CHAPTER 7: Basic Rules and Procedures for Working with Hazardous Chemicals

“The Chemical Hygiene Plan shall include each of the following elements and shall indicate specific measures that the employer will take to ensure laboratory employee protection:
Standard operating procedures relevant to safety and health considerations to be followed when laboratory work involves the use of hazardous chemicals.”
                                                                                                                      29 CFR 1910.1450(e)(3)(i)

“The following [rules] should be used for essentially all laboratory work with chemicals”

29 CFR 1910.1450 Appendix A, Section E.1.

7.0 Introduction
Before working in the laboratory, all laboratory workers must read and follow these general safety rules and procedures so that the laboratory workers will understand the risks associated with the health and physical hazards that are present in the laboratory.

NOTE: These rules and procedures are designed to protect laboratory workers from exposure to hazardous situations.  Certain rules may not apply at all times (e.g., there is no need to wear goggles in a room that does not contain hazardous chemicals, objects, or situations, but the ‘Rules for Housekeeping,’ etc. must still be followed). Consult the Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO) if you have questions regarding the following safety rules and procedures.

7.1 Fundamental Principles & Rules

7.1.a    Awareness is the most fundamental principle of chemical safety:

  1. The hypothetical question What would happen if…? should always be posed before an experiment or procedure is attempted.  Do not conduct the procedure unless you can answer all “What if” questions.
  2. Never underestimate the risk and hazards involved in working with chemicals.
  3. Plan ahead.  Review thoroughly all proposed laboratory procedures to determine the potential health and safety hazards before you begin work.
  4. Assume that substances of unknown toxicity are hazardous.
  5. Assume that a mixture will be more toxic than its most toxic component.
  6. Be alert to unsafe conditions and ensure that they are corrected as soon as they are detected.
  7. Be prepared for accidents or unexpected events.
    1. Before beginning an experiment, know what specific action to take in the event of an accidental release of a hazardous substance.
    2. Always know the location of safety equipment in your area, and the emergency safety procedures and contact numbers for your area.
    3. If a test result is different than the predicted, a review of how the new result impacts safety practices must be made.

7.1.b   Fundamental steps that must be followed before working with chemicals:

  1. Identify the chemicals to be used.
  2. Make sure that all containers are properly labeled (see Section 7.3).
  3. Hazard Identification (see Chapter 5). 
    1. Consult the label, MSDS, and other sources for information to evaluate the hazardous properties of a chemical, including routes of exposure and exposure limits (see Sections 5.3-11).
    2. Determine if a less hazardous (or nonhazardous) chemical can be substituted.
  4. Characteristics of the Chemical.  Laboratory workers must know the following:
    1. Physical properties of the chemical (e.g., aerosol, liquid, low vapor pressure that can lead to fast evaporation and increase exposure)
    2. Type(s) of hazard (corrosive, flammable, toxic, etc.)
    3. Chemical incompatibilities (e.g., mixing of certain chemicals can cause fires, release of toxic fumes, etc.)
    4. Route(s) of exposure (inhalation, absorption through skin, ingestion, injection)
    5. The amount of exposure that is considered to be safe
    6. The lethal dose of any toxic chemical
    7. How the chemical acts on the body (acute or chronic; carcinogen; mutagen; teratogen)
    8. Symptoms and target organs of over-exposure
  5. Identify the Circumstances of Use.
    1. Calculate the amounts to be used or the possibility of generating new or unknown substances.
    2. Plan the positioning of equipment before beginning any new operation.
    3. Review thoroughly all proposed laboratory procedures to determine the potential health and safety hazards before you begin work.
    4. Is it possible for new or unknown substances to be generated?
    5. Are any chemicals known to cause birth defects, etc.?
    6. Do any workers have known sensitivities to specific chemicals?
  6. Standard Operating Procedures.  For any chemical that is defined as hazardous, the SOPs for working with that type of hazard (Chapter 8) must be followed in addition to the safety rules outlined in this chapter.
  7. Follow all safeguards for using the chemicals including:
    1. When and how to use control measures (fume hoods, etc.) (see Chapter 6).
    2. Appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment (see Sections 4.2).
    3. How and where to properly place the chemical when in use (see Sections 7.6).
    4. How and where to properly store the chemical when not in use (see Section 7.6).
    5. The proper methods of handling & moving chemicals (see Section 7.5).

    6. The proper procedures for handling chemical wastes  (see Chapter 13).
    7. Regularly inspect laboratory equipment.  Do not use if the item is even suspected to be defective.
  8. Prior Approval.  Obtain approval for using the chemicals listed in Section 7.1 before using them.
  9. Using Substances with an NFPA Hazard Designation of '4' or 'S'.  Faculty/Staff who intend to use these chemicals must inform the CHO and Department Chair at the time the order is placed regarding its intended use, standard operating procedures, storage, etc.
  10. Particularly Hazardous Substances.  OSHA recognizes certain groups of chemicals as being “particularly hazardous” and requires that specific provisions be followed.  These substances include (a) ‘select carcinogens’, (b) reproductive toxins, and (c) substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity.  See Section 8.17 for more information.

7.1.c    Minimize all chemical exposures (see Section 4.2):

  1. The Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) of OSHA and the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists must not be exceeded.
    1. Ensure that adequate room ventilation is in place.
    2. Use fume hoods or other ventilation devices as required (See Chapter 6).
  2. Food, tobacco, cosmetics:
    1. Never eat, drink, chew gum, smoke, or apply cosmetics in laboratories or chemical storage areas.
    2. Food, beverage, or tobacco products are not allowed in laboratories or chemical storage areas.  Food, drink, and especially tobacco absorb chemical vapors, particulates, and gases from the air.
  3. Personal Protective Equipment Policy:
    1. Skin and eye contact with chemicals should be avoided as a fundamental rule.
    2. The following PPE must be used as required in Section 4.2:
      1. Chemical splash goggles & any other required face protection.
      2. Protection of skin from chemical splashes (including appropriate clothing, shoes, and gloves).
    3. Chemical splash goggles must be provided to all laboratory visitors.  Visitors must also wear all appropriate PPE, as required in Section 4.2.

7.1.d    NEVER WORK ALONE in a laboratory if the procedure being conducted involves hazardous substances.  If the procedure is deemed to not be hazardous then someone must still know of the solitary worker and check on him/her at regular intervals.

  1. Alone means a person is beyond the visual or auditory range of any other individual for more than a few minutes at a time (definition from the National Safety Council).
  2. Undergraduate researchers may work in the building after normal daytime hours only when all of the following conditions are satisfied:
    1. Permission of the lab supervisor is given to work at a specific time on a specific activity; and
    2. The specific activity is an approved standard operating procedure of the research group or course; and
    3. The researcher adheres to all safety policies and procedures; and
    4. The researcher is accompanied by another person (co-worker, colleague, etc.); and
    5. The space in which the work is to be done has two or more points of egress; and
    6. The individual is enrolled in a course requiring this work, or is a research employee, or is a departmental work-study awardee whose job description includes this work.

7.1.e    Pets are not allowed inside campus buildings.  This rule follows College policy.

7.1.f    Minors are not allowed in laboratories where hazardous chemicals are used or stored, unless they are participating in a departmentally recognized outreach program.

7.1.g   Deposit chemical wastes in appropriately labeled receptacles and follow all protocols, including proper labeling, for the disposal of waste chemicals (Chapter 13).

7.1.h   Any “horseplay” or behavior that is harassing, disruptive, aggressive, or in any way presents a hazard to those working in the laboratory is forbidden.  Any person or groups of persons engaging in such behavior will be required to leave the laboratory.

7.1.i    Approvals

  1. Prior Approval to proceed with a laboratory task must be obtained from the College CHSC before:
    1. Using the following substances (this list is adopted from the University of Minnesota’s CHP):
      •  Arsine                                                •  Hydrogen sulfide
      •  Boron trifluoride (gaseous)                   •  Oxygen difluoride
      •  Carbon monoxide                                •  Perchloric Acid
      •  Carbonyl fluoride                                 •  Phosgene (gaseous)
      •  Chlorine pentafluoride                          •  Phosphine
      •  Chlorine trifluoride                               •  Phosphorous pentafluoride
      •  Diborane                                             •  Picric Acid
      •  Dinitrogen tetroxide / nitrogen dioxide   •  Selenium hexafluoride
      •  Fluorine                                              •  Silane
      •  Germane                                            •  Silicon tetrafluoride
      •  Hexafloro butyne                                 •  Stibine
      •  Hydrogen cyanide                                •  Sulfur dioxide
      •  Hydrogen fluoride (anhydrous)              •  Sulfur tetrafluoride
      •  Hydrogen selenide                                •  Tellurium hexafluoride
    2. Using substances that have a High Degree of Acute Toxicity.  Compounds with a high degree of acute toxicity are those that have a median lethal dose (LD50) of 50 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight when administered orally to albino rates weighing between 200 and 300 grams each.
      1. Refer to Table 18 (Appendix A) for a list of several examples of highly acute toxic materials.
      2. Table 19 (Appendix A) lists the Category 1 Gaseous Inhalation Hazards as listed by the DOT.
      3. Table 20 (Appendix A) contains a list of toxicity ratings/lethal doses based on ingestion amounts.
      4. Refer to Section 8.17.b for SOPs for working with substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity.
    3. Approval to Continue with a laboratory task that requires ‘Prior Approval’ (see Section 7.1.i(1)) should be obtained from the College CHSC in the following circumstances:
      1. There is a failure of the required safety equipment pertinent to the process, especially safeguards such as fume hoods or vacuum apparatus.  
      2. There are unexpected byproducts that result in the creation of unknowns or unplanned hazardous wastes.
      3. When an increase in the scale of an experiment is planned. 
      4. If individuals suspect exposure, become ill due to suspicious circumstances related to working in a laboratory, or otherwise suspect a failure of engineered safeguards, an ‘Approval to Continue’ must be received even if ‘Prior Approval’ was not required.
    4. Request for Approval.  For laboratory tasks that require ‘Prior Approval’ a ‘Request for Approval’ must be submitted by the laboratory supervisor to the College CHSC at least two weeks prior to the intended use.
      1. A request must be submitted prior to the first time the substance is purchased or otherwise acquired. 
      2. For a course/research that occurs on an intermittent but regular basis (e.g., a course that is taught every Fall Semester), the laboratory supervisor does not need to submit a new Request for Approval at the beginning of each school year provided that the standard operating procedures (see 7.1.i(e)) have not changed. 
      3. The substance must not be loaned or given to another research group without prior approval.
      4. For existing inventory, a request must be submitted prior to the first use of the substance.
      5. A “Request for Approval” must include:
        1. The identity and quantity of the substance to be used.
        2. The intended purpose. Who will be handling the substance? What is the location where the substance will be handled?  When will the substance be used (e.g., once per semester; every week)?
        3. The possible hazards in the handling or storage of the substance.
        4. The safety precautions to be taken.
        5. The existing protective equipment and engineering controls.
        6. Provisions for emergency handling of overexposure, spills, and wastes.
      6. After a “Request for Approval” is received, the College Chemical Health & Safety Committee will consult with appropriately qualified individuals (inside or outside of St. Olaf).  Recommendations concerning approval decisions will be sent to the appropriate departmental chair.
    5. Records of prior approval decisions will be maintained by the Chair of the Departmental Safety Committee and by the Chemical Hygiene Officer.

7.1.j    Unattended Operations – If an experiment must be left unattended, the following rules must be followed: 

  1. Obtain permission from the lab supervisor prior to conducting any unattended operations.
  2. Leave the lights on, and post an appropriate warning note.
  3. Make sure that water hoses are securely fastened to faucets and apparatus to avoid floods. 
  4. Return periodically to check on the unattended operation (frequency determined by the Laboratory Supervisor).
  5. Provide for the containment of toxic substances in the event of equipment or utility failure.
  6. If using a fume hood, you must fill out and post the “Experiment Activity Tag” (Section 6.4) sign to inform others (e.g., Facilities) that an unattended operation is in progress.

7.1.k   Environmental Monitoring – Regular instrumental monitoring of airborne concentrations is not usually justified or practical in laboratories but may be appropriate when:

  1. Testing or redesigning hoods or other ventilation devices, or
  2. Where a highly toxic substance is stored or is used three times a week or more.

7.1.l    Emergency Response (See Chapter 12 for details)

  1. The laboratory worker must have knowledge of and be continually aware of:
    1. The location and the proper use of emergency equipment such as eye wash stations, safety showers, and fire extinguishers.
    2. The location of telephones and emergency telephone numbers.
    3. The posted emergency plans, including whom to call for a particular incident, evacuation procedures, and chemical spill cleanup procedures (stockroom managers & CHO will take charge of large spills).
  2. Phone Tree.  Departmental Chairs and Laboratory Supervisors must make an emergency alert phone tree to ensure that all relevant personnel are informed of an accident.  The tree must require that the person who initiates the calls begin with a call to 9-911 followed by a second call to Campus Public Safety (3666).