Chemical and Radiation Safety in the St. Olaf Sciences

You MUST Read this Before Working in a Laboratory

1.1   Purpose:  This summary page provides laboratory workers (faculty, staff, stockroom workers, teaching or research assistants) with a brief summary of the principle federal and state regulations that dictate health and safety standards.  These regulations must be followed while working in a laboratory where hazardous or radioactive substances are present.

1.2   Who to contact if you have questions:

Dr. Patrick Ceas, Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO), 312 Regents Hall, 786-3560

Dr. Jason Engbrecht, Radiation Safety Officer (RSO), 278 Regents Hall, 786-3849

1.3   Summary of Regulatory Information:
There are a number of federal and state agencies that regulate the use, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials.  The main goal of these regulations is to protect employees, the environment, and the public from exposure to hazardous materials. 

These regulations, administered and enforced primarily by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are found mainly in Part 1910 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations where they are divided into Subparts A through Z.  Subpart Z addresses the use of toxic and hazardous substances, and includes regulations designed to protect employees from harmful exposure to, and associated health hazards associated with, hazardous chemicals and radioactive substances.  The regulations that are central to chemical and radiation safety in academic laboratories are listed below.

1.3.a  Chemical Safety.  The use of hazardous chemicals in laboratories is regulated by the OSHA "Laboratory Standard."  The Laboratory Standard can be viewed online at:

1.3.b  Waste Disposal. The handling and disposal of hazardous wastes is enforced by the EPA: St. Olaf's Waste Disposal Program can be found in Chapter 13 of the St. Olaf Chemical Hygiene Plan.

1.3.c Radiation Safety. All work with radioactive materials and equipment producing radiation (shorter than UV wavelength) at St. Olaf College is regulated primarily by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Standards for Protection Against Radiation."  The NRC regulations may be viewed online at: St. Olaf's Waste Disposal Program can be found in Chapter 10 of the St. Olaf Chemical Hygiene Plan.

1.4   Before working with chemicals or radioactive materials:

1.4.a  Training. The CHO provides laboratory safety training and information to all laboratory employees on a yearly basis.  The RSO provides the corresponding training for users of radioactive substances.

1.4.b Read the St. Olaf College "Chemical Hygiene Plan" including Chapter 10 (Radiation Safety) if working with radioactive materials.  All laboratory workers are required to read and follow the guidelines and policies found within these documents.

1.4.c  NRC Licenses. The use of radioactive materials (isotopes, quantities, locations, personnel) must be licensed.  You must meet with the RSO at least 2 months prior to working with such materials for the first time, or if there is any change in your protocol that involves new locations, personnel, quantities, or types of isotopes used.  The RSO will help you determine the necessary licensing.

1.5    While working with chemicals or radioactive materials:

1.5.a  Follow the Policies, Guidelines, and Rules Found within the "Chemical Hygiene Plan" including Chapter 10 (Radiation Safety) if working with radioactive materials. 

Pay special attention to the following:

  1. Know the responsibilities of each person within your laboratory.
  2. Know how to determine if a substance is hazardous.
  3. Understand and always follow the Permissible Exposure Limits.
  4. Use personal protective equipment that is appropriate for the work being conducted.
  5. Follow the Standard Operating Procedures for handling chemicals and/or radioactive materials; ensure that lab-specific SOPs are written down and followed.
  6. Ensure that you and all workers in your laboratory are properly trained and informed of the hazards present by attending the appropriate training sessions, and by conducting your own laboratory-specific training.
  7. Know when and how to use a fume hood.
  8. Know the basic emergency procedures.
  9. Know the proper methods for handling and disposing hazardous waste.