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:

  • The 2012 Chemical Hygiene Plan: Chemical Hygiene Plan
    This document establishes policies, procedures and guidelines necessary to comply with regulatory standards as well as provide a safe environment for employees, students and visitors.
    New COVID-19 safety “work alone” procedure!
    Regardless of the time or day of the week, students may only work alone with the permission of their faculty supervisor AND if one of the following conditions is met:
      • There is a ‘lab buddy’ within voice range-this person who may be in an adjoining lab that is interconnected through a secondary exit door but must be aware they are serving in the capacity of a buddy. 
      • The faculty supervisor (or another faculty/staff in the same physical area via prior arrangement) is in or near their office, or the workspace being used, the entire time.
      • The student has made arrangements for a continual Zoom call with another member of the Smith community who would act as a ‘lab buddy’ the entire time and listen for any sound of distress, then call Campus Safety. While we encourage both audio and video streaming, audio-only is acceptable.Note: Students who are solely performing work on computers not in the same room as hazardous materials or processes are exempt from these restrictions.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS):
    Your laboratory should have a collection of SDSs that came from the manufacturer, if not you can go to a commercial site like MilliPoreSigma (former Sigma-Aldrich) and search for the product. Once on the product page you can directly click on the SDS link to display the SDS in PDF format. This database is the largest available with over 200,000 SDSs online.
  • Chemical/Solvent compatibility:
    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
  • Choosing proper Laboratory gear:
    A funny video from MIT extolling the need to wear a lab coat (MIT video)
    University of British Columbia has this brief guide to selecting the proper glove (Glove Chart)
  • Running Overnight reactions: You must obtain prior authorization from your supervisor.
  • The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Guidelines describe 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. For these chemicals get in contact with the Environmental Health & Safety Officer to get access to a template and SOPs examples that you can use to create your own.
  • Gas cylinders:
    The company AirProducts published a nice guide to handling and storage (AirProducts Gas Page)