Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Basic Rules and Procedures

Basic Rules and Procedures

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for chemicals used or stored in laboratories must be readily available to employees. The Hazard Communication Standard states that laboratories must maintain any SDS received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals. If SDSs are not received with incoming shipments, they should be obtained from the manufacturer or supplier website. If you still have trouble obtaining SDSs, see the Safety Data Sheet webpage or contact Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) at 509-335-3041 for assistance in obtaining them.
  • In accordance with Section II.F. of this manual, appropriate eye protection must be worn when working with chemicals. (Reference – Lab Safety Manual Section II.F. Personal Protective Equipment )
  • Chemical containers must be labeled in accordance with appropriate hazard communication rules. It is recommended that labeling practices comply with guidelines provided in the Lab Safety Manual Section II.H Signage and Labeling.
  • Mouth suction must not be used to pipet chemicals or to start a siphon; instead a pipet bulb or an aspirator must be used to provide a vacuum.
    (Reference – Lab Safety Manual Appendix C.1 and EH&S Fact Sheet – Pipetting)
  • Food and drink are a potential route for exposure to hazardous chemicals. Therefore, food and drink are prohibited from being stored, handled or consumed in laboratories using hazardous chemicals. Glassware or utensils that have been used for laboratory operations must never be used to prepare or consume food or beverages. Laboratory refrigerators, ice chests, and cold rooms must not be used for food storage. Storage or consumption of food or drink is also prohibited in laboratories where radioactive materials are stored or used. (Reference – Lab Safety Manual Appendix A, Copy of Laboratory Safety Standard and Appendix C.1. General Hygiene Practices)
  • Skin contact with chemicals should be avoided. Do not smell or taste chemicals.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before leaving the laboratory area, even after wearing gloves. Never wash with organic solvent materials.
  • Avoid use of contact lenses in the laboratory. If contact lenses are worn, notify the Principal Investigator (PI) or laboratory supervisor that you are wearing them and always wear goggles or a face shield.
  • Do not work alone in the laboratory if procedures being conducted are hazardous.
  • Know the safety precautions that apply to the work that is being done. Determine the potential hazards from information available from the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), department reference materials, or from Environmental Health & Safety (335-3041). Use appropriate ventilation systems as discussed in Section III.C of this manual.
  • Know the types of protective equipment available including face shields, gloves, and other special clothing or footwear and use the proper type for each job. See Section II.F of this manual for information on use, ordering and selection of personal protective equipment.
  • Know the location of and how to use the emergency equipment in your area (see Section III.B of this manual).
  • Know how to obtain additional help in an emergency, and be familiar with emergency procedures (see Section II.I of this manual).
  • Be alert to and correct or report unsafe conditions in the laboratory. Report to your PI, laboratory supervisor, or to the Environmental Health & Safety (335-3041) unsafe conditions you cannot correct.
  • Equipment should be used only for its designed purpose.
  • Reagents should be combined in appropriate order to minimize violent chemical reactions.
  • Reaction apparatus should be positioned and clamped in order to permit manipulation without the need to move the apparatus until the entire reaction is completed.
  • Handle and store laboratory glassware with care to avoid damage. Inspect glassware before use and do not use damaged glassware. Use extra care with apparatus that evacuates air from glassware. Shield or wrap the glassware to contain chemicals and glass fragments should implosion occur.
  • While not recommended, if an operation is left unattended, leave laboratory room lights on, place an appropriate sign on the door indicating emergency shut-down procedures, and provided for containment of hazardous chemicals in the event of failure of a utility service (such as cooling water) to the operation.
  • Apparatus (vacuum pumps, distillation columns, etc.) which may discharge hazardous chemicals should be vented into local non-return building exhaust devices. Do not allow release of hazardous chemicals in cold or warm rooms, since these may have re-circulated atmospheres.
  • Appropriately use, label, store and transport gas cylinders. For additional information see the Fact Sheet – Compressed Gas Cylinders.
  • Wear cut/puncture resistant gloves when handling glass tubing. Don’t force glass tubing through rubber stops. If the tube is stuck, slit the hose or stopper with a sharp instrument. Glass cuts can be minimized by the use of correct procedures, through appropriate use of protective equipment, and by careful attention to manipulation.