Chemical Safety

Being safe in the lab depends on proper training, assessing the hazards of the chemicals, biologicals, and/or hazardous processes in use, and taking appropriate measures to minimize the risk. Here are some tools to help you be safer when handling chemicals (Click on each category for more information):

General Lab Safety
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) Running Overnight Reactions
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) Hazardous Waste
Container Labeling & Transport Cryogenics & Dry Ice Safety


People working in every laboratory should have access to chemical SDSs. They are particularly important in the identification of hazard risks. Manufacturers provide printed copies. They can also be accessed electronically from a commercial site like MilliPoreSigma (former Sigma-Aldrich). Start by searching for the chemical. Once on the specific product page, you will see a direct link to the SDS, clicking on it displays the SDS in PDF format. MilliPoreSigma’s database is the largest available with over 200,000 SDSs online. To see an example of how an SDS is read, watch this ACS video.

Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines documentation describe the safe handling for various chemical hazard classes and some commonly-used chemicals. Chemicals identified as particularly hazardous or high risk require a customized, laboratory-specific SOP. Laboratory supervisors, working with the Lab Safety & Compliance Director, are in charge of these documents. Different labs and/or departments have their own repositories. Ask around to get access to a template or see SOPs examples that you can use to create new ones.


  • Every chemical in the lab must be accompanied by a proper label. Useful information such as hazard symbols, molecular weight, and certain physical properties, such as boiling/melting points often accompany the name of the chemical.
  • Make sure all the hazard labels in the lab are readable. If needed replace worn-out labels with secondary ones (see below).
  • If a chemical is transferred from the original manufacturer’s container to a different container, the container must be labeled with a secondary label! Examples of what they look like can be found here
  • Secondary labels are not required when the container is under the direct control of the person who transferred or prepared the solution and all of it will be consumed during the same work shift.
  • Hazardous materials must be transported using secondary containment! Labs must supply bottle caddies, NMR tube holders, trays, and carts for chemicals to be transported.

For proper storage and/or waste disposal you will have to determine a) the compatibility of your chemicals and b) their effect on the properties of the labware you use to contain them. ThermoFisher has a handy chart to guide you in the initial steps of identifying incompatibility (Fisher Chart)


  • You must obtain prior authorization from the laboratory supervisor.
  • Ask lab supervisor for information regarding official posting notices.


  • Cryogenics & Dry Ice safety (ex: liquid Nitrogen and liquid Helium)
    University of Pennsylvania Office of Environmental Health and Radiation Safety’s website on Cryogen and Dry-Ice Safety 
  • NMR Safety
    There are four main hazards associated with the NMRs: Magnetic (High field magnets), Cryogenic (it uses cryogens to maintain the superconducting magnets), Electrical (high wattage electronics) and Glass/Chemical (NMR tubes are thin walled and prone to breaking). You must undergo training and receive authorization before using the NMR spectrometers. Contact the Chemistry Instrument Manager with any questions you may have.