimum, store on low shelving that has a protective lip to reduce the chances of a spill.
  • Keep away from flammables, organic solvents, and other combustible materials (i.e. paper, wood, etc.). Acids can react violently with organics.
  • Always separate acids from active metals such as sodium, potassium, etc.
  • Segregate acids from chemicals which could generate toxic gases such as sodium cyanide, iron sulfide, etc.
  • Always store bases like Ammonium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, and Sodium Hydroxide together and only with other inorganic bases.
  • Always separate bases from acids
  • Store containers in cabinets or on low shelving that has a protective lip to reduce the chances of a spill.
  • Acetone, Benzene, Cyclohexane, Ethanol, Ethyl Acetate, Ethyl Ether, Gasoline, Hexane, Isopropyl Alcohol, Methanol, Propanol, Tetrahydrofuran, Toluene, and Xylene should be stored together with other organic solvents
  • Store in an approved flammable storage cabinet (regulations restrict quantities >2 gallons in non-sprinkled labs and >5gallons in sprinkled labs to be stored outside of flammable storage cabinets).
  • Separate from oxidizing acids and oxidizers
  • Keep away from heat sources
  • If stored cold, use only flammable storage explosion proof refrigerators or freezers
  • React violently with organics
  • Solids-Calcium Hypochlorite, Nitrates, Peroxides-organic and inorganic
  • Liquids-Bromine, Hydrogen Peroxide, Nitric Acid, Perchloric Acid, Chromic Acid
  • Store in a cool dry place and store liquids on low shelving that has a protective lip to reduce the chances of a spill.
  • Keep away from flammables, organic solvents, and other combustible materials (i.e. paper, wood, etc.)
Peroxide Forming Chemicals
  • Peroxides can be explosively shock-sensitive
  • Some common examples are Ethyl Ether, Tetrahydrofuran, and 1,4-Dioxane
  • Store in upright containers in a dark, cool and dry place
  • Use or properly dispose of these chemicals before their expiration dates. Manufacturers place expiration dates on these chemicals to identify to laboratory personnel the chemical's peroxide forming potential and recommendation to use or disposal by these dates.
  • Label containers with receiving and opening dates. If unused, contact EH&S for proper disposal prior to the expiration dates.
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Fume Hoods

Laboratory fume hoods are designed to prevent chemical fumes from escaping into the laboratory and reduce exposure potential for personnel. Fume hoods are certified annually by EH&S. Certification labels are adhered to the front of the hoods just above the sash. If fume hoods are not working properly or out of the certification date, contact ETSU EH&S.

The following are general work practices for chemical fume hoods.

  • Operate the hood at the proper sash height as indicated by the “maximum sash height labels and the EH&S certification sticker.
  • Do not use hood as a storage cabinet. Materials stored in the hood should be kept at a minimum and not interfere with airflow.
  • Do not use a hood for any function it was not designed for, such as perchloric acid or radioisotopes.
  • Keep all items in the hood at least 6 inches from the front of the hood.
  • Keep hoods clean and organized and always clean up any chemical spills immediately.
  • Always wear the proper PPE (gloves, lab coats, safety glasses) when using chemicals in the hoods. Know the toxic properties of the chemicals with which you work. Be able to identify signs and symptoms of overexposure.
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General glassware rules to follow:

  • Carefully handle and store glassware to prevent damage
  • Inspect glassware for any cracks or damage and discard if damaged
  • Use appropriate hand protection when inserting glass tubing into rubber stoppers or corks
  • If glassware is broken, use tongs, a brush and a dust pan. Never pick up glass with your bare hands
  • Discarded glass needs to be placed into appropriate containers designated for broken glass only.


You must be familiar with response guidance in the event of an emergency in your laboratory. Be aware of the location of the emergency equipment in your lab. You must know where eye/body wash stations are located, emergency exits, fire alarm pull stations, chemical spill kits, first aid kits, and portable fire extinguishers. Call 911 or 9-4480 from a campus phone in the event of an emergency. Call 423-439-4480 from a cell phone if a campus phone is not available. Post important emergency information in your lab. Contact EH&S if you need help with developing your posting.

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General Laboratory Safety Rules


  • Eye protection is required for all personnel and visitors in all locations where there is a possibility of a chemical splash/reaction or an operation that may potentially cause injury to eye(s).
  • Eating, drinking, smoking, gum chewing, applying cosmetics, and taking medicine in laboratories where hazardous chemicals or radioactive isotopes are used is strictly prohibited.
  • Wear appropriate gloves whenever handling hazardous chemicals, sharp-edged objects, very hot or very cold materials, toxic chemicals, and substances of unknown toxicity.
  • Secure all compressed gas cylinders to walls or benches.
  • Do not store chemical containers on the floor.
  • All containers of chemicals should be labeled properly identifying the chemical and its associated hazards. Any special hazards should be indicated on the label as well.
  • Lab users must wear close toed shoes made with non-slip soles.
  • Lab users must wear a closed lab coat in the lab at all times. Lab coats must be removed before leaving the lab.
  • Store liquid chemicals in cabinets or on low shelving that has a protective lip to reduce the chances of a spill.
  • No children under 12 years of age may be present in any lab where hazardous chemicals are stored or used.
  • Used or contaminated needles, syringes, small bore pipettes, slides, lancets, scalpels and razor blades are to be placed in a red sharps container.
  • If the lab has a sprinkler system, no more than 5 gallons of flammable liquids should be stored outside of a flammable storage cabinet. If the lab does not have a sprinkler system, no more than 2 gallons should be stored outside of a flammable storage cabinet.