Chemical Safety

Personal Protection

  • Proper Lab Training
  • Eye Protection – Safety Glasses, Splash Goggles, Face Shield (Avoid use of contacts in labs)
  • Respiratory Protection – Respirators (Required Medical Questionaire & Respiratory fit test), Fume Hood, Gloveboxes, Increased Ventilation in Labs
  • Protective Clothing – Long pants, Shoes that cover feet, Lab coats, Plastic/Rubber Aprons (for working with strong corrosives & caustics)
  • Hand Protection – Gloves (Latex & Vinyl, use Glove Chemical Resistance chart for specific gloves, wash gloves after handling chemicals/before disposing)


Chemical Hazards

  • Chemical Properties – Flammability, Oxidizing, Toxicity, Corrosivity, etc.
  • Physical Properties – Volatility, Physical State, Mobility, Particle Size, etc.
  • Health Hazards – Can occur through Inhalation, Skin/Eye Contact, Ingestion, or Injection
    • Types – Allergens, Irritants, Corrosives, Carcinogens, Blood Toxins (complete list can be found in Environmental, Health & Safety reference)
  • Toxicology
    • All Substances are Toxic
    • Acute Toxicity – a harmful effect after a single exposure to the substance by any route for a short period of time
    • Classes of Acute Toxicityclasses-of-toxicity
    • Chronic Toxicity – toxic effect resulting from repeated, low-level daily doses over someone’s lifetime.
    • Use MSDS to Determine Toxicity of Chemicals

Chemical Safety Information

  • Chemical Hygiene Plan – Procedures to protect workers from physical & health hazards of dangerous chemicals, required for every lab
  • MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) – Provides health & safety information about chemicals
    • Name of Chemical
    • Physical/Chemical Properties
    • Physical Hazards
    • Toxicity Data
    • Health Hazards
    • Storage & Handling Procedures
    • Disposal Procedures
  • Labeling Systems – NFPA Labels, HMIS Labels, Secondary Container Labels




  •  Chemical Storage
    • Label All Containers
    • Store on Low Shelves (No More than 6 Feet High)
    • Store in Well Ventilated Area (Excluding Fume Hood)
    • Keep Incompatible Chemicals Separately (bases, acids, etc.)
    • Inspect Storage Areas Periodically
    • Refer to MSDS for Special Storage Instructions
  • Use Secondary Conatainers when Transporting Chemicals

Emergency Procedures

  • Evacuation Plan
  • Skin Contaminations & Injuries
    • Spill on Skin – Wash under running water for 15 minutes
    • Splash in eyes – Use eye wash station for 15 minutes with eyes open and rotating the eyes
    • Spill on Clothes – Remove any clothing/jewelry that is spilt on
    • Chemical Inhalation – Move victim to area of frsh air
    • Chemical Ingestion – Call Poison Control or go to emergency room immediately
    • Clothing Fire – Use safety shower or Smother fire with cotton lab coat
    • Check MSDS for any delayed effects
  • Spills
    • Alert Others Nearby
    • Assessing the Spill – Use spill kit if spill is under 5 Liters, Call 911 for anything more than 5 Liters
    • Spill Kit – Personal Protective Equipment (Splash Goggles, Gloves, Shoe Covers, etc.), Absorbent Materials (Absorbent pillows/powders, floor-dry/oil-dry),                         Neutralizing Materials (Acid/Solvent Neutralizer),                                                                       Cleanup Equipment [Dust Pans, Brooms, Buckets, and Bags (all made of polypropylene)]
  • Fire Safety (Click Link)


  • Be aware of any potential hazards
  • Major Emergencies (Large Spills, High Hazards, Severe Injuries) – Call UW Police & Fire Department, Evacuate Area



  • Emergency Numbers
    • UW Police: 911
    • UW Hospital Emergency Room: 262-2398
    • UW Hospital Poison Control Center: 262-3702

Chemical Disposal

Pollution/Waste Control

  • Reduce Scale of Lab Processes
    • Less Chemical Waste
    • Reduces Air Emmissions from Volatile Chemicals
  • Redistribute Surplus Chemicals here
  • Keep Chemical Inventory
  • Substitute Safer Chemicals when Applicable
  • Recycle when Possible
  • Chemically Treat Waste
    • Neutralize Acids & Bases
  • Keep Waste Types Separate
  • Minimize Chemically Contaminated Labware

Tips from a Professional

1. Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to “look dumb” around labmates. When using new or unfamiliar materials, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

2. Expect the unexpected. Prepared for what could go wrong and figure out how to respond- eg. Spills, contamination, runaway reaction, fires. Thinking through these scenarios can prevent panic when something does go wrong.

3. Work in fume hoods, as much as possible.

4. Wear the appropriate PPE. So simple, so easy to overlook.

5. If you’re not comfortable, say no. Some things are inherently more dangerous, and if you don’t feel you have the skills and resources to do them safety don’t- find another way of getting the work done.

6. Chemical Safety = Knowledge + Common Sense + Caution