Chemical Safety
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General Procedures

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General Procedures
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Respect and understand the safety and health hazards associated with the chemicals and equipment you use, and practice the following general safety guidelines at all times:

  • Accident response. If an injury requiring emergency medical assistance occurs, call 911. If an emergency occurs in one of the hospitals, there is a special number to call. See Chapter 8 for more information.

  • Chemical spills. If a toxic/hazardous chemical makes contact with the skin, start flushing the area immediately. If emergency assistance is required, call 911.

  • Children and unauthorized persons. Children and other unauthorized persons should not be in laboratories where hazardous materials or hazardous equipment are used.

  • Disposal of chemicals. Request pickup of unwanted hazardous materials. Questions about unwanted hazardous materials management should be directed to EHS at 882-3736.

  • Electrical. Access to electrical equipment (e.g., plugs, switches, and electrical panels) should be maintained at all times.   Obstructions should never prevent immediate access in an emergency. All receptacle outlets in laboratory spaces should be polarized and grounded. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) should be used in those locations involving wet processes or outdoor work, including electrical outlets within six feet of sinks. All electrical hand tools used inside laboratories should be grounded or double insulated. All electrical extension cords used should be visible and inspected on a periodic basis for damage and/or defects. Cords should not run in aisles or corridors where they might be damaged or create a tripping hazard. Cords should also not run through doors, walls or partitions, under rugs, or above dropped ceilings. They should not be wrapped around fixtures, tied in knots, or draped over pipes, lights, or ventilation ductwork.
    Extension cords should not be used as substitutes for fixed receptacle outlets. Cords used for 110-120 volt service should be UL listed standard heavy-duty, three-wire equipped with a polarized three-prong plug. Two-wire type extension cords should not be used .

  • Emergency eyewash and safety showers. Be certain safety showers and emergency eyewash units are properly located and maintained. These units should be located in areas that are immediately accessible (reachable within 10 seconds). There should be no obstructions that might inhibit the use of this equipment. Eye washes and safety showers should be flushed on a regular basis to verify that the units are working, and to clear the lines of stale water and debris. Whenever these emergency units are checked for proper functioning, written documentation showing the date and person’s initials performing the check, should be maintained.

  • Equipment. Use proper equipment that is in good condition. For example, never use chipped or cracked glassware. Shield pressurized or vacuum apparatus, and safeguard against bumping or overheating.

  • Fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be available, charged, and hung in a location that is immediately accessible (reachable within 10 seconds). There should be no obstructions that might inhibit the use of this equipment. Make sure that all extinguishers are checked at least annually. Each extinguisher should have a tag indicating the date it was last checked. Contact Campus Facilities (882-8211) for assistance.

  • Food, drink, and cosmetics. Eating, drinking, and the application of cosmetics are forbidden in areas where hazardous chemicals are used. Do not store food in the same refrigerator with hazardous materials. Food used for research should be labeled, “Not for Human Consumption.”

  • Horseplay. Practical jokes or other behaviors that might confuse, startle, or distract another worker, are forbidden when hazardous chemicals are present.

  • Housekeeping. Exits, aisles, and safety equipment must not be obstructed in any way with equipment, furniture, or other items. Aisles within the laboratory should be 36 inches in clear width. Work areas and floors are not to be used for excessive storage. Doors which are not in use, but which are accessible from a corridor or adjacent room should be appropriately labeled if they are blocked in the interior of the room. Hallways are not to be used as storage areas.

  • Mercaptans. To avoid false reporting of natural gas leaks, mercaptans should be used in such a manner (e.g., scrubbers for effluent) that persons outside of the laboratory cannot smell the mercaptan and suspect a natural gas leak in the building.

  • Mouth pipetting. Mouth pipetting is forbidden in laboratories.

  • Perchloric acid. If perchloric acid is heated above ambient temperature it may evaporate and condense on ductwork in the form of explosive perchlorates. Therefore, when heating perchloric acid above ambient temperature, a perchloric acid fume hood with a water wash down system or a local scrubbing or trapping system must be used.

  • Smoking. Smoking is prohibited in laboratories.  Wash hands before smoking whenever chemicals have been handled.

  • Spill preparedness. Before working with chemicals, assess potential spill hazards. Each laboratory worker should be familiar with general spill response procedures. Written protocols should be developed when extremely hazardous or large quantities of chemicals are used. Keep all necessary personal protective equipment and spill cleanup materials readily available.

  • Unattended experiments. If operations involving hazardous materials are carried out with no one present, it is the responsibility of the worker to design procedures to prevent the release of hazardous materials in the event of interruptions in utility services such as electricity, cooling water, or inert gas. Lights should be left on, and signs should be posted identifying the nature of the operation, the hazardous materials in use, and who to notify in the event of an emergency. If appropriate, arrangements should be made for other workers to periodically inspect the operation. Similarly, if unattended experiments require the use of running water, the worker should develop procedures to make sure the experiment is checked periodically for water leakage from the system. Unattended experiments involving the use of running water have caused flooding damage in laboratories.

  • Working alone. When working with hazardous materials, it is advisable to have a second person present, or at a minimum, maintain contact via telephone.


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