Section Contents




5.1.1 - Scope

Hazard communication requirements apply to all University employees and contractors who are potentially exposed to chemicals. 

5.1.2 - Background

Chemical exposure may cause or contribute to many serious health effects such as heart ailments, kidney and lung damage, sterility, cancer, burns, and rashes. Some chemicals may also be safety hazards and have the potential to cause fires and explosions and other serious accidents. To address these problems, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a regulation called the "Hazard Communication Standard" (HCS). This regulation establishes uniform requirements to make sure that the hazards of all chemicals imported into, produced, and used in U.S. workplaces are evaluated, and that this hazard information is transmitted to affected employers and exposed employees.

 Responsibilities under the Hazard Communication Standard are as follows:

  • Chemical manufacturers/importers: Determine the hazards of each product.
  • Chemical manufacturers/importers/distributors: Communicate the hazard information and associated protective measures down to customers through labels and SDSs
  • Employers:
    • Identify and list hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
    • Obtain SDSs and labels for each hazardous chemical.
    • Develop and implement a written hazard communication program to include labeling, SDSs, and training
    • Communicate hazard information to employees through labels, SDSs, and formal training.

5.1.3 - Implementing the Hazard Communication Standard at Catholic University

Each department head:

  • Ascertains if the materials in use in his or her department fall within the scope of the HCS
  • Posts emergency phone numbers in each area where employees handle chemicals and in the office of each supervisor whose section employees handle chemicals
  • Performs an annual inventory of hazardous materials used within the department and forwards the inventory to Environmental Health & Safety (EHS). (Note: A hazardous material is any element, chemical compound, or mixture of elements and/or compounds which presents physical or a health hazard. This includes laboratory chemicals, gases, lubricants, paints, cleaners, solvents, etc.)
  • Ensures that all hazardous material storage containers are labeled to show their contents, and the nature of the material's hazard, e.g., "ETHANOL, FLAMMABLE" or "NITRIC ACID, CORROSIVE, OXIDIZER." (Note: For containers, such as flasks or beakers, in temporary use by an individual, identification of contents is adequate.)
  • Provides information and training to all employees, under his or her supervision, who may be exposed to hazardous materials. Training must be provided prior to initial assignment requiring work with chemicals and whenever hazards change. (Note: Training is normally provided and a record kept by EHS. However, if a department should provide its own training, it is important to maintain a record of this training in the department's files.)
  • Provides appropriate safety and personal protective equipment to employees

Each research scientist:

  • Ensures that all research employees who are associated with his/her research efforts are familiar with the HCS and laboratory safety procedures
  • Posts appropriate safety instructions and phone numbers in the laboratory
  • Ensures that proper safety and personal protective equipment is on hand

Purchasing Department:

  • Forwards to EHS all SDSs received from manufacturers and suppliers.

Environmental Health & Safety:

  • Keeps track of changes in the Hazard Communication regulation and assists department heads in meeting requirements
  • Maintains SDSs in an electronic database which shall be available to University personnel
  • Maintains audio-visual and written training materials that is available to departments upon request
  • Assists department heads in meeting their training responsibilities
  • Maintains a supply of materials such as label forms which is available to departments for use
  • Establishes procedures for disposal of hazardous waste.



5.2.1 - Scope

 Chemical hygiene program requirements apply to all engaged in the laboratory use of hazardous chemicals. This program works in conjunction with hazard communication (8.5.1).

5.2.2 - Background

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted the Occupational Exposure to Chemicals in Laboratories Standard in 1990. This standard applies to all employees engaged in the laboratory use of hazardous chemicals at Catholic University The purpose of the standard is to minimize worker exposure to chemicals in the laboratory.

5.2.3 - Requirements

A primary requirement of the standard is the formulation and implementation of a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). The CHP includes work practices, procedures and policies to ensure that employees are protected from all potentially hazardous chemicals in their work area. This manual addresses elements specifically required by OSHA requirements.

The Laboratory Safety Manual for the University includes the Chemical Materials Safety Manual, the Radiation Safety Manual and the Biological Safety Manual.

5.2.4 - Chemical Hygiene Responsibilities

Responsibility for chemical hygiene rests at all levels. Specific responsibilities are as follows.

Senior DIrector, Environmental Health & Safety:

The Senior Director/EHS has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for chemical hygiene within the institution. He/She shall
  • Appoint a Chemical Hygiene Officer.
  • Include provisions for appropriate storage and disposal of chemicals in the long range plans for facilities development.
  • Provide adequate support for institutional chemical hygiene.
Department Head/Building Administrator:

In University departments or buildings containing laboratories where potentially hazardous chemicals are used, the Department Head and Building Administrator shall:
  • Provide a list of supervisors to EHS as needed.
  • Develop plans, in consultation with EHS, for the appropriate storage of chemicals within the department/building.
  • Develop a departmental chemical waste collection plan, in consultation with EHS, to facilitate proper waste storage, transportation, and disposal.
  • Ensure that all new faculty members, researchers, student employees, and other departmental employees, as appropriate, are informed of the CHP.
  • Ensure that the supervisors of all undergraduate students be informed of and know the basic rules of chemical safety and that these rules be followed in all undergraduate laboratory courses.
  • Inform EHS of any known chemically-related facility deficiencies.
  • Investigate unsafe practices. Forward any investigative reports to EHS.
  • Ensure that all common areas of the building are free of chemical hazards
Laboratory Supervisor/Research Scientist:

The laboratory supervisor/research scientist has overall responsibility for chemical hygiene in the laboratory including the responsibility to:
  • Ensure that laboratory workers know and follow the chemical hygiene rules, that protective equipment is available and in working order, and that appropriate training has been provided;
  • Provide regular, chemical hygiene and housekeeping inspections including routine inspections of emergency equipment;
  • Be aware of the current legal requirements concerning regulated substances used in her/his laboratories;
  • Determine what eye protection and other protective apparel/equipment is needed and ensure that workers use it.
  • Ensure that facilities and training for use of any material being ordered are adequate.
  • Ensure that appropriate signs and notices of hazards and restricted activities are posted in the laboratory.
  • Report any chemically-related problems to the appropriate department head and EHS.
Laboratory Worker:

The laboratory worker is responsible for:
  • Planning and conducting each operation in accordance with chemical hygiene procedures;
  • Developing good personal chemical hygiene habits.
  • Informing his/her supervisor of any incident or irregularity regarding the use of any chemical.
Chemical Hygiene Officer:

The Chemical Hygiene Officer shall:
  • Work with the Academic Safety Committee, administrators, and other employees to develop and implement appropriate chemical hygiene policies and practices;
  • Monitor procurement, use, and disposal of chemicals used in the laboratories;
  • See that appropriate audits are conducted and records maintained;
  • Help project directors develop adequate facilities and precautionary techniques;
  • Keep abreast of current legal requirements concerning regulated substances;
  • Seek ways to improve the chemical hygiene program;
  • Ensure that appropriate sections of the chemical hygiene plan are reviewed annually
Academic Safety Committee:

The purpose of the Academic Safety Committee (ASC) is to:
  • Recommend a statement of policy to the Executive Director Facilities Operations that ensures safe and environmentally prudent work and study in University facilities;
  • Provide support and advice to EHS on matters germane to campus safety;
  • Increase safety and health awareness on campus; and
  • Advise the Executive Director Facilities Operations in matters of campus safety budget policy to ensure funding of an effective academic safety program.
The ASC consists of members from the University community and represents a diversity of functions, specialties and departments. Representation is required from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics/VSL, Facilities Maintenance & Operations or Facilities Planning & Construction, School of Engineering, and EHS. Other departments are invited and may be called to participate as needed. The Senior Director of EHS serves as ex officio member. Officers include Chairperson and Secretary. Appointments are made by the Provost based upon recommendations from the ASC chair and the Senior Director of EHS.

The duties of the ASC include:
  • Meet to conduct ASC business, at least twice a year (once each academic semester); minutes are recorded and distributed by ASC secretary to ASC members. 
  • When needed, convene an Institutional Biosafety Committee with expertise in assessing the safety of biological experiments, particularly recombinant DNA experiments; IBC membership is not restricted to ASC members.
  • Consult with and support EHS with respect to laboratory safety inquiries and laboratory accident reports.
  • Develop and institute procedures for approving high risk operations and experiments brought to the attention of the ASC.
  • Review and modify, as necessary, the University safety policy statement.



The University provides training for employees who may be exposed to chemicals while on the job. The training must be provided prior to beginning work that may involve exposure to chemicals, whenever the hazard changes, and whenever new information concerning a chemical is received. New or newly assigned employees must be provided training before working with or working in an area containing chemicals.  Lab personnel may be denied lab privileges until training in completed. Training is to include the following, as applicable:
  • Requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard
  • Contents of the OSHA standard on Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories
  • Where to access the University's Hazard Communication and Chemical Hygiene plans
  • How to obtain Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and other references on the hazards, safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous chemicals
  • Interpreting SDSs and labels
  • The importance of labeling chemical containers
  • Location of hazardous chemicals
  • Physical and health hazard of chemicals
  • Safe chemical handling procedures
  • Selection and use of personal protective equipment
  • Methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical
  • First-aid
  • Waste storage, clean-up, and disposal procedures
In the event a large variety of hazardous chemicals is stored or in use, generic training on categories of chemicals and hazards may substitute for chemical-specific training. The contents of this manual meet, in part, the generic training requirements. Supervisors are to provide additional training as necessary.

The University is required to keep a record of training sessions provided to employees. Employees may be required to sign a ledger verifying attendance at a training session.




A label is any written, printed, or graphic material displayed on or affixed to containers of hazardous chemicals.

Do not remove or deface existing labels on new containers of chemicals or containers in storage.

Do not use a chemical from an unlabeled container until verifying its contents and understanding its hazards.

Labels are used to warn of a variety of potential physical hazards or health hazards. Chemicals from manufacturers, distributors or suppliers must be labeled, tagged or marked with the following information:
  • Identity of the hazardous chemical

  • Appropriate hazard warnings
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party.

When transferring a chemical or chemicals from one container to another, label the new container with its contents and the nature of he hazard, e.g., "ARSENIC, POISON" or "BENZENE, FLAMMABLE, CARCINOGEN." When using a chemical in a temporary use container, such as a flask or beaker, identifying contents is adequate (e.g., 0.1 molar potassium permanganate).

Post names and telephone numbers of lab supervisors and emergency personnel/facilities on laboratory entrances.

Post location signs for safety showers, eyewashes, fire extinguishers, other first aid equipment, exits, and areas where food and beverage consumption and storage are permitted or prohibited.

Post warnings at areas or equipment where special or unusual hazards exist, chemical or otherwise (e.g., biohazards, lasers, radioisotopes, high-voltage equipment, etc.)




A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a document that describes the hazard of a chemical and gives safe handling information. Chemical manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors must provide an SDS to purchasers for each hazardous chemical purchased.

If an SDS is not provided with the shipment of a hazardous chemical, the University must request one in writing from the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor in a timely manner. The University must assure the SDSs are available to employees or their designated representatives and to contract employees that may be exposed to our chemicals. SDSs are maintained by EHS in an electronic database.
The following is a description of what is contained in an SDS based upon the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sixteen section format.

Section 1, Chemical Product and Company Information.

  • chemical name

  • name, address, phone number of manufacturer or distributor

Section 2, Composition, Information on Ingredients.
  • hazardous ingredients and percent composition
  • exposure limits such as OSHAs PELs or ACGIH TLVs.

Section 3, Hazards Identification. Lists the possible health effects of overexposure, typical routes of entry into the body, length of exposure that could cause health effects, and body organs that may be affected.

Section 4, First Aid Measures. Tells what to do if someone is over exposed to the chemical.

Section 5, Fire Fighting Measures.
  • flash point

  • likelihood of fire, its spread, and the circumstances that could promote it

  • reactions that could cause fire or explosion
Section 6, Accidental Release. How to contain a leak or spill, proper clean-up procedures, and precautions to take.

Section 7, Handling and Storage. How to handle and store chemical to reduce risk of accidents and overexposure. E.G., what to avoid doing, typed of ventilation required, storage conditions, etc.

Section 8, Exposure Controls and Personal Protection. Equipment and protective clothing needed to prevent overexposure. This includes eye and face protection, skin and clothing protection, respiratory protection.

Section 9, Physical and Chemical Properties. Chemical's appearance and odor, physical state, vapor pressure, vapor density, boiling point, melting point, freezing point, solubility in water, specific gravity.

Section 10, Stability and Reactivity. Describes potential for a hazardous reaction, the chemical's stability, its incompatibility with other substances, and potential to react with itself to release heat, possibly leading to an explosion.

Section 11, Toxicological Information. Explains how the chemical was tested for health hazards and the results of the tests.

Section 12, Ecological Information. Tells what might happen if the material is released into the environment, e.g., affect on fish, plants, wildlife and persistence in the environment.

Section 13, Disposal Consideration. Classification of the chemical and its identification for proper disposal. Includes special instructions or limitations dealing with disposal.

Section 14, Transportation Information. Essential shipping information such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) proper shipping name, hazard class, identification number, etc.

Section 15, Regulatory Information. OSHA, EPA, and other applicable regulations. Regulations of other countries may be provided if the chemical is normally exported.

Section 16, Other Information. Other useful information that would aid in the understanding of the hazards of the chemical and its proper use.




A chemical is a physical hazard if it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, an explosive, a flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, a pyrophoric compound, an unstable material (reactive) or water reactive substance.

A chemical is a health hazard if there is significant evidence that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees. Included are:
  • carcinogens
  • irritants
  • reproductive toxins
  • corrosives
  • sensitizers
  • radioactive material
  • neurotoxins
  • hepatotoxins
  • nephrotoxins
  • biohazards
  • teratogens
  • hematopoietic system agents

In most cases, the label will indicate if the chemical is hazardous. Look for key words like caution, hazardous, toxic, dangerous, corrosive, irritant, carcinogen, etc.

If you are not sure if a chemical you are using is hazardous, review the SDS or contact your supervisor or EHS.




The HCS does not apply to chemicals in the categories below as long as the products are used in the same way and to the same degree that they are used by the general consumer. Custodial Services staff, for instance, are not exempt from the standard when using a strong cleanser that is available to the general consumer because of the greater time each day that they spend using it.
  • any article formed to a specific shape that does not release hazardous chemicals under normal use

  • any food, food additive, drug or cosmetic
  • distilled spirits, wines or malt beverages
  • products intended for personal use and consumption.
  • If you are not sure a chemical in your work area is exempt, contact your supervisor or EHS.




A flammable or a combustible material will catch fire and burn. Many of the commonly used solvents, waxes, cleaners, adhesives, thinners, and polishes are flammable or combustible. All liquid fuels, such as gasoline and diesel oil, fall into this category. In addition to fire, such materials may also pose explosion and/or health hazards.

The lowest temperature at which a liquid releases enough vapor to start burning is called the FLASH POINT. The flash point is used to classify the relative fire hazards of liquids. Liquids classified as FLAMMABLE have flash points below 100°F. These liquids will release enough vapor to form burnable mixtures with air at temperatures below 100°F. Liquids classified as COMBUSTIBLE have flash points above 100°F.

Some common ignition sources include:
  • Hot surfaces (e.g., hot plates, electric coils, overheated bearings)
  • Open flames (e.g., pilot lights, cigarettes)
  • Hot particles and embers (e.g., grinders, welders)

  • Sparks (e.g., electric tools, static electricity from rotating belts or from transferring liquids)
Fires and explosions involving these liquids can be prevented by:
  • Keeping the liquid vapors confined so that they can't mix with air, or by ventilating the area with fresh air
  • Removing all possible ignition sources

  • Removing the air (oxygen) necessary for the fire to burn.
Keeping the vapors confined is best done by using the proper equipment for storing and handling flammable and combustible liquids.

Many potential ignition sources can be eliminated by prohibiting smoking around flammable and combustible liquids, maintaining good housekeeping, removing open flames and spark-producing equipment, and using an approved, explosion proof equipment in hazardous locations.

A very dangerous ignition source is the static electricity that builds up when liquids are transferred from one container to another. Both an ignitable vapor mixture and static sparks can form. Sparks are prevented by bonding and grounding container before transferring liquids.

Bonding is done by making an electrical connection between the containers. The best way to do this is with a flexible bonding strap or wire. Grounding is done by proving a path for static charge to drain off to the earth. Grounding straps and wires must be connected to known grounds such as water pipers, grounded metal building framework and metallic underground gas piping systems.

In minimizing the risk of fire, it is also necessary to avoid storing flammables and combustibles near sources of oxygen or oxidizing agents. Some examples of oxidizing chemicals are chromic acid, permanganates, chlorates, nitrates and perchlorates.

As noted earlier, fire isn't the only danger associated with these liquids. Many of them can be very hazardous to your health. No matter which liquids you use or how you use them, the following basic rules apply:
  • Avoid skin contact. Most flammable and combustible liquids will remove the oils from the skin and cause irritation, cracking, rashes, or infection. Wear protective gloves and aprons if there is a chance of skin contact. Always wash liquids from your skin with non-abrasive soap or hand cleaner.
  • Don't breath the vapors. Avoid breathing vapors of any liquid. Use these liquids only in a well ventilated area. Be especially cautious when working in confined spaces.

  • Protect your eyes. Always wear safety glasses or goggles when pouring or handling flammable or combustible liquids. Wear a face shield if liquids may spray or splash.
To minimize the potential danger, only buy and store the amount of material needed for immediate use. Never dispose of solvents by pouring them down sinks or drains.




Corrosive chemicals are those substances that, by direct chemical action, injure body tissue or corrode metal. Injury may be to a minor degree in the form of irritation or actual physical destruction of body tissues. Corrosive chemicals act on the body through direct contact with the skin or eyes, by inhalation, or by ingestion.

Liquid corrosives most commonly cause corrosive injury. Bases (caustics/alkalis) can cause greater eye damage than acids, because the protein barrier formed by acids is not formed by bases. Given below are typical corrosive liquids that may be encountered:

Mineral acids:
  • hydrochloric acid
  • sulfuric acid
  • nitric acid
  • hydrofluoric acid
  • acetic acid
  • perchloric acid

Strong bases (solutions):
  • ammonium hydroxide
  • sodium hydroxide
  • liquified phenol
  • potassium hydroxide
  • bromine
  • thymol chloride

The effects of solid corrosives are largely dependent on their solubility in skin moisture and on duration of contact.

In handling corrosive liquids and solids, always protect those skin areas that may be contacted. You may need to wear gloves, goggles, face shields, aprons, etc. Immediate first-aid must include flushing with large amounts of water and calling for medical attention.

Corrosive gases are a serious hazard, because they are readily absorbed into the body by dissolution of skin moisture and by inhalation. In handling gases, skin, eye, and respiratory protection may all be necessary. Proper exhaust ventilation is also a very important consideration.

Examples of corrosive gases are:
  • ammonia
  • sulfur dioxide
  • hydrogen chloride
  • bromine
  • nitrogen dioxide
  • hydrogen fluoride
  • phosgene
  • ozone




A toxic chemical is one which may injure the body by damaging biological structure and/or disturbing biological function. This effect may occur when a substance is ingested, inhaled, absorbed into, applied onto, or injected into the body. 

Damage may be local, systemic, or both. Local toxicity is the effect of a substance on the body area that has been exposed to the substance. Exposure may be through direct contact, inhalation, ingestion, or penetration. Systemic toxicity is the effect of a substance on body tissues after absorption into the bloodstream. Absorption may take place through the skin, stomach, or lungs.

Damage may also be acute, chronic, or both. Two substances may have about the same toxicity on a single exposure. However, the effect of each on prolonged or repetitive exposures may be different. Acute toxicity is the effect that may be experienced on a short duration exposure. Chronic toxicity is the effect that may result when a chemical acts on the body over a long period of time.

Some things that affect toxicity are means of entry into the body, the physical condition of the person exposed, the amount received, the length of exposure, how sensitive the person is, combined effects of exposure to other chemicals, stress, and factors such as age, sex, race, etc.

Below are some of the common types of toxic chemicals:

Irritants are materials that cause inflammation of mucous membranes with which they come in contact. Inflammation of tissue results from concentrations far below those needed to cause corrosive effects. Examples include:
  • ammonia
  • alkaline dusts and mists
  • nitrogen dioxide
  • hydrogen chloride
  • hydrogen fluoride
  • halogens
  • arsenic trichloride
  • diethyl/dimethyl sulfate
  • phosgene
  • phosphorus chlorides
  • ozone

Some irritants can also cause changes in the mechanics of breathing and lung function. Examples include:
  • sulfur dioxide
  • acetic acid
  • iodine
  • formaldehyde
  • formic acid
  • acrolein
  • sulfuric acid

Long term exposure to irritants can result in increased mucous secretions and chronic bronchitis.

Asphyxiants have the ability to deprive tissue of oxygen. 

Simple asphyxiants are inert gases that displace oxygen. Examples include:
  • nitrogen
  • nitrous oxide
  • helium
  • carbon dioxide
  • hydrogen

Chemical asphyxiants make the body incapable of getting enough oxygen. They are active at very low concentrations (a few ppm). Some examples are:
  • carbon monoxide
  • cyanides

Anesthetics have a depressant effect upon the central nervous system, particularly the brain. Examples include:
  • alcohols
  • halogenated hydrocarbons

Hepatotoxins cause damage to the liver. Examples include:
  • carbon tetrachloride
  • tetrachloroethane
  • nitrosamines

Nephrotoxins damage the kidneys. Examples include:
  • uranium compounds
  • halogenated hydrocarbons

Neurotoxins damage the nervous system. The nervous system is especially sensitive to organometallic compounds and certain sulfide compounds. Examples include:
  • tetraethyl lead
  • trialkyl tin compounds
  • manganese
  • methyl mercury
  • carbon disulfide
  • thallium
  • organic phosphorus insecticides

Some toxic agents act on the blood (hematopoietic) system. The blood cells can be directly affected or bone marrow can be damaged. Some examples are:
  • aniline
  • benzene
  • nitrites
  • nitrobenzene
  • toluidine

There are toxic agents that damage lung (pulmonary) tissue but not by immediate irritant action. Fibrotic changes can be caused by free silica and asbestos. Other dusts can cause a restrictive disease called pneumoconiosis. Examples are:
  • coal dust
  • cotton dust
  • wood dust
  • nitrobenzene
  • toluidine

A carcinogen commonly describes any agent that can start or speed the development of malignant or potentially malignant tumors. Known human carcinogens include:
  • alpha-naphthylamine
  • 4-nitrobiphenyl
  • asbestos
  • 3,3"-dichlorobenzidine
  • vinyl chloride
  • inorganic arsenic
  • bis(chloromethyl) ether
  • methyl chloromethyl ether
  • ethylene oxide
  • N-nitrosodimethylamine
    coal tar pitch volatiles
  • 1,2-dibromo-3-
    chloropropane (DBCP)

A mutagen affects the chromosome chains of exposed cells. The effect is hereditary and becomes part of the genetic pool passed on to future generations.

A teratogen (embryotoxin or fetotoxin) interferes with normal embryo development without damage to the mother or lethal effect on the fetus. Effects are not hereditary. Examples are:
  • lead
  • dibromochloropropane

A sensitizer causes a good number of exposed people to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to the chemical. The reaction may be as mild as a rash (contact dermatitis) or as serious as anaphylactic shock. Some examples are:
  • chlorinated hydrocarbons
  • toluene diisocyanate
  • epoxies
  • nickel compounds
  • chromium compounds
  • poison ivy

Chemicals affect specific organs of the body called target organs. Below are some target organ effects with examples of signs and symptoms and chemicals which cause such effects.

Hepatotoxins: cause liver damage

Signs and symptoms: jaundice; liver enlargement

Example chemicals: carbon tetrachloride, nitrosamines, chloroform, toluene,perchloro-ethylene, cresol, dimethyl sulfate

Nephrotoxins: produce kidney damage

Signs and symptoms: edema; proteinuria

Example chemicals: halogenated hydrocarbons, uranium, chloroform, mercury, dimethyl sulfate

Neurotoxins: affect the nervous system

Signs and symptoms: narcosis; behavioral changes; decreased muscle coordination

Example chemicals: mercury, carbon disulfide, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, lead, nitrobenzene

Hematopoietic agents: decreased blood functions

Signs and symptoms: cyanosis; loss of consciousness

Example chemicals: carbon monoxide, cyanides, nitrobenzene, aniline, arsenic, benzene, toluene

Pulmonary agents: irritate or damage the lungs

Signs and symptoms: cough; tightness in chest, shortness of breath

Example chemicals: silica, asbestos, ozone, hydrogen sulfide, chromium, nickel, alcohols

Reproductive toxins: affect the reproductive system (mutations and teratogenesis)

Signs and symptoms: birth defects; sterility

Example chemicals: lead, dibromodichloropropane

Skin hazards: affect the dermal layer of the body

Signs and symptoms: defatting of skin; rashes; irritation

Example chemicals: ketones, chlorinated compounds, nickel, phenol, trichloroethylene

Eye hazards: affect the eyes or vision

Signs and symptoms: conjunctivitis; corneal damage

Example chemicals: organic solvents, acids, cresol, quinone, hydroquinone, benzol chloride, butyl alcohol, bases




Shock-sensitive refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to rapidly decompose or explode when struck, vibrated or otherwise agitated. Some chemicals become increasingly shock-sensitive with age. Always write the date received and date opened on all containers of shock-sensitive chemicals.

Unless an inhibitor was added by the manufacturer, closed containers of shock-sensitive materials should be discarded after one year. Open containers of shock-sensitive materials should be discarded within six months of opening.

The label and SDS will indicate if a chemical is shock-sensitive. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling shock-sensitive chemicals.

The following are examples of materials which can be shock-sensitive.
acetylides of heavy metals aluminum ophorite explosive
amatol ammonal
ammonium nitrate ammonium perchlorate
ammonium picrate ammonium salt lattice
butyl tetryl calcium nitrate
copper acetylide cyanuric triazide
cyclonite (hexogen) cyclotetramethylenetrinitramine
dinitro ethylene urea dinitroglycerine
dinitrophenol dinitrophenolates
dinitrophenyl hydrazine dinitrotoluene
dipicryl sulfone dipicrylamine
erythritol tetranitrate fulminate of gold
fulminate of mercury fulminate of platinum
fulminate of silver gelatinized nitrocellulose
germane guanyl nitrosaminoguanylidene hydrazine
hydrazine nitrate heavy metal azides
hexanitrin hexanitrodiphenylamine
hexanitrostilbene hydrazoic acid
lead azide lead mannite
lead mononitroresorcinate lead picrate
lead styphnate magnesium ophorite
mannitol hexanitrate mercury oxalate
mercury tartrate mononitrotoluene
nitrated carbohydrate nitrated glucoside
nitrated polyhydric alcohol nitrogen trichloride
nitrogen tri-iodide nitroglycerin
nitroglycide nitroglycol
nitroguanidine nitroparaffins
nitronium perchlorate nitrourea
organic amine nitrates organic nitramines
organic peroxides picramic acid
picramide picratol
picric acid picryl chloride
picryl fluoride polynitro aliphatic compounds
potassium nitroaminotetrazole silver acetylide
silver azide silver styphnate
silver tetrazene sodatol
sodium amatol sodium dinitroorthocresolate
sodium picramate sodium nitrate-potassium explosive mixtures
styphnic acid tetrazene tetranitrocarbazole
tetryl trimonite
trinitroanisole trinitrobenzene
trinitrobenzoic acid trinitrocresol
trinitro-meta-cresol trinitronaphthalene
trinitrophenetol trinitrophloroglucinol
trinitroresorcinol tritonal
urea nitrate



Compressed gas cylinders are dangerous, and their improper use can cause explosion, fire, and health hazards. Below are some rules to follow when handling gases.
  • Do not use compressed gases if you are not familiar with them.
  • Carefully read the label before using or storing compressed gas. The SDS will provide any special hazard information.

  • Always use the minimum size cylinder required to perform the work.
  • Handle cylinders of compressed gases as high energy sources.
  • Minimize banging and clanking of the cylinders.
  • Don't let cylinders fall or allow things to fall on them.
  • When storing or moving a cylinder, have the cap securely in place to protect the stem. (A pressurized cylinder can become a rocket when its stem is broken.)

  • Do not expose cylinders to temperature extremes. Never expose any part of a compressed gas cylinder to temperatures above 51.7°C (125°F).
  • Keep cylinders secured and upright. Use suitable racks, straps, chains or stands to prevent cylinders from falling. (But never secure a cylinder to conduit carrying electrical current.)
  • Because of the way the contents are stored in an acetylene cylinder, it is important to keep it upright. When accepting an acetylene cylinder delivery, make sure it arrived upright.
  • Store oxygen cylinders at least 20 feet from flammables or combustible or separate them by a 5 foot, fire-resistant barrier.
  • Mark empty cylinders "MT" or "Empty."

  • Always use the correct regulator. Do not use a regulator adaptor.
  • Store and use cylinders of toxic, flammable or reactive gases in a fume hood or with local exhaust ventilation.
  • Use an appropriate cart to move cylinders. Never drag or roll cylinders. Before transporting, close the cylinder valve and screw on the cylinder cap.
  • Never bleed a cylinder completely empty. Leave a slight pressure to keep contaminants out.
  • Do not lubricate an oxygen regulator or use a fuel gas regulator on an oxygen cylinder. Oil or grease on the high pressure side of an oxygen cylinder can cause an explosion. 
  • Do not place cylinders where they may become part of an electric circuit.
  • Always wear safety glasses when handling compressed gases.



Certain hazardous chemicals cannot be safely mixed or stored with other chemicals because a severe reaction can take place or an extremely toxic reactive product can result. Chemical container labels and SDSs contain information on incompatibilities.

The following is a table containing examples of incompatible chemicals:

Chemical Keep Out of Contact With:
acetic acid chromic acid, nitric acid, hydroxide compounds, perchloric acid, peroxides, permanganates
acetylene chlorine, bromine, copper, fluorine, silver, mercury
alkali metals water, carbon tetrachloride or other chlorinated hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, the halogens
ammonia, anhydrous mercury, chlorine, calcium hypochlorite, iodine, bromine, hydrofluoric acid
ammonium nitrate acids, metal powders, flammable liquids, chlorates, nitrites, sulfur, finely divided organic or combustible materials
aniline nitric acid, hydrogen peroxide
bromine ammonia, acetylene, butadiene, butane, methane, propane (or other petroleum gases), hydrogen, sodium carbide, turpentine, benzene, finely divided metal
carbon, activated calcium hypochlorite, all oxidizing agents
chlorates ammonium salts, acids, metal powders, sulfur, finely divided organic or combustible materials
chromic acid acetic acid, naphthalene, camphor, glycerin, turpentine, alcohol, flammable liquids in general
chlorine ammonia, acetylene, butadiene, butane, methane, propane (or other petroleum gases), hydrogen, sodium carbide, turpentine, benzene, finely divided metals
chlorine dioxide ammonia, methane, phosphine, hydrogen sulfide
copper acetylene, hydrogen peroxide
cumene hydroperoxide acids, organic or inorganic
flammable liquids ammonium nitrate, chromic acid, hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid, sodium peroxide, halogens
hydrocarbons fluorine, chlorine, bromine, chromic acid, sodium peroxide
hydrocyanic acid nitric acid, alkali
hydrofluoric acid ammonia, aqueous or anhydrous
hydrogen peroxide copper, chromium, iron, most metals or their salts, alcohols, acetone, organic materials, aniline, nitromethane, flammable liquids, oxidizing gases
hydrogen sulfide fuming nitric acid, oxidizing gases
iodine acetylene, ammonia (aqueous or anhydrous), hydrogen
mercury acetylene, fulminic acid, ammonia
nitric acid acetic acid, aniline, chromic acid, hydrocyanic acid, hydrogen sulfide, flammable liquids, flammable gases
oxalic acid silver, mercury
perchloric acid acetic anhydride, bismuth and its alloys, alcohol, paper, wood
potassium carbon tetrachloride, carbon dioxide, water
potassium chlorate sulfuric and other acids
potassium permanganate glycerin, ethylene glycol, benzaldehyde, sulfuric acid
silver acetylene, oxalic acid, tartaric acid, ammonium compounds
sodium carbon tetrachloride, carbon dioxide, water
sodium peroxide ethyl or methyl alcohol, glacial acetic acid, acetic anhydride, benzaldehyde, carbon disulfide, glycerin, ethylene glycol, ethyl acetate, methyl acetate, furfural
sulfuric acid potassium chlorate, potassium perchlorate, potassium permanganate (or compounds with similar light metals, such as sodium, lithium, etc.).



Stability refers to the susceptibility of the chemical to dangerous decomposition. Ethers, liquid paraffins, and olefins form peroxides on exposure to air and light. Since these chemicals are packaged in an air atmosphere, peroxides can form even though the containers have not been opened.

Unless an inhibitor was added by the manufacturer, closed containers of ethers should be discarded after one year. Open containers of ethers should be discarded within six months of opening. The label and SDS will indicate if a chemical is unstable.

The following are examples of materials which may form explosive peroxides:
  • acetal
  • butadiene
  • cyclohexene
  • decahydronaphthalene
  • diethyl ether
  • dicyclopentadiene
  • diethylene glycol
  • dimethyl ether
  • dioxane
  • divinyl acetylene
  • glycol dimethyl ether
  • isopropyl ether
  • methyl acetylene
  • sodium amide
  • tetrahydrofuran
  • tetrahydronaphthalene
  • vinylidene chloride
  • vinyl ethers



All employees working in laboratories and other departmental employees who work in chemical laboratory areas must know and follow the rules and procedures listed below:


General Rules

Do the following for essentially all laboratory work with chemicals:

  • Know what you are dealing with:

    • Read the container label and the SDS before using a chemical. The SDS will detail special handling information.
    • When transferring a chemical to another container, label the new container with the name of the chemical and principal hazards. This will ensure others will know what is in the container and also ensure that you will not mistake the chemical for another substance at a later time.

  • Avoid "routine" exposure:

    • Develop and encourage safe habits; avoid unnecessary exposure to chemicals by any route. 
    • Avoid direct contact with chemicals. Keep chemicals off of your hands, face, clothing, and shoes. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling chemicals

    • Do not smell or taste chemicals.

  • Choose chemicals wisely:

    • Use chemicals only for their intended purpose.

    • Use only those chemicals for which the quality of the available ventilation system is appropriate.
    • Dispense only the amount of chemical needed for immediate use.

    • Wherever practical, use existing chemical stocks before purchasing new stock.
    • Avoid bulk purchase of chemicals, and order the smallest amount needed for the project.
    • Use chemicals (e.g., cleaning solvents) in strengths specified by the manufacturer.

  • Eating, smoking, using cell phones & other portable electronic devices etc.

    • Do not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, or apply cosmetics in areas where laboratory chemicals are present; wash hands before doing any of these activities.
    • Do not store or use laboratory storage areas, refrigerators, glassware or utensils for food or beverages.
    • The use of Cell Phones and other Portable Electronic Devices is prohibited in University laboratories without the approval of the laboratory manager.
  • Equipment and glassware:

    • Inspect equipment or apparatus for damage before adding a chemical. Do not use defective equipment
    • Shield or wrap Dewar flasks and other evacuated glass apparatus to contain chemicals and fragments should implosion occur. 
    • Use equipment only for its designed purpose.

  • Exiting:

    • Wash areas of exposed skin before leaving the laboratory.
  • Horseplay:

    • Avoid practical jokes or other behavior which might confuse, startle, or distract another worker.
  • Pipetting/transferring chemicals:

    • Use a pipet bulb or other filling device. Never use mouth suction for pipetting or starting a siphon.

    • Electronically ground and bond containers using approved methods before transferring or dispensing a flammable liquid from a large container.

  • Personal apparel:

    • Confine long hair and loose clothing.

    • Wear sturdy shoes at all times in the laboratory. An appropriate shoe will provide complete coverage of the foot below the ankle.
  • In cases of questionable personal apparel, the course manager may dismiss a student or worker from the lab at their discretion. 

  • Personal work station:
    • Keep the work area clean and uncluttered.
    • Properly label and store chemicals and equipment.
    • Clean up the work area on completion of an operation or at the end of each day.
  • Personal protection:

    • Wear safety glasses, goggles, or face shield, as appropriate, where chemicals are stored or handled. Ensure that others, including visitors, do so also.
    • Wear protective gloves when the potential for contact with toxic materials exists; when using reusable gloves, inspect and test before each use, wash before removal, and replace periodically. (See Personal Protection section below [5.6] for a table of chemical resistance of gloves to commonly used chemicals.)

    • Use respiratory protection when air contaminant concentrations are not sufficiently contained by engineering controls; inspect the respirator before use. (Many types of respirators are available. The choice of an appropriate respirator depends on many factors including type of contaminant and its air concentration, legal exposure limits, and warning properties (i.e., eye irritation, odor detection threshold, etc.). Before using any respirator, be sure you are trained in its proper use and are approved and fitted to wear one.)
    • Use other protective and emergency apparel and equipment as needed.
    • Avoid use of contact lenses in the laboratory unless necessary; if they are used, inform supervisor so special precautions can be taken. Since contact lenses by themselves afford no protection from chemical splashes or projectiles, appropriate eye protection must also be worn.
    • Remove laboratory coats immediately upon significant contamination.
  • Plan ahead:

    • Seek information and advice about hazards.

    • Develop safe procedures.

    • Obtain personal protective gear and plan positioning of equipment before beginning any new operation.

  • Unattended operations:

    • Leave lights on.

    • Place a sign on the door identifying whom to call if needed, the person's phone number, and any relevant safety information about the operation.

    • Provide for containment of toxic substances in the event of failure of a utility service (such as cooling water) to an unattended operation.
  • Ventilation

    • Do not allow release of toxic substances in cold rooms and warm rooms, since they contain recirculated air.
    • Vent apparatus which may discharge toxic chemicals (vacuum pumps, distillation columns, etc.) into local exhaust devices.

    • Use a hood for operations which might result in release of toxic chemical vapors or dust.

    • As a general guide, use a hood or other local ventilation device when working with any appreciably volatile substance with a TLV of less than 50 ppm.

    • Confirm adequate hood performance before use; keep hood sash under the 100 feet per minute indicator at all times except when adjustments within the hood are being made; keep materials in hoods to a minimum and do not allow them to block vents or air flow
    • Leave the hood "ON" if toxic substances are retained in it or if it is uncertain whether adequate general laboratory ventilation will be maintained when it is "OFF."
  • Vigilance

    • Be alert to unsafe conditions and see that they are corrected when detected.
  • Waste disposal

    • Assure that the plan for each laboratory operation includes plans and training for waste disposal.
    • Deposit chemical waste in appropriately labeled receptacles and follow all other waste disposal procedures of this manual.

    • Do not discharge to the sewer concentrated acids or bases; highly toxic, malodorous, or lachrymatory substances; or any substances which might interfere with the biological activity of waste water treatment plants, create fire or explosion hazards, cause structural damage, or obstruct flow.
  • Working alone

    • Do not work alone in a laboratory if the procedures being conducted are hazardous.
    • At a minimum, when working alone anywhere, ensure someone knows of your whereabouts, preferably someone in a nearby location.


Working with Chemicals that Have Special Toxicity

Chemicals that are known or suspect allergens, carcinogens, embryotoxins, genotoxins, or have moderately chronic toxicity or high acute/chronic toxicity need to be handled with utmost care. Wearing personal protective apparel to prevent skin contact and washing after use is very important. It is also important to prevent inhalation by working in a well-operated hood, glove box, or other effective means of local exhaust ventilation and containment.

Some additional precautions to take, depending on circumstances, include:
  • Use and store these substances in areas of restricted access with special warning signs.

  • Use unbreakable secondary containers.
  • Store materials and work on chemically resistant trays; also mount apparatus above such trays or cover work or storage surfaces with removable, absorbent, plastic backed paper.

  • Conduct all transfers and work with highly toxic substances in a "controlled area" which includes a restricted access hood, glove box, or designated portion of a laboratory. All people with access to controlled areas must be aware of the substances being used and must take necessary precautions.
  • When special handling is necessary, develop written procedures for the storage, use, and disposal of highly toxic materials. Review your procedures with your laboratory supervisor and EHS. 
  • Continually evaluate the continued need for the especially toxic substance. Switch to using a less hazardous material if possible.

  • Protect vacuum pumps against contamination by scrubbers or HEPA filters and vent them into the hood. Decontaminate vacuum pumps or other contaminated equipment, including glassware, in the hood before removing them from the controlled area.
  • Decontaminate the controlled area before normal work is resumed there.

  • On leaving a controlled area, remove any protective apparel, placing it in an appropriate, labeled container for cleaning or disposal.

  • If using toxicologically significant quantities of chemicals of high chronic toxicity on a regular basis (e.g., 3 times per week), consult with EHS concerning desirability of regular medical surveillance.
  • If an incident, such as a spill or exposure occurs, notify your supervisor immediately. Ensure that cleanup personnel wear suitable protective apparel and equipment.

  • If a major spill occurs, evacuate the area, and inform Public Safety immediately.
  • For cleanup, use a wet mop or a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter instead of dry sweeping if the toxic substance is a dry powder.
  • Maintain records of the amounts of highly toxic materials on hand, amounts used, and the names of people involved with their use.
  • Since a waste chemical may potentially be contacted by outsiders with little knowledge of the chemical's hazards, it is important to package waste properly. Contact EHS for assistance in developing waste handling procedures.


Animal Work with Chemicals of High Toxicity

Supervision of animal care facilities is administered by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee appointed by the Executive Vice President. This committee should be consulted prior to use of any animal for research or teaching purposes.

Care and use of certain animals used for teaching or research and covered by the Animal Welfare Act (7USC2143) should strictly adhere to the guidelines described in that Act. Facilities housing animals covered by this act must be registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Inspection Service. Such facilities must file an annual report (US 18-23) with the USDA and should be inspected at least twice a year by the University's Consulting Veterinarian.

The University's Consulting Veterinarian must be licensed to practice in either the State of Maryland or Virginia or the District of Columbia. The Veterinarian receives an adjunct appointment in the Department of Biology. 

The rules of the preceding section also apply to animal work involving highly toxic chemicals. Some additional rules are as follows:
  • For large scale studies, special facilities with restricted access are preferable.

  • When possible, administer the substance by injection or gavage instead of in the diet. If administration is in the diet, use a caging system under negative pressure or under laminar air flow directed toward HEPA filters.
  • Devise procedures which minimize formation and dispersal of contaminated aerosols, including those from food, urine, and feces (e.g., use HEPA filtered vacuum equipment for cleaning, moisten contaminated bedding before removal from the cage, mix diets in closed containers in a hood).
  • When working in the animal room, wear plastic or rubber gloves, fully buttoned laboratory coat or jumpsuit and, if needed because of incomplete suppression of aerosols, other apparel and equipment (shoe and head coverings, respirator).
  • Plan for disposal of contaminated animal tissues and excreta by incineration; otherwise, package the waste appropriately for burial in an EPA-approved site. Coordinate these services with EHS.



Refer to Section 18 of the EHS Manual for requirements of the University personal protective equipment program. Use personal protective devices only where engineering and administrative controls cannot be used or made adequate, or while controls are being implemented. Engineering and administrative controls to reduce or eliminate exposures to hazardous chemicals include: 

  • Substitution with less hazardous substance, equipment or process (e.g., safety cans for glass bottles)
  • Isolation of operator or the process

  • Local and general ventilation (e.g., use of fume hood)
  • Hazard education
  • Job rotation

An SDS recommends personal protective equipment for use with the chemical. The SDS usually addresses "worst case" conditions; therefore, all the equipment shown may not be necessary for a specific job.

Your supervisor or EHS will determine which personal protective devices are required for each task. However, use common sense; there is no harm in being overprotected. Your department must provide you with the personal protective equipment you need to safely perform the work.

Also check the SDS for special ventilation requirements, such as:
  • Use with adequate ventilation

  • Use in a fume hood

  • Avoid inhalation of vapors
  • Provide local ventilation

Ventilation recommendations must be adapted to the workplace and the specific process.



Protection Against Inhalation Hazards

Respirators are designed to protect only against certain specific types of substances and in certain concentration ranges, depending on the type of equipment used. Respirator selection is based on the hazard and the protection factors required. Types of respiratory protective equipment include:
  • Particle-removing air purifying respirators

  • Gas and vapor-removing air purifying respirators

  • Atmosphere supplying respirators
Familiarize yourself with the limitations of each type of respirator you will use and the signals for respirator failure (odor breakthrough, filter clogging, etc.).

Respirators are not to be used except in conjunction with a complete respiratory protection program. If your work requires the use of a respirator, you must receive a medical evaluation special training from your supervisor or EHS. Do not use a respirator until you have received proper training. (Refer to section 10 of this manual.)

Protection of Skin and Body

Skin and body protection involves protective clothing and includes protection of various parts of the whole body either completely or partially as may be required. Eye and face injuries are prevented by the use of the following:
  • Safety glasses with side shields for dust and flying object protection
  • Chemical splash goggles for chemical splash, spray and mist protection
  • Face and neck shields for head and neck protection from various hazards (must be used with safety glasses or goggles)
Lab coats, coveralls, aprons or protective suits must be used where there is immediate danger to the skin or personal clothing from contact with a hazardous chemical. General categories of contaminants include:
  • Dirt and grease
  • Toxic dust

  • Lab chemicals

  • Radioactive materials
  • Bacteriological agents
Do not remove protective garments from the workplace. For heavily contaminated work, give special attention to sealing all openings in clothing; use tape for this purpose. Wear caps to protect hair from contamination.

Exposure to strong acids, acid gases, organic chemicals, oxidizing agents, radioactive material, etiological agents, carcinogens, and mutagens requires the use of protective equipment that prevents skin contamination. Use impervious protective equipment such as:
  • Rubber gloves

  • Rubberized suits
  • Rubber boots
  • Special protective equipment

Protective garments are not equally effective for every hazardous chemical. Some chemicals will "break through" the garment in a very short time. Therefore, garment selection is based on the specific chemical used. General selection criteria are as follows:

S - Superior   E - Excellent   G - Good   F - Fair   NR - Not Recommended

Determine what chemicals you will use, then contact your supervisor or Environmental Health & Safety for information regarding chemical protective clothing.


Eyewashes and Safety Showers

Emergency eyewashes and showers must be available, accessible, and operative where there is a potential for contamination of the eyes, face, or body by irritant, corrosive, flammable, radioactive, or other injurious materials. Immediate flooding with large amounts of water can minimize serious injury. Emergency showers may be omitted only when an eyewash fountain alone is judged adequate to treat injuries that can be reasonably expected to occur in an area. 

Locate the eyewash/shower as close as possible to the hazard without physically causing another hazard (e.g., electrical shock). The maximum time to reach the fixture should be determined by the potentially hazardous effect or degree of hazard of the materials being used. Normally the maximum distance to the eyewash/shower is 25 feet (8 meters). However, if the situation justifies it, the distance can be extended up to 100 feet (30.5 meters). 

Maintain free access to the eyewash/shower all times. Keep an area of at least 36 x 36 inches (1 x 1 meter) clear in front of the units. Test eyewashes frequently to make sure water is flowing freely from both sides.




Carefully read the label before storing a hazardous chemical. Also read the SDS which will provide any special storage information and incompatibilities. Some safe storage tips:
  • Assure that all containers are properly labeled.

  • Label a chemical container with the date received.
  • Use approved storage containers and safety cans for flammable liquids.
  • Use spill trays under containers of strong reagents.
  • Dispose of old chemicals promptly. See waste disposal section of this manual.
  • Store liquids no higher than eye level.
  • When storing significant quantities of chemicals, use chemical storage cabinets. These are commercially available for flammable and corrosive materials. 

  • Separate incompatible chemicals. Do not a store chemicals strictly by alphabetical order. Separate hazardous chemicals in storage as recommended below. Once separated into hazard classes, chemicals may be stored alphabetically.
- oxidizers - flammables - water reactives
- general chemicals

- acids - caustics - oxidizers
- perchloric acid - flammables/combustibles - general chemicals

- toxics - flammables - oxidizers
- corrosives - inerts

  • When there is a need to store chemicals in a refrigerator, the refrigerator must not be used to store food or drink. Indicate with a label or sign on the refrigerator that storage of food and beverages are prohibited.

  • Flammable liquids that require refrigeration must be stored in an explosion-proof refrigerator or freezer.




General Procedure for All Spills

Prepare for spills by having the proper safety equipment on hand. In the event of a spill, take the following steps: 
  • Alert personnel in the area that a spill has occurred.
  • Do what is necessary to protect life.

  • Review the SDS for special spill clean-up information, if necessary.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear. As a minimum use impermeable gloves and chemical goggles.
  • Confine the spill with sorbents, if possible.

  • If the spill is too large for you to handle, is a threat to personnel or the public, involves an infectious agent or a corrosive, highly toxic, or reactive chemical, call the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to obtain assistance on x-5111. In addition, EHS is equipped to handle most spills that can occur at the University. If there is the slightest doubt as to how to proceed, call for assistance on x-5121
  • If a spill involves radioactive materials, also contact the Radiation Safety Officer on x-5206.


Low Hazard Material Spills

No fire hazard; not particularly volatile, toxic or corrosive (e.g., salt solutions).

Use a sorbent material, such as one of the following, that will neutralize the spill if possible.
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Sand
  • Sodium bicarbonate for acids

  • Powdered citric acid for bases
  • "Oil-Dri," "Zorb-All," "Speedi-Dri," Bentonite, etc.

  • Paper towels
For pick up, use a dust pan and brush and wear rubber gloves and goggles. Decontaminate area with soap and water after clean-up. Place residue in a container for waste collection. Contact EHS for disposal information.


Volatile, Flammable or Toxic Material Spills

Notify all personnel in the area. Extinguish flames and all sources of ignition such as brush-type motors. Maintain fume hood ventilation. Vacate the area and call DPS (x-5111) for assistance.

The following compounds are very hazardous. You should not clean them up yourself.

  • aromatic amines
  • cyanides
  • nitriles
  • bromine
  • ethers
  • nitro compounds
  • carbon disulfide
  • hydrazine
  • organic halides
If you spill a highly toxic material, immediately contact DPS (x-5111) or EHS (x-5121).


Acid/Base Spills

Absorb spill with "Oil-Dri," "Zorb-All," "Speedi-Dri," Bentonite or other clay type sorbent. Prevent contact with skin and clothing by wearing rubber gloves, apron, goggles and/or face shield, rubber booties, as needed. Place residue in container for waste collection. For specific clean-up information, contact your supervisor or EHS (x-5121).


Mercury Spills

Call EHS (x-5121) for prompt cleanup of spilled mercury (or disposal of surplus mercury). If assistance is unavailable at the time of the spill (e.g., on a weekend), use a mercury spill kit if it is available or follow the procedure below to minimize the extent of air contamination resulting from the spill:

Use a trapped vacuum line attached to a tapered glass or plastic tube, similar to a medicine dropper, to pick up mercury droplets. (In order to minimize waste disposal costs, as much of the mercury as possible should be recovered by vacuum.)

Do not use a domestic or commercial vacuum cleaner.


Alkali Metal Spills

Smother with powdered graphite or "Met-L-X."


White Phosphorus

Smother with wet sand or wet sorbents.



The University is required to compile and maintain a workplace chemical list for all chemicals that require a SDS. The list provides information regarding the types and quantities of hazardous chemicals in each work area. The chemical list contains the following information:
  • Trade name, chemical name, and/or common name
  • Work area where the chemical is normally used or stored
  • Typical amount of the chemical that is generally on hand

New or newly assigned employees are to be made aware of the chemicals in their work area, as part of their learning of the nature of the hazards in their workplace. Departments are to update their chemical list annually.




The Catholic University of America is committed to the protection of human health and the environment. As part of meeting these commitments, the University promotes minimizing the quantity and toxicity of wastes generated. While these efforts increase protection of the public and the environment, they also benefit the University by reducing:
  • waste management costs
  • compliance costs
  • use of resources
  • chemical inventory
  • releases of hazardous chemicals.



Waste minimization and pollution prevention pertains to all activity on campus, including research, teaching labs, facility maintenance, custodial activity, and grounds maintenance and pest control.



Do not stockpile chemicals. Audit chemical supplies and use inventory control. Obtain and stock only the chemicals and the quantities required for the specific work, experiment, research project, or what is reasonably expected to be consumed in one year. This is particularly critical when dealing with chemicals that have a shelf life and degrade, e.g., ethers. Dispose of chemicals no longer needed.



Purchase only the quantity of chemicals needed. Find the minimum unit required for the work planned and order accordingly. Due to the high cost of chemical disposal, any savings realized by purchasing chemicals in bulk quantities are quickly erased when even a portion of the chemicals cannot be used and must be discarded.


Chemical Redistribution

Unopened and uncontaminated, unused portions of chemicals that you no longer need may find use elsewhere in the University.  EHS collects unneeded chemicals, stores them, and offers them for redistribution on campus free of charge. Contact EHS to have a chemical you no longer need picked-up or to get a list of available chemicals.

Note that chemicals include maintenance supplies (e.g., paint thinner, antifreeze, paints, etc.) and copier chemicals (e.g., toner).


Process Modification and Product Substitution

Look for ways to decrease the quantity and/or toxicity of chemicals you use. There are many cases in which this can be done without compromising research, teaching in the laboratories, or in performing maintenance activities. Try to:
  • modify experiments or standard processes

  • use micro and semi-micro techniques

  • use water-based instead of organic solvent-based materials
  • clean with detergents and enzymatic cleaners rather than sulfuric acid/potassium dichromate cleaning solutions or ethanol/potassium hydroxide cleaning solutions.
  • use citrus-based cleaners/degreasers instead of flammable/toxic solvents like acetone/benzene.

  • avoid using known carcinogens, mutagens, or extremely hazardous chemicals.



Determine if there are ways your used chemicals can be re-used or recycled rather than disposed. EHS collects some precious metals and valuable chemicals for recycling by outside contractors to reduce waste treatment costs. Also, some campus departments are involved in the reclamation of precious metals and chemicals from laboratory processes. Contact EHS for guidance if you have materials that you think may be recyclable. Some examples are:
  • Reclamation of silver from photo fixing chemicals
  • Collection of mercury for distillation by an outside recycler
  • Reprocessing of vacuum pump oil.


End of Process Treatment

Include waste chemical minimization and treatment techniques as part of standard operating procedures for maintenance, research projects and teaching labs. A laboratory example would be to neutralize (to pH between 6 and 10) an acid with a base or vice versa and thus eliminating the hazardous characteristic of corrosivity. Since waste treatment may be regulated, consult with EHS prior to attempting any chemical treatment.


Waste Disposal

In collecting wastes for disposal, do not mix hazardous wastes with nonhazardous waste, since this unnecessarily increases the volume of the hazardous waste generated and increases waste disposal costs. Also, do not mix different types or classes of waste together unless required as part of the job or experiment (e.g., flammables with non-flammables, chlorinated with non-chlorinated hydrocarbons, inorganics with organics, etc.)

Accurately label waste bottles as to their exact content and approximate percentages. Segregation and characterization simplifies the waste stream thus minimizing the cost of disposal. If the waste is not properly characterized by chemical constituents and estimated percentage of each, it may be necessary to analyze the waste prior to disposal. This analysis can cost up to $1,000 per container.