Environmental Health and Safety

Laboratory Safety Manual - 2011

III. Fundamentals of Laboratory Safety

  1. Risk Assessment
  2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  3. Training
  4. Personal Protective Equipment Policy
  5. Chemical Procurement, Transport, and Storage
  6. Storage Cabinets
  7. Signs and Labels
  8. Records
  9. Occupational Health Program
  10. Chemical Waste Disposal Program
  11. Laboratory Evaluations
  12. Minors in Laboratories

1. Risk Assessment

A risk assessment should be done during the planning stage of any new or modified project.  The risk assessment reviews the hazards associated with the project. This assessment should review the chemical properties, reactions/byproducts, procedural hazards, equipment used, potential routes of exposure as well as control measures to mitigate the hazards such as substitution using less hazardous chemicals or micro-scaling projects.  It is recommended that risk assessment process be documented.

Resources for developing a risk assessment include reviewing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), consulting published resources and contacting Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).

Risk assessment guidance can be found at Appendix E.

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2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Once a risk assessment is completed for a project, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can be developed. SOPs should include:

An example SOP can be found at Appendix E.

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3. Training

The university requires that all individuals that work in a laboratory are adequately informed about the physical and health hazards present in the laboratory, the known risks, and what to do if an accident occurs.

  1. Site Specific Training (OH 102)
    Every laboratory worker must be trained to know the location and proper use of available personal protective clothing and equipment. The laboratory supervisor is responsible for providing information to their personnel about any hazards present in the lab. Document the training on the OH102 form and submit to EHS. This information must be provided at the time of a lab person's initial assignment and prior to any assignments involving new potential chemical exposure situations. The following lists the information that should be provided by the PI/Lab Supervisor:
    1. Lab-specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the safe handling and use of   hazardous materials (chemical, biological, radioactive).
    2. Physical and health hazards (acute and chronic) associated with the materials.
    3. Signs and symptoms associated with exposures to hazardous materials in the lab.
    4. Methods and observation techniques to determine the presence or release of hazardous materials.
    5. Procedures for using safety equipment including fume hood, biosafety cabinets, special ventilation or other equipment.
    6. Location of signage including safety signs, emergency numbers and the Texas Hazard-Communication Employee notification poster.
    7. The lab’s housekeeping procedures.
    8. Procedures for transporting hazardous materials safely across campus.
    9. Inform personnel how to register for EHS safety training classes.
    10. Storage location of chemicals and their segregation by compatibility.
    11. Requirements for chemical labeling on primary and secondary containers.
    12. Use, storage, and handling of gas cylinders and cryogenics.
    13. Use of hazardous chemicals that warrant exposure monitoring.
    14. Inform personnel how to request monitoring by EHS.
    15. Location of machine guards and their use.
    16. PPE requirements for personnel including; selection, maintenance and use.
    17. How personnel can obtain PPE and how to dispose of PPE after use.
    18. How to respond to an emergency including; exposures, first aid and evacuation route.
    19. Location of emergency equipment including; spill kits, fire-fighting equipment, alarms, emergency shut-offs, eyewashes and safety showers.
    20. Emergency procedures including how to clean up spills.
    21. How to contact EHS in the event of an accident/injury.
    22. Procedures for proper waste disposal including waste location and process for requesting waste disposal.
    23. Procedure for accessing and using Material Safety Data Sheets and institutional Laboratory Safety Manuals (General, Radiation, Biosafety).
    24. Occupational Health requirements such as medical evaluation, respirator fit-testing, or vaccinations.

Personnel must be re-trained when new chemical hazards are introduced into their workplace, or when new hazards are updated on applicable Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), as well as upon assignment to different workplaces that involve new chemical hazards or protective measures. Site-specific training must be conducted by the PI or lab supervisor.

In addition to the site specific training that is the responsibility of each Lab Supervisor, the following hazardous materials training is offered by EHS and is required for all lab personnel (graduate students, staff, faculty and visitors) that engage in laboratory activities:

  1. Hazard Communication Training (OH 101) Online
    Hazard Communication training is required for all personnel of UT Austin, including faculty, staff, students and visitors who have the potential for exposure to hazardous materials.  Any work in a laboratory using hazardous materials meets the definition of the requirement. EHS offers this training on a regular schedule and it is available online.  Training is required before the personnel can be assigned work in or around hazardous materials.

    OH 101 training takes approximately 1.5 hours and includes:
    1. Central requirements of the act, including training, chemical labels, and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
    2. Spill clean-up and chemical disposal procedures
    3. Chemical storage guidelines
    4. Hazards specific to different chemical groups
  2. Laboratory Safety Training (OH 201) Online
    Laboratory safety training is required for all personnel of UT Austin, including faculty, staff, and students who may work in a laboratory using hazardous chemicals or biological materials.  This training must be received prior to or within 30 days after the beginning of a laboratory assignment.  EHS offers this training on a regular schedule and it is available online.

    OH 201 training takes approximately two hours and includes:
    1. Safety equipment and practices
    2. Emergency procedures
    3. Emergency equipment
    4. Waste disposal
  3. Fire Extinguisher Training (FF 205)
    Provided by Fire Prevention Services, fire extinguisher training, with live fire suppression, is required for all laboratory workers.
    1. FF 205 training covers:
    2. What to do in the event of a fire
    3. The behavior of fire and how it spreads
    4. The classes of fires
    5. The proper selection and use of a fire extinguisher

This training program will familiarize laboratory workers with the general principles of fire extinguisher use; give them confidence in their ability to operate extinguishers; and remove fears associated with putting out a fire by showing them successful fire extinguishers use.

  1. Hazardous Waste Management Training (OH 202) Online
    Hazardous waste management training is required for all laboratory personnel, including faculty, staff, and graduate students where hazardous chemicals or biological materials are in use.  Every teaching lab must have one or more individuals that have received this training and are responsible for following the procedures included in the training.  EHS only offers this training online. 
    1. The training takes approximately 1 hour and includes:
    2. Hazardous waste definitions and regulatory environment
    3. Spill clean-up and chemical waste disposal procedures
    4. Chemical waste storage and segregation guidelines
    5. Waste minimization
    6. Drain disposal
  2. Bloodborne Pathogens and Biosafety Training  (OH 218, OH 207) Online
    Bloodborne pathogens and biosafety training is required for personnel of UT Austin, including faculty, staff, and graduate students who work in laboratories where infectious agents or human or non-human primate body fluids are in use.  EHS offers this training on a regular schedule and can arrange special sessions with advance notice. This training is also available online.

    OH 218 and 207 training takes less than two hours and may include, as appropriate to the attendees:
    1. Definition of a bloodborne pathogen
    2. Universal precautions
    3. Spill clean-up
    4. Practices and equipment required for work at different biosafety levels
  3. Other Lab Safety Training Classes
    Other laboratory safety classes include:
    1. Compressed Gases and Cryogens (OH 204)
    2. Laser Safety (OH 304)
    3. Radiation Safety (OH 301)
    4. X-Ray Safety (OH 306)
  4. Checking Your Training History Online
    You can check your training history online at: https://utdirect.utexas.edu/txclass/index.WBX
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4. Personal Protective Equipment Policy

It is the Principal Investigator and/or Lab Supervisor's responsibility to provide all necessary personal protective clothing for laboratory workers. The university is responsible for providing basic safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, eyewashes and safety showers.

Refer to the Basic Rules and Procedures for Working with Chemicals section of this manual for further information on personal protection requirements.

Personal Clothing and Shoes in Labs 

Personal clothing provides an additional layer of protection between PPE and the skin.  There have been a number of laboratory injuries where adequate personal clothing would have reduced the extent of an exposure.

EHS recommends that at a minimum, laboratory personnel who work with hazardous materials or are in the presence of hazardous materials that are in use wear a combination of proper personal clothing and PPE such as lab coats so essentially the skin is covered from the shoulders to the hands and feet.

photo of proper PPE
Proper PPE
photo of improper PPE
Improper PPE

EHS requires that closed-toed shoes be worn at all times in the laboratory.  All shoes worn in the laboratory must have slip-resistant, non-absorbent soles. Sandals and perforated shoes are not allowed in the laboratory. Proper shoes reduce the potential for exposure to chemicals and injuries from broken glass and dropped items.

Personnel who want to wear shorts/sandals to campus should bring an additional change of clothing to work in the lab. 

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5. Chemical Procurement, Transport, and Storage

  1. Procurement
    Before a chemical is received, information on proper handling, storage, and disposal should be reviewed. Refer to the appropriate MSDS for further information. No container may be accepted into a laboratory without an appropriate identifying label. This label cannot be removed, defaced or damaged in any way.
  2. Stockrooms/Storerooms
    Toxic chemicals must be segregated in a well-identified area with local exhaust ventilation. Chemicals which are highly toxic or chemicals whose containers have been opened must be in unbreakable secondary containers. For example, place containers of concentrated acids or bases into acid cabinets or plastic tubs to help contain any leakage.
photo of properly labled container
Properly labeled secondary
storage container
photo of improperly labled containers
Improperly labeled secondary
storage container

Stored chemicals should be examined periodically (at least annually) for expiration dates, replacement, deterioration and container integrity. The labels must be checked to ensure they are still readable. If labels begin to fall off the container, attach new labels. If a label is becoming unreadable, affix a new label to the container with the identity of the contents, product date, health hazards (including target organs and manufacturer).         

EHS can also make labels for chemical containers on request.

  1. Transporting/Shipping
    When chemicals are hand carried, place the container in an outside (secondary) container or bucket. Container carriers for breakable containers such as glass can be purchased through a variety of vendors. These secondary containers provide protection to the bottle. They also help to minimize spillage if the bottle breaks.

    Use a cart if transporting more than 4 liters or two bottles of a chemical.  When transporting chemicals on a cart, use a box or other secondary container to prevent containers from breaking or falling off the cart.

    Freight-only elevators (when available) should be used when transporting chemicals. Avoid using stairs.

    Chemicals that are shipped off-campus may need special packaging and may need to be shipped by trained certified personnel.  Contact EHS for assistance with shipping chemicals.
  2. Laboratory Chemical Storage (See Chemical Segregation Chart Appendix B)
    Read the label carefully before storing a chemical. All chemicals must be stored according to their hazard class. Note that this is a simplified scheme and that in some instances chemicals of the same category may be incompatible.

    Store all chemicals by their hazard class, and NOT IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER. Storing chemicals by alphabetical order will often result in the placement of incompatible chemicals being next to one another. Only within the segregation groups can chemicals be stored in alphabetical order. If a chemical exhibits more than one hazard, segregate by using the characteristic that exhibits the primary hazard.

    Do not store chemicals or combustible materials near heat sources such as ovens, Bunsen burners, hot plates or steam pipes.  Also, do not store chemicals in direct sunlight.

    Date chemicals when received and first opened. If a particular chemical can become unsafe while in storage, (e.g., diethyl ether) then an expiration date should also be included. Keep in mind that expiration dates set by the manufacturer do not necessarily imply that the chemical is safe to use up to that date.
photo of proper shelving
Proper shelving
photo of rusted shelving
Rusted shelf supports
photo of bowed shelving
Bowed shelving
photo of properly used fume hood
Proper use of a fume hood
photo of improperly stored fume hood
Improper storage in a fume hood
photo of properly stored chemicals
Proper storage of chemicals below eye level
photo of improperly labled containers
Improper storage of chemicals
above eye level
photo of proper storage of flammable chemicals
Proper storage of flammable chemicals
photo of improper storage of flammable chemicals
Improper storage of flammable chemicals
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6. Storage Cabinets

Specialized types of storage cabinets must be used in laboratories in order to separate incompatible chemicals from one another and to safely store all chemicals. All chemicals must be stored in a secure container, preferably within enclosed cabinets. Periodically check shelves and supports for corrosion.

  1. Flammable Storage Cabinets
    Flammables not in active use must be stored inside fire resistant storage cabinets. Flammable storage cabinets should be used for all labs that use flammable chemicals. The cabinet design must meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30 & Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 1910.106 standards.

    Flammable storage cabinets are designed to protect the contents from the heat and flames of external fire rather than to confine burning liquids within. They can perform their protective function only if used and maintained properly.

    Cabinets are typically designed with double-walled construction and doors which are two inches above the base (the cabinet is liquid-proof up to that point). Cabinet doors should be self-closing. Keep the doors closed.

    photo of a flammable storage cabinet another photo of a flammable storage cabinet
    Examples of flammable storage cabinets
  2. Acid Storage Cabinets
    Acids should be kept in acid storage cabinets specially designed to hold them. Such cabinets are made of plastic or metal coated with epoxy enamel to protect against corrosion. If not provided as part of the cabinet, use polyethylene trays to contain small spills. Plastic tubs in a wooden cabinet are considered an acceptable substitute when acid cabinets are not available.

    photo of proper acid storage
    Proper acid storage
    photo of improper storage of flammable chemicals
    Proper and improper acid
    storage methods

    Nitric acid should always be stored in its own acid tray or in a separate acid cabinet compartment.

    photo of proper acid storage
    Improper storage of nitric acid

  3. Compressed Gas Cylinder Cabinets
    photo of compressed gas cylinder cabinet
    Compressed gas cylinder cabinet
    Cylinders containing the compressed gases listed in this section must be kept in a continuously, mechanically ventilated enclosure.

    All compressed gas cylinders having a NFPA Health Hazard Rating of 3 or 4 (e.g. ammonia, chlorine, phosgene) and those with a Health Hazard Rating of 2 but no physiological warning properties (e.g. carbon monoxide) must be kept in a gas cylinder cabinet. EHS can help you determine the Health Hazard Rating of compressed gases.

    Full size cylinders must be stored in a gas cylinder cabinet while smaller cylinders, e.g., lecture bottles, can be stored in a chemical fume hood, a storage cabinet under the fume hood (if ventilated), or some other ventilated enclosure. No more than two small cylinders should be stored in single cabinet.  When stored in a cabinet or hood, small cylinders must be positioned and secured so that they will not fall out and be fixed to a stationary object.

    Compressed gas cylinder cabinets must meet NFPA 55 and the following requirements: negative pressure in relation to the surrounding area with the exhaust from the cabinet going to the outside of the building, self-closing doors, and internally sprinklered or installed in a sprinklered area.

    Cylinders stored in gas cylinder cabinets or other ventilated enclosures must be secured at all times. Cylinders should be firmly secured at their center of gravity, not near the top or bottom.

    photo of acceptable method of securing a gas cylinder
    Acceptable method of securing a gas cylinder
    photo of acceptable method of securing a gas cylinder
    Unacceptable method of securing a gas cylinder

    Hazardous gases include:

    Arsenic Pentafluoride
    Boron Trifluoride
    1,3 - Butadiene
    Carbon Monoxide
    Carbon Oxysulfide
    Chlorine Monoxide
    Chlorine Trifluoride
    Ethylene Oxide

    Hydrogen Chloride, anhydrous
    Hydrogen Cyanide
    Hydrogen Fluoride
    Hydrogen Selenide
    Hydrogen Sulfide
    Methyl Bromide
    Methyl Chloride
    Methyl Mercaptan
    Nitrogen Oxides
    Silicon Tetrafluoride
    Vinyl Chloride

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7. Signs and Labels

Prominent signs and labels of the following types should be used:

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8. Records

  1. Hazardous Chemical Inventory
    Maintaining current records of hazardous chemicals assists in implementing proper storage and safety procedures and is necessary for emergency response pre-planning, both by EHS and the City of Austin Emergency Services. It is the Lab Supervisor’s responsibility to keep an updated hazardous chemical inventory on file with EHS. This inventory should be updated periodically. 

    Lab personnel should also keep usage records of high-risk substances.
  2. Laboratory Incidents
    Lab supervisors should document and report any lab incidents to EHS as soon as possible. Personnel who are exposed/injured in a laboratory should contact Occupational Health and complete a First Report of Injury or Illness form. This form is available from Human Resources

    Any medical records associated with a person's exposure to hazardous materials will be maintained by The university in accordance with state and federal regulations.  Occupational Health will maintain medical records related to laboratory safety.
  3. Monitoring
    EHS maintains records whenever monitoring of hazardous materials is performed.
  4. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
    Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provide information on hazardous chemicals and must be readily available for all hazardous chemicals in the lab. MSDS are available online and from EHS.   If paper copies are maintained, they should be quickly available.

    Information on the university’s Hazard Communication plan can be found at: 
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9. Occupational Health Program

  1. Procedures for Authorizing Medical Treatment
    It is the responsibility of every Lab Supervisor to promptly contact EHS when a suspected exposure to hazardous materials has occurred. The Lab Supervisor will provide details of the exposure, including the identity of the material, a description of the conditions under which the exposure occurred, a description of the signs and symptoms of the exposure, and the MSDS.

    In the event of serious adverse symptoms or injury, medical attention should be sought prior to notification of EHS. When the need is not immediate, EHS will advise exposed personnel to contact Occupational Health.  This notification will request that employees contact the HealthPoint Occupational Health Program (OHP) for consultation at (512) 471-4OHP (4647) and that students in a non-employment status consult with a qualified medical provider for consultation.

    A medical examination or consultation for lab personnel will be made available by UT Austin under the following circumstances:
    1. Whenever a lab employee develops signs or symptoms associated with a hazardous chemical to which that person may have been exposed in the laboratory
    2. Where exposure monitoring reveals an exposure level routinely above the action level (or in the absence of an action level, the Permissible Exposure Level PEL) for an OSHA regulated substance, for which there are exposure monitoring and medical surveillance requirements; medical surveillance will be established for the affected personnel as prescribed by the particular standard
    3. Whenever an event takes place in the work area such as a spill, leak, explosion, or other occurrence resulting in the likelihood of a hazardous exposure, the affected personnel will be provided an opportunity for a medical consultation. The consultation will determine if there is a need for additional medical services.
    All medical exams and consultations described under this Medical Program section will be performed by or under the delegation of a licensed physician and will be provided at UT Austin’s expense, without loss of pay and at a reasonable time and place. The arrangements for a medical consultation or exam for employees will be made with the assistance of the HealthPoint OHP, unless it is an emergency.

    If known, EHS will provide details of the exposure (identity of the hazardous material, a description of the conditions under which the exposure occurred, a description of signs and symptoms of exposure, and the applicable MSDS, and any other relevant information) to the health care provider.

    For medical emergencies, call 911 and for transport to the nearest hospital. If the injury involves an animal, chemical or biological exposure on main campus, request transport to St. David's Hospital.
    For minor work related injuries, employees may seek treatment from the HealthPoint OHP clinic located in the North Office Building (NOA), room 3.214.  Call first for an appointment at (512) 471-4OHP(4647) or email HealthPoint.OHP@austin.utexas.edu

    For non-emergency injuries that require treatment during periods of OHP closure, you may contact any health care provider including your own physician so long as they accept workers' compensation.  Note: University Health Services (UHS) does not accept workers’ compensation or work related injuries. Students in a non-employment status may seek urgent care from UHS (see sub-section 9c below).

    Urgent care clinics that accept workers’ compensation include but are not limited to:
    1. Concentra Medical Centers
    2. ProMed Medical Clinics
    3. St. David's Occupational Health Services. Call 544-8195 to schedule an appointment.
    4. Texas MedClinic 
  2. Physician's Written Opinion
    If a medical consultation or exam is performed, HealthPoint OHP will obtain a written opinion from the examining physician which includes the following information:
    1. Any recommendation for further medical follow-up
    2. The results of the medical examination and any associated tests
    3. Any medical condition which may be revealed in the course of the examination which may place the lab person at increased risk as a result of exposure to a hazardous chemical found in the lab
    4. A statement that the lab person has been informed by the physician of the results of the consultation or medical examination and any medical condition that may require further examination or treatment
    The written opinion cannot reveal findings of diagnoses unrelated to occupational exposure.  HealthPoint OHP may release the physician’s written opinion to EHS or others involved in the accident investigation to further the purpose of providing a safe working environment for employees and/or to meet regulatory reporting requirements.
  3. University Health Services
    During normal university hours, UHS on main campus is available for routine care of students who are injured or ill in their student capacity. UHS does not treat work injuries.  UHS maintains an Urgent Care Clinic open for limited hours in the evenings and on weekends. During these times, a small after-hours fee is charged. 

    Hours and advice can be obtained by calling the UHS 24-hour Nurse Advice Line at (512) 475-NURS (512-475-6877).  If care is needed that UHS cannot provide or when UHS is closed, students may seek care from local emergency rooms that are in close proximity to the university, e.g., St. David’s, Seton, Brackenridge, etc. 
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10. Chemical Waste Disposal Program

Chemical wastes are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Laboratory Supervisors are responsible for advising laboratory workers on how to handle all wastes generated in laboratory operations.

Information on the disposal of hazardous waste can be found at: 

  1. Chemical Waste Containers
    Containers used for hazardous waste must be in good condition, free of leaks, and compatible with the waste being stored in them.  A waste container should be opened only when it is necessary to add waste, and should otherwise be closed.  Hazardous waste must not be placed in unwashed containers that previously held an incompatible material (see chart in Appendix B for examples of incompatible chemicals). 

    If a container holding hazardous waste is not in good condition or if it begins to leak, transfer the waste from this container into a container that is in good condition, pack the container in a larger and non-leaking container, or provide other secondary containment so the waste prevents the potential for a release or contamination. Contact EHS at (512) 471-3511 if assistance is required.

    A storage container holding a hazardous waste that is incompatible with any waste or other materials stored nearby in other containers must be separated from the other materials or protected from them by means of a partition, wall, or other secondary containment device.

    All waste containers:


  1. Accumulation of Chemical Waste
    A generator of potentially hazardous waste may not accumulate more than 55 gallons of waste, or one quart of acutely hazardous waste (see Hazardous Waste Manual for list of acutely hazardous waste) at or near the point of generation.

    If a process will generate more than this volume at one time, EHS must be contacted in advance to arrange a special waste pick up. Hazardous waste in excess of 55 gallons cannot be stored at your site for more than three days; therefore EHS requires advance notice of generation in order to determine if the waste meets the definition of hazardous and to arrange for prompt removal.

    It is essential that the generator keep incompatible hazardous wastes separated.  Mixing wastes can make it more difficult and expensive to dispose. In all cases, do not mix incompatible wastes or other materials in the same container or place wastes in an unwashed container that previously held an incompatible waste or material.

    Labeling Containers for Pick-Up by EHS
  1. Submitting Requests for Disposal of Chemical Waste to EHS
    When a chemical waste container is ready for disposal and is properly tagged, the laboratory supervisor should contact Environmental Health and Safety through submittal of a request form.
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11. Laboratory Evaluations

EHS inspects all labs at the Main Campus, Dell Pediatric Institute, Pickle Research Campus, the Marine Science Institute, and other outlying locations on an annual basis. Information on the lab inspection program can be found at: http://www.utexas.edu/safety/ehs/lab/labinspection.html

  1. Self Evaluations
    Labs are also expected to perform laboratory safety self evaluations within the first sixty days of each semester. A copy of the self evaluation must be sent to EHS upon completion.
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12. Minors (Children) in Laboratories

This section of the manual provides guidance to principal investigators and research personnel regarding minors in laboratories or other potentially hazardous facilities.  The presence of minors in hazardous areas raises concerns for their safety as well as the safety or workers in the hazardous areas whose attention might be diverted by the presence of minors.


This section applies to all university laboratories and animal facilities. It covers all minors whether students, employees, or volunteers. Minors under the age of 15 are NOT PERMITTED inside research/animal laboratories at the university that contain hazardous materials or devices.

It is intended for all university faculty, staff, students, visiting minors, and their sponsors and includes all persons under age 18, whether students, employees, or volunteers.




No person under the age of 18 may access a university laboratory with the exception of:

*A signed parental/guardian consent is required.


Minors of any age who qualify under one or more of the exceptions listed prior may be in a university laboratory or other potentially hazardous area only if:
*The minor must also demonstrate an effective understanding of the topic.


High Hazard Areas

All minors (including the exceptions listed above) are not allowed in any of the following “high hazard areas”:

Children of University Personnel

Children are allowed to be in areas adjacent to the laboratory (i.e., an office or break room within the laboratory) if they are supervised.



The faculty member, principal investigator, or laboratory supervisor/manager is directly responsible for compliance with this policy and for the safety of all minors who are approved to be in their areas under this policy. Non-compliance must be reported to a supervisor, and failure to comply with the conditions of the policy may result in disciplinary action .

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