Undergraduate lab safety
Below you will find safety information for students in undergraduate chemistry laboratory courses. All students taking laboratory courses in the Chemistry Department must:
- Read this information.
- Read the Emergency Evacuation Form and complete it if necessary.
- Complete the Student Safety Questions as directed by the course instructor.
The Chemistry Department at the University of Nevada has developed a Student Safety Program and has developed policies that will minimize your exposure to hazardous situations that may occur in courses. This information is based on the Department of Chemistry Student Safety Program, and applies to CHEM 100, 121L, 122L, 201, 202, 220L, 330, 345, 347, 348, 423, 424, 432, 435, 444, and 455. Other more specific safety policies may be applicable to individual courses, and to advanced Chemistry Department laboratory courses such as CHEM 292, 392, 490, 495, and 496.
The University of Nevada and departmental safety policies represent a Student's Right to Know about any potentially hazardous situation in which you may be placed while performing an experiment. For this reason, before you begin any experiments, your faculty instructor and teaching assistant (TA) will go over any safety precautions of which you should be aware and show you how to perform any particularly difficult or potentially dangerous procedures. Your TA will also emphasize any personal protective equipment and other safety equipment needed. All safety procedures will also be documented in writing, either as a part of the laboratory procedure, or as a handout. They may also be discussed in the lecture part of the course. You should ask your TA if you feel that you do not fully understand the instructions or information given to you about the hazards of any experiment. Once properly instructed, it is your responsibility to follow all safety procedures.
The experiments in these laboratories have been chosen or modified to use relatively safe chemicals and procedures as much as possible. However, all chemicals have a certain level of hazard and toxicity. Therefore, the use of hazardous chemicals cannot be avoided. Some of the experiments do use chemicals that are hazardous (flammability, toxicity, etc.), and special precautions are required. As part of the pre-lab for each experiment, you are expected to review and note the safety precautions and procedures for that experiment. The TA will check this part of your pre- lab before you are permitted to begin the experiment. When using organic solvents, use the chemical fume hoods and protective gloves. If students in advanced classes or undergraduate research work with carcinogenic or acutely toxic materials, they must use gloves and lab coats in addition to goggles, and work in a specially designated area. There is always the possibility of individual sensitivity or allergy to any substance. If you experience any unusual irritation, itching, or burning of the skin, respiratory tract, or eyes, stop the experiment and report the situation to your TA. Anyone with any relevant physical or medical condition (e.g., pregnancy, epilepsy, history of severe allergies, etc.) that might pose difficulties with laboratory operations must report these conditions to the laboratory and course instructor.
The most important personal protective equipment is eye protection. All persons in the laboratory shall wear goggles with impact and splash protection whenever any chemicals or experimental equipment are in use or on the benches anywhere in the laboratory. This includes the full laboratory period except during introductory discussions by the TAs or after all experiments are done and all equipment and chemicals are stored and students are only using the computers. Students who are asked more than twice (in one lab period) to put their goggles on or follow any other safety procedure will be dismissed from the lab for that period. The student will not be allowed to make up that lab and will receive a "zero" for that experiment. More than two "zeros" mean failure of the course (not just the laboratory portion of the course). Full coverage splash and impact goggles (ANSI Spec. Z87) must be worn. Any other splash goggles that you may have from another course may be acceptable. Have your TA or faculty instructor check them for you. You must have a pair that you can wear continuously in the laboratory. Ordinary plastic safety glasses or impact-only goggles are not acceptable. Impact goggles have a larger number of ventilation holes around the facepiece and do not offer protection from a chemical splash. Acceptable safety goggles are available at the ASUN Bookstore.
Students must wear a protective laboratory coat during experimentation. Because of their lack of protection, shorts and short dresses are not allowed in the laboratory. Legs must be covered to the foot. Open sandals or bare feet are forbidden in the laboratory. Shoes must cover the entire foot and be completely enclosed. Individuals with long hair must tie it back to keep it away from fire, chemicals, and moving equipment. Bracelets, necklaces, neckties, and similar loose items of attire may create a hazardous situation and so they must be confined or not worn in the laboratory. Students will not be allowed to enter the laboratory if not properly clothed and will receive a ‘zero' for that day's experiment and will not be allowed to make it up.
In the case of personal injury or exposure to chemicals, the highest priority is that you be treated in an appropriate and timely fashion. For all accidents, no matter how insignificant the injury seems, you will be advised to seek further medical attention. In the case of ingested chemicals, chemicals in the eyes, or other serious injuries, you will be required to seek further medical attention.
Be careful when dealing with glass tubing and glassware in general. The most common laboratory injury involves cuts by the misuse or mishandling of glass tubing. In case of minor cuts, prudent policy dictates that you immediately rinse the area in flowing cold tap water for several minutes to permit a controlled loss of blood that might contain infectious material. After rinsing and washing, immediately report the cut to your lab TA or the laboratory coordinator, who will give you further instructions. Be advised that use of a Band-aid is only temporary. Any cut must be kept under observation and further medical assistance must be obtained. You will be advised to seek further medical attention for all cuts. In case of more serious cuts or injuries that result in bleeding, consult your TA immediately for instructions. Prudent practices dictate that all human blood be considered potentially contaminated with blood borne pathogens. Make every reasonable effort to avoid transfer of your blood to another individual.
All accidents, no matter how minor, must be reported to the laboratory instructor, who must file an accident report form. The forms are available in the Chemistry Stockrooms. You will be given a copy of this accident report form. The form contains questions about what happened, what chemicals were involved, what action was taken, etc. If chemical exposure is involved, a Safety Data Sheet (EHS Safety Data Sheets (SDS) source listing) will be provided to you at this time so you can take it to your medical caregiver.
You should keep in mind that you bear some of the responsibility for preventing accidents in the laboratories by following the directions given to you by your instructor. For example, an eye injury occurring because you neglected to wear eye protection after initial instruction and reminders to do so would be considered primarily your fault, and you could bear the cost of treatment.
The other pieces of safety equipment and protective equipment that you must know how to use are:
- Eyewashes are located in every teaching laboratory. Take the time to locate the nearest eyewash before the laboratory begins. In case of any chemical in the EYES, wash with water at the eye wash station for at least 15 minutes. Ask for help! Damage to eyes takes place in seconds! The eye wash may also be used if you get any chemicals in your mouth or nose.
- A safety shower is located in every laboratory. Take the time to locate the nearest safety shower before the laboratory begins. If you should spill corrosive material over a large region of your clothing or body, USE THE SHOWER! The showers may also be used if your clothing catches on fire. HOWEVER, DO NOT pull the shower valve unless the shower is needed. When turned on, the shower will remain on until the handle is pushed back. Anyone turning on a shower as a joke will be expelled from the course.
- The fire alarms in the hall, by each stairwell. Please make sure that you can locate these before entering the lab. In case of a fire on your bench, leave the vicinity, alert your TA and let the TA extinguish the fire. If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll to smother the flames or use the shower to extinguish the flames.
- Fume Hoods: There are several experiments that will require you to work in the fume hoods. The hoods cannot protect you from noxious chemicals unless you use them properly. Be sure the exhaust fan is on. Some hoods have timers must be turned on. Make sure that the hood flow sensors indicate that the hood is functioning properly. Never unplug the hood flow sensor, if it is in an alarm state the hood is not functioning properly. Also, for proper ventilation, the sash (the front door that slides either vertically or horizontally) must be pulled down or placed past the red arrow on the sticker on the front. If you are unsure of these arrows or lines, ask your TA to show you how to properly use the hoods. Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) also has an information page about indoor air quality.
- Waste containers: There are many hazardous wastes generated in the teaching laboratories. Absolutely no waste chemicals, filter papers or glass are to be put in wastebaskets or poured down the drain. Broken and waste glassware must be placed in glass disposal boxes. There will be waste containers out for every type of waste generated from your experiments, or a manifest list for you to enter the identity and quantity of waste each time you use the container. Chemical waste must only be disposed of in the container designated for that waste, since chemical incompatibility can result in explosion and fire. If you are not sure where to dispose of your waste, ask your TA to help you. If a waste container is full, tell your TA so she or he can get you another one. Clean or soapy rinse water should be poured down the drain. Do not unnecessarily increase the volume of chemical waste by dilution.
A SDS is a set of data prepared by the manufacturer of a chemical that gives important physical, chemical, health, and safety information for users of all chemicals. A SDS must be sent the first time anyone purchases a chemical from a particular firm. Subsequent purchases from the same firm do not need a SDS unless changes have been made. Federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations require that employers make these available to any employees in the work-place. SDSs are available in the Chemistry Stockrooms and at the EH&S offices (327-5040). Many SDSs are also available on the internet. These may be accessed through the University Environmental Health and Safety web site.
You are required by the University of Nevada Safety Program to know the following about SDSs.
- There is a specific list of information that must be on a SDS, but OSHA does not specify the format. Therefore, SDSs from different manufacturers may look very different. There are also SDS available from various industrial safety firms. For pure materials, the available SDS does not have to be from the company that makes the actual chemical that is in use.
- No one outside of the company preparing the SDS is required to check it for accuracy. SDSs have been known to contain erroneous, incomplete, or outdated information. SDSs from different sources may contain conflicting information. Companies obviously make an effort to have SDSs as accurate as possible, but always will include a statement such as:
The above information is believed to be correct, but does not purport to be all inclusive, and shall only be used as a guide. The company shall not be held liable for any damage resulting from the handling or contact with the above product.
- These minimum topics or types of information must be covered in the SDS:
- Chemical Products and Company Identification
- Composition/Information on Ingredients
- Hazards Identification
- First Aid Measures
- Fire Fighting Measures
- Accidental Release Measures
- Handling and Storage
- Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
- Physical and Chemical Properties
- Stability and Reactivity
- Toxicology Information
- Ecological Information
- Disposal Information
- Transportation Information
- Regulatory Information
In the Hazard Section, SDSs often use some common terms or phrases. Generalized meanings of these terms and the corresponding precautions that should be taken are listed below. These terms also often appear on labels.
Consider all chemicals potentially toxic unless you have specific information to the contrary. If you should get any chemical in your eyes or mouth, rinse quickly with clean, cold water. Avoid breathing the vapors of any chemicals and any contact with skin or clothing.
Some experiments require that you work with many different chemicals. Read the label on the chemical you use carefully. Many unexpected and dangerous reactions have occurred due to using the wrong reagent. Report any unlabelled containers to your TA.
In order for you to understand the hazards of the chemicals a list of definitions commonly used to describe chemicals is provided. Please read over this list so that you fully understand what each term means. (This list is adapted from "Safety in Chemistry Laboratories", published by the American Chemical Society).
- Avoid contact: A general rule for all chemicals, even if they are considered non-hazardous.
- Carcinogen: Substances that are suspected or known to cause cancer. Some have threshold limits of exposure. The use of these chemicals is avoided in the general chemistry laboratories.
- Corrosive: Living tissue, as well as equipment, is destroyed on contact with these chemicals. Precautions: Do not breathe vapors and avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing.
- Danger: Substances that have known harmful effects or which may have harmful effects, but have no available literature citing such effects. Precautions: Treat as if these are the most dangerous chemicals that exist. There may or may not be serious hazards associated with these chemicals.
- Explosive: Substances are known to explode under some conditions. Precautions: Avoid shock (dropping), friction, sparks, and heat. Isolate from other chemicals that become hazardous when spilled.
- Flammable: Substances that give off vapors that readily ignite under usual working conditions. Precautions: Keep away from heat, sparks, or open flame. Use in a hood or in another well-ventilated area whenever possible.
- Irritant: Substances that have an irritant effect on the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, etc. Precautions: Do not breathe vapors and avoid contact with skin and eyes.
- Lachrymator: Substances that have an irritant or burning effect on skin, eyes, or respiratory tract. These are dangerous in very small quantities (opening the cap has an immediate effect on eyes). Precautions: Only open in the hood! Do not breathe vapors. Avoid contact with skin, eyes. Avoid heating.
- Mutagen: Chemical or physical agents that cause genetic alterations. Precautions: Handle with extreme care! Do not breathe vapors and avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing.
- Peroxide former: Substances that form peroxides or hydroperoxides upon standing or when in contact with air. PRECAUTIONS: Many peroxides are explosive! Do not open the bottle if a residue is present on the outside of the cap or inside the bottle.
- Poison: Substances that have very serious and often irreversible effects on the body. Hazardous when breathed, swallowed, or in contact with the skin, and sufficient quantities lead to death. Precautions: Avoid all contact with the body. When handling use suitable protective equipment.
- Stench: Substances that have or generate bad smelling odors. Precautions: Open only in the hood!
- Teratogen: Substances that cause the production of physical defects in a developing fetus or embryo. PRECAUTIONS: Handle with extreme care! Do not breathe vapors and avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing. Use suitable protective equipment when handling.
- Toxic: Substances that are hazardous to health when breathed, swallowed or are in contact with the skin. There is a danger of serious damage to health by short or prolonged exposure. Precautions: Avoid all contact with the body. When handling use suitable protective equipment.
According to federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, all employees that use or may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace must be provided with certain safety training by their employer. Your TAs have received safety training which includes general chemistry safety, eye protection policies, use of hoods, management of hazardous waste, spill control, use of SDSs, certain emergency procedures, and departmental student safety policies. The document that directs this training is the University of Nevada Chemical Hygiene Program. All employers are required by OSHA regulations to have a chemical hygiene program. OSHA regulations do not apply to students directly, but the UNR Chemical Hygiene Plan does apply to all employees, including teaching assistants. University of Nevada safety policies that apply to students include the Student Safety Policy and the Eye Protection Policy. These policies are available for you to read.
Teaching assistants, laboratory coordinators, and faculty in charge of laboratory courses are authorized to enforce University and Departmental safety and teaching policies. If necessary they may dismiss a student from a laboratory under their supervision.
An important provision of the University of Nevada Student Safety Policy states that students using hazardous chemicals, or certain hazardous procedures, shall be constantly supervised by a properly trained teaching assistant, laboratory coordinator, or the faculty member in charge of the course. If for any reason constant supervision cannot be maintained, the use of the chemical or procedure must cease until supervision can be reestablished. Teaching assistants should not leave the laboratory during the lab unless a qualified replacement is available. Teaching assistants should be constantly moving about the laboratory, giving help if necessary, and watching out for problems. If some emergency occurs that requires the TA's attention, it is the students' responsibility to stop the experiment as soon as safely possible.
Department of Chemistry student safety program
This program is designed to minimize exposure of students to potentially hazardous situations in courses offered by the Department of Chemistry.
This program applies to all courses offered by the Department of Chemistry that are listed in the University of Nevada Course Catalog, including undergraduate research and special topics courses, that might expose students to potentially hazardous situations. The requirements of this program are directed toward students who are not employed by the University of Nevada. Any student employees of the University of Nevada working in the Chemistry Department are covered by the requirements of the University of Nevada Chemical Hygiene Plan, and other University of Nevada Safety Programs directed toward employees.
All chemicals have a certain degree of potential hazard. Therefore, working with chemicals (household, industrial or otherwise) is considered an inherently hazardous situation. Through proper instruction and experience, most students have learned to work with many other inherently hazardous situations, such as riding a bicycle or driving an automobile. The goal of this program is to minimize exposure to as many hazards as possible, and to provide the proper instruction and supervision to permit students to safely handle potentially hazardous situations that are a necessary part of a course.
In addition to exposure to chemicals, there are other potentially hazardous situations in Chemistry courses. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, cuts from glassware, burns from handling hot items or using heating devices, use of electrical devices, use of certain mechanical equipment, and exposure to non-ionizing radiation (e.g., lasers). Students who have disabilities, know allergies to, or exacerbated by, specific chemical exposure, or who are pregnant are advised to notify the faculty instructor so that appropriate accommodation can be made. Undergraduate senior thesis research (CHEM 495 and 496) and special problems (CHEM 292 and 392) or independent study (CHEM 490) laboratory courses may entail a variety of other hazards related to the specific project.
Students have a right to know about hazardous situations that may exist in any course offered by the Chemistry Department. It is the responsibility of the faculty instructor in any particular course to assure that students are so informed and that proper instruction is given in order to handle the situation safely. Any course that involves the use of hazardous materials or hazardous equipment, or other hazards to the student, will devote some time to instruction in safe handling, use, or procedures to follow. This instruction will be documented in the syllabus for the course, with an indication of the amount of time devoted to such safety instruction. The required information and instruction may be given by the faculty instructor, a laboratory coordinator, a teaching assistant, or a combination of these. Anyone delivering instruction related to hazardous situations will be a University of Nevada employee or approved by the university. The instruction will be both written and oral and may be given in either or both the lecture and laboratory portions of a course. Any time safety instruction is presented in a course, attendance will be required. Whoever presents the instruction, along with the faculty supervisor of the course, is directly responsible for the safe use of chemicals, hazardous equipment, and materials in their class. Other responsibilities of the instructor actually present include:
- Enforcing laboratory or classroom safety standards.
- Correcting practices and conditions that may result in personal injury.
- Notifying his/her immediate supervisor, the Chemistry Departmental Office, and the Departmental Chemical Safety Officer of any accident or incident which results in hazardous chemical exposure or personal injury to any student, employee, or themselves, during the course of their instruction. Exposure to the environment by chemicals or other hazardous materials, floods, fires, hood failures, and loss of water, steam, or electrical services should also be reported.
- Setting a good example by using proper safety equipment and procedures as specified by the Chemistry Department and/or the University.
- Recognizing emergencies that are life-threatening and immediately calling 911 as well as responding in an effective way that is within the capabilities and training of the instructor or any other fellow employees present at the time.
Student Instruction and Training:
The amount and extent of instruction on safety will depend on the particular course. Any laboratory manual or handouts used in any undergraduate laboratory course must indicate the existence of the specific hazards associated with an experiment as part of the written procedure. Any manual or handouts lacking this information as an integral written part of the procedure must be supplemented with the necessary information.
A general document, "Safety Information for Students", will be distributed or be made available to all students taking undergraduate chemistry laboratory classes.
If a modified safety information document is desired by instructors in any courses, it must be submitted to the Departmental Safety Committee for approval. Any modified safety document must cover the following topics as a minimum, in addition to written precautions for each experiment:
- Goggles and other personal protective equipment requirements.
- Cuts and other injuries involving blood.
- What to do in case of other accidents.
- List of common chemical label definitions.
- Location and proper use of eyewashes, safety showers, fire alarms, telephones, and fume hoods.
- Location and purpose of SDSs.
- Awareness of the University of Nevada and Departmental Student Safety Programs (i.e., Chemical Hygiene Plan, Laser Safety, Radiation Safety, etc.).
- Waste minimization and proper waste disposal.
Students enrolled in CHEM 292 or 392 (special problems) or CHEM 490 (independent study) involving laboratory work or in CHEM 495 or 496 (undergraduate senior thesis research) must fulfill the same minimum safety training requirements as for employees, as described in the University of Nevada Chemical Hygiene Program.
Additional safety instruction needed for any particular course will be the responsibility of the faculty instructor in charge of the course. This instruction will be given either by the instructor in charge or by a laboratory coordinator or teaching assistant who has been properly trained by the instructor in charge of the course. The instructor should consider, at a minimum, whether or not any additional or modified training is required in the following areas:
- A familiarity with hazards (chemical and physical) associated with the laboratory or classroom exercise.
- Instruction in proper procedures for:
- Safety precautions
- Waste minimization
- Waste disposal
- Emergency response related to:
- spills and use of spill kits
- laboratory evacuation
- notification of appropriate individuals and offices
The instructor in charge of the course must also consider the need for any special safety equipment, additional personal protective devices, and additional SDS.
No undergraduate student should work alone in a laboratory with hazardous chemicals or hazardous apparatus.
In all lower-division laboratory sessions students using hazardous chemicals or hazardous apparatus shall be constantly supervised by the faculty member in charge of the course, the laboratory coordinator, and/or one or more properly trained teaching assistants. If for any reason constant supervision cannot be maintained in these laboratories, then the use of the hazardous chemicals or apparatus must cease until supervision can be reestablished.
In CHEM 423 (physical chemistry), 424 (thermodynamics and kinetics), 432 (inorganic), 435 (chemical synthesis), 444 (organic structure determination), and 455 (instrumental analysis) laboratories constant supervision is strongly recommended. In CHEM 495 and 496 (undergraduate senior thesis research), CHEM 292 and 392 (special problems), or CHEM 490 (independent study), the level of supervision will depend upon the degree of the hazards involved and experience of the student. In any case, in all of these upper-division laboratory courses, the faculty member in charge of the course is directly responsible for defining the level of supervision required to assure the safety of the students in the course and to ascertain that any teaching assistants involved have the proper training and experience to conduct the laboratory sessions safely.
All employees delivering instruction related to hazardous situations must have completed the UNR General Laboratory Safety Workshop provided by the EH&S department. They must also have completed the laboratory-specific safety training provided by the General Chemistry Coordinator, read the Safety Information for Students in Undergraduate Chemistry Courses and complete the associated safety questionnaire.
Before exposing any students to potentially hazardous situations in undergraduate teaching laboratories, faculty in charge of laboratory courses should consider the use of "engineering controls", defined as the substitution of materials or processes, minimization of quantities, isolation, and ventilation. Elimination or minimization of the hazard is always more desirable than issuing personal protective equipment (PPE). Older procedures using carcinogenic or highly toxic materials should be modified or replaced if it is possible to do so within the pedagogical goals of the course. The need for procedures using carcinogenic or highly toxic chemicals or procedures using particularly hazardous equipment should be justified on the basis of pedagogical importance and widespread use in current published laboratory manuals. The Departmental Safety Committee may ask faculty in charge of laboratories with procedures using carcinogenic or highly toxic materials, or other particularly hazardous procedures, for such justification. Any chemical that would entail the need for a "designated area" as defined in the University of Nevada Chemical Hygiene Plan should not be used in large enrollment lower division laboratories. In the case of other laboratories, any justified use of such chemicals will require the corresponding controls listed in aforementioned Section for all students and employees. In particular, containment devices, proper gloves, and lab coats in addition to safety goggles, followed by special decontamination and waste disposal procedures will be required.
In any situation where students are injured, the highest priority is that the student is treated in an appropriate and timely fashion. All Chemistry Department employees responsible for an injured student must recommend that the student seek further medical treatment for any injury or chemical exposure, no matter how minor it initially appears and will make a follow-up inquiry the next time that they see the student. In the case of any chemical in the eye, or the ingestion of any chemical, further medical treatment will be required. All medical consultations and/or exams shall be performed by or under the direct supervision of a licensed physician.
All accidents involving students shall be promptly reported on the Chemistry Department Undergraduate Accident Report Form. Student Employees are required to file the appropriate paperwork with Employee Insurance Company of Nevada (EICON) (available in the Chemistry department office). If the accident involves exposure to a hazardous chemical or chemicals, the specific chemical(s) must be identified on both forms, and the SDS(s) made available to the student to carry on to the medical care giver if the student chooses to seek further medical attention. A responsible contact person who is knowledgeable about the incident must be identified on the University of Nevada form. The injured student must sign the Department Form as indicated.
Major or serious accidents should be reported immediately to the Chemistry Department office (CB 213, ext. 46041) and if necessary to Environmental Health and Safety (327-5040). Please report all such incidents to EH&S, even if the incident has been resolved. A copy of both the Department and the University of Nevada Form shall be retained in the department.
Departments shall keep copies of syllabi, records of training for teaching assistants, and accident and incident reports for five years.
Any student that is asked more than twice in one laboratory period to wear safety goggles or to follow any other safety procedure will be dismissed from the lab for that period. The student will not be allowed to make up that lab and will receive a zero score for that experiment. It is Departmental policy that more than two laboratory zero scores (for any reason) will result in failure of the course. A student dismissed from laboratory for failure to follow safety regulations will be informed in writing, and the instructor in charge of the course will be given a copy of the dismissal notification.
It is the responsibility of a teaching assistant or other laboratory instructor to enforce safety regulations. Any teaching assistant who does not enforce safety rules, fails to notify students who are observed to be violating rules, or does not follow rules personally, will be subject to disciplinary action.
This program will have initial approval of the Department of Chemistry Faculty. The Departmental Safety Committee is responsible for overall oversight and enforcement of this program. The program will be reviewed at least once a year at a faculty meeting, although modifications can be considered at any time. The Safety Committee may report directly to the Department Head who has the authority to modify this policy unilaterally if necessary.