Tom Lyons Fisher
Roy D. Nagle
DISCLAIMER: This manual is an attempt to get your attention about safety and waste management. It's not comprehensive and it's not endorsed by NSF, but we hope it's something you'll read. Any safety manual is a constantly evolving document. Your suggestions are eagerly sought.
Tom Lyons Fisher
Roy D. Nagle
Huntingdon, PA, USA
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This project was funded by a curriculum grant from the National Science Foundation.
There's some other things you need to do as part of a comprehensive safety program:
Even though the laws and regulations and rules which govern safety and waste management cover many volumes, this manual is short because you need to read it! It attempts to tell you what you need to know now, so it's deliberately uncomprehensive. That means that it's your responsibility to find out what is correct procedure for what you want to do from another source. Here's where to check:
Above all, you must realize the responsibility for your safety and the planet's health rests with YOU. You need to be alert for dangerous situations and try to correct them...
A laboratory is anyplace where there is a greater danger than listening to a history lecture in Good Hall. So a laboratory isn't a place as much as it is an activity. When you enter a laboratory, you're no longer in a household environment. The materials are not on the GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) list, the instruments are all handmade, and the personnel are presumed to be knowledgeable, careful, and mature. As painful as it might be, you need to be thinking all the time.
For your own
safety, you should constantly be thinking:
and for the
Earth's continued good health, you should be thinking:
"Cradle to grave".
General Lab Rules
Juniata's Chemical Hygiene Plan requires
that you wear adequate eye protection while in a chemistry laboratory!
Ordinary glasses, even if they're shatterproof, don't provide
side protection and are therefore inadequate. Choose an even greater level of
protection (goggles, faceshield) if splattering, implosion, etc.
is a possibility.
Because of AIDS
and other transmissible diseases, no human bodily fluids (blood,
saliva, urine, etc.) are permitted in lab.
No food is
permitted in any laboratory (except when it is the sample for an
experiment and will not be eaten subsequently). Food includes
soft drinks, gum, Popsicles, chewing tobacco, and cosmetics, too!
Don't even bring unopened soft drink cans or sealed containers of
food into the lab.
Mary, a lab technician in a research hospital, was told that the coffee was in a beaker on a hotplate in the lab across the hall. She went over, poured herself a cup, and went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, 5 physicians heard her hit the floor; unfortunately, she died in the elevator on the way to the ICU. (The coffee was on the other side of the bench; the alkaloid digestion was on this side.)
Moral: Don't eat, drink, or be Mary in the lab.
anything in your mouth while in a lab. This includes pipets, hairpins, and tubing as well as food.
allowed for several reasons: It causes cancer in the smoker and
possibly innocent bystanders, and the act of lighting up could
cause a fire or explosion.
Know the location of the nearest safety devices: fire extinguisher, safety shower, eye wash, telephone, and exits.
So why are you
carrying a bottle of sulfuric acid in through the hall during a
class change? Why not wait until there's less traffic and fewer
people would be injured if you dropped it?
If you simply can't
decide what to wear to lab, here are a few fashion rules: no
dangling jewelry or fabrics that might get caught in centrifuges
or pumps or dragged through chemicals; no open-toed shoes or shorts; and if you have long hair, please fasten it.
Interpreting an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet): Don't panic! Chemical manufacturers are understandably leery about getting sued, so they protect their behinds by overstating the danger of their products. (To get some perspective on this, read the data sheets for water, sugar, or salt!) So you've got to read between the lines. (But please read the pertinent MSDS for NaCl before taking them with a grain of salt! A little OSHA humor there.) Although the MSDS format is not yet standardized, it must contain this information:
IUPAC), synonyms, tradenames, CAS Registry number
and manufacturing date
limits - Permissible Exposure Limit; Threshold Limit
chemical characteristics - bp, etc.
explosion hazards - flash point (minimum temperature at
which it can be ignited); flammability; how to extinguish
information - How stable is it? decomposition products;
data - How does this stuff get into your body
("Routes of Entry")? What are the short term
("acute") and long term ("chronic")
health effects? Is it carcinogenic? recognizing symptoms
of exposure; first aid
instructions - How should it be stored? precautions for
handling; waste disposal method
control - If all of the material you have
"got loose", do you have the equipment ready to
get that genie back in the bottle?
Learn to glance
at the objective measures of danger such as the
flammability and TLV rather than the prose to evaluate the danger
because lawyers are only permitted to choose the words, not the
numbers, on the MSDS.
Planning an experiment: Use the "What if...?" (Worst Possible Case Method) Here's some questions you should ask before carrying out any lab procedure:
a piece of
glassware breaks, where do the chemicals go?
line surges or the hose comes off?
a 10 year old
is touring the lab?
Got the idea? Of course you'll get much better at creating these scenarios with experience
Don't work alone in a laboratory. Someone must be within ear-shot of you at all times! The "partner" who you've convinced to trudge over to the Science Center with you this evening shouldn't then go to the Computer Center "for just a few minutes".
Keeping the lab clean and orderly has lots of advantages.
Glassware is easier to clean if the gunk doesn't have time to
coagulate. If the benches are free of extraneous stuff, cleaning
up a spill is much less time-consuming. If you keep the floors
free of spills (including ice!), there's less likely to be an
A careless student, who didn't believe good labkeeping was important, performed an experiment in which he weighed out NaOH pellets. That evening when he removed his socks he found that a pellet had eaten through to his heel bone. He was hospitalized for 6 weeks. (Strong bases deaden nerves.)
Moral: It's important to keep track of the chemicals you use.
operation of equipment: As soon as you turn your back, let alone
leave the building, whatever you've left running will go awry.
This is The Most-proven Law in Science. You need the advice of a
person who has done graduate work in a lab before you even think
of leaving an experiment on its own. You and your advisor need to
play the "What if...? game very seriously in order to
minimize the likelihood or effect of any disaster. What happens
if the cooling water in the condenser stops? (Regular water
faucets are designed to slowly close if left on a long
time.) Where will the water go if that hose breaks? What will
happen if the power goes off? What will happen if it comes back
Because staring into the beam of a high-powered laser can cause permanent blindness, you're naturally more careful around such exotic
equipment. It's often the ordinary equipment that you have to watch out
for. Perhaps the device most likely to injure you is...the ice
machine! Yep! It's almost impossible to avoid spilling ice on the
floor when you're scooping it; and the ice is nearly invisible
and slick, so the next unwary person is likely to end up end up.
Some other equipment that can be dangerous: centrifuge, gas
cylinder, drying oven, vacuum pump, Dewar flask, uv lamp, Variac.
Juniata students "Katy" and "Penelope" arranged to come in on Saturday morning to make up a buffer experiment. The instructor unlocked the lab, got the students started, and returned to his office believing that buffer preparation was reasonably safe Soon Penelope appeared at the instructor's door and said "Katy cut herself and she's bleeding into the sink." By the time the instructor got to the scene, Katy had managed to cover the bottom of the sink with blood from the palm of her hand. Seven stitches, an inch-long scar, and a little physical therapy left Katy with almost full use of her hand, but she'll never be a concert pianist. Although Katy doesn't know exactly what happened, it appears she pushed down on the stopper of a large volumetric flask hard enough to break the neck of the flask and force the jagged edge through her hand, severing a nerve.
Moral: Anything can be dangerous.
USING A FILTER MASK:
while a facial filter mask will (if well-fitted) protect you from
mists and air-borne particles, anything that is a true vapor is
the size of a molecule and can pass easily through a porous
filter. Wearing a mask will not protect you from benzene
or formaldehyde fumes.
All glove materials are porous
to some chemicals; surgical gloves and Rubbermaid dishwashing gloves are porous
to lots of stuff. Check the MSDS for compatibility data.
USING A DRYING OVEN:
A drying oven
don't get no respect because it's so commonplace. But using it
can be dangerous. For one thing an oven is usually hot. (Any
questions so far?) If your bare hand happens to touch part of the
oven while you're reaching in for something, your reflexive
response may knock chemicals onto the hot coils or break a piece
of glassware whose jagged edge will rake across your hand as you
hastily withdraw it. If that isn't scary enough, you could rinse
your glassware with acetone and then place it in the oven. The
next time the oven heater cycles on, the spark from the
electrical contact will ignite the acetone and hurl the oven
across the room. You can get the same effect by storing flammable
solvents in an ordinary (not labeled "FLAMMABLES or EXPLOSION PROOF")
refrigerator because the electrical contacts are inside on these
appliances, too. Lastly, but not leastly, there's a really subtle
danger from drying ovens. You should never use a mercury thermometer
to monitor oven temperature by poking it through the oven roof. It's very easy to snap them
off when utilizing the top shelf. What happens to the mercury? It
drops onto the hot coils and now you've really got a toxic
air pollution problem.
USING A FUME HOOD:
Fume hoods are
great if used properly, but many students don't realize that
hoods have limitations which are likely to be encountered
in everyday use. The recommended air flow for standard lab
procedures is 100 feet per minute. But some of our hoods will
produce that only if the sash is lowered to align the arrows at
the "SAFE FLOW" position. Even then, if an adjacent
hood shares the same fan, it must be at the "SAFE FLOW"
position as well. Also, keep in mind that the 100 fpm criterion
is an average over time. If someone shuts the door to the lab or
the wind pattern outside abruptly changes, or you move a large
object in or out of the hood, there will be a momentary flow of
air (and whatever is with it) toward you. Also remember that the hood window cannot protect you
from an explosion; there's just so much tempered glass can
withstand. So if there's the possibility of an explosion, keep
your facemask on even when the hood sash is down. And never put
your head inside the hood!
USING A DEWAR FLASK ("Thermos bottle"):
A Dewar flask
consists of thin, stressed glass enclosing a high vacuum. You can
work with these things for years until suddenly one day the wrong
"dink" will produce thousands of high-velocity glass
shards. You'd better have your faceshield on because there are no
"glass magnets" for the surgeon to use to remove the
shards from your eyes. The more modern Thermos-type beverage
coolers which use styrofoam as the insulator are much safer (but
perhaps less chemically resistant). If it's feasible, replace the
classic glass Dewar with the styrofoam type; if not, at least
wrap the glass with electrical tape.
USING A MEEKER, BUNSEN, OR FISHER BURNER:
Do you really
need to? Modern labs seldom use these. If you must, make sure
there are no exposed flammable liquids in the room.
A 4.0 GPA chemistry major was performing an ether extraction in Organic Lab I, so she had an array of ether-filled beakers on her bench. The next operation required a steam bath which she attempted to heat by firing up her Bunsen burner. All five of the beakers immediately ignited. In a misguided effort to shut off the burner, she jerked the burner tubing from the gas supply nozzle. Since this gas was now unregulated, it produced an even bigger flame pointing directly at her. She panicked, and using her forearm, swept all of the gently-burning beakers onto the floor where they broke, allowing the ether to spread into a thin film and producing a spectacular pool of fire.
Although there were an even number of students in Organic Lab II, Miss 4.0 never could find a partner
Moral: Common sense and a cool head are safer than a high GPA.
A typical gas regulator looks something like Mickey Mouse with the two ears being the gages. Sometimes Mickey has a goiter called the needle valve which is used to control very low flowrates. By the way, the needle valve should never be tightened, that ruins the needle. Instead use the regulator valve and the tank valve (not shown) to shut off the gas. The regulator valve should be "backed out" (turned counter clockwise) to shut off the gas. (If you want to make sure that the valve is off, unscrew it until it drops into your hand; just don't ding the threads.) Only then is it safe to slowly open the tank valve (a quarter turn counter clockwise is generally enough) while watching the high pressure gage. Adjust the regulator valve (clockwise) to obtain the correct pressure.
A gas cylinder
can become a rocket if the (relatively weak) main valve fails.
There are stories of cylinders on the loose going through several
concrete walls while simultaneously venting large amounts of
toxic or flammable gas. If you don't want this to happen while
you're around, make sure the cylinder is properly anchored
(usually with a bench strap) while it's being used or stored.
When moving the
Consider finding a helper, especially if you're new at this.
Shut off the main (high pressure) valve.
line; that is open the regulator (low pressure) valve
until all parts of the regulator are at room pressure.
regulator with a large wrench. Note: Many types of tanks
(especially flammable gasses) have reversed threads, so
"Lefty, loosy, righty, tighty" doesn't
Screw the cap
onto the cylinder. (You did keep the cap with the
cylinder didn't you?)
cylinder transport dolly.
Slide the lip
of the dolly slightly under the tank.
the tank onto the cart.
cylinder to the cart and tip the cart back on its heels.
Let it take the elevator while you take the stairs. You
don't want to be trapped in an elevator, even with an
process (except for who gets to ride the elevator) for
the new cylinder.
A welder working in a warehouse somewhere in central Pennsylvania failed to strap his acetylene cylinder. It tipped over, knocking off the main valve and turning the tank into an unguided missile which careened around the warehouse spewing toxic, flammable gas. It finally lodged in a steel girder rafter (3 stories above the floor) with such impact that it was left there as a warning.
Moral: Treat compressed gasses with respect.
USING A REFRIGERATOR:
Only a "flammables" or "explosion proof" refrigerator is appropriate for
storing chemicals, and even then the chemicals must be in
containers which prevent the escape of vapor. By the way, the
designation "explosion proof" doesn't mean that you can
prevent things from exploding by placing them inside! Nor does it
mean that the refrigerator is specially reinforced to withstand
an explosion. Nope, all "explosion proof" means is that
the wiring has been placed on the exterior of the refrigerator so that electrical arcing cannot cause an explosion.
USING AN ICE MACHINE:
What could be
dangerous about an ice machine? Well, did the previous person
spill at least one piece of ice? That ice is tough to spot and
very slippery. Now suppose you not only slip on it (which is bad
enough) but that you fall in such a way that the beaker you're
carrying is under you
So an seemingly innocuous ice machine
could plausibly cause a lethal injury. Assuming you've managed to
avoid death so far, DON'T scoop the ice with your glass beaker!
If it breaks, how are you going to locate the pieces? Of course
some future "ice customer" will find the missing
pieces, but you'd better be a Missing Person by then. PLEASE USE
THE SCOOP! Oh, and please don't put laboratory ice in your
USING A VARIABLE TRANSFORMER:
This type of
transformer is utilized for many routine laboratory operations
such as controlling heating mantles, but it is very dangerous.
That's because it is an autotransformer which means that
it is connected directly to the AC power line (in contrast to the
usual isolation transformer). So simultaneously touching a
bare wire (or one with faulty insulation caused by solvents or
abrasion) from the transformer and anything that's
grounded would result in a possibly deadly shock.
USING A VACUUM:
Before applying a vacuum, inspect the glassware you'll be using. Is it designed for vacuum work? Does it have cracks or chips that would cause it to fail under stress? (Be sure to check round-bottom flasks for "star" cracks.) Don't expect ordinary glassware to withstand a vacuum. Remember that it's more important to distinguish between a big/small vacuum than a high/low vacuum. A high vacuum (say, 1.7 microtorr ) and a low vacuum (maybe 14 torr) are both a long way from 760 torr! It's more significant (and dangerous) that the lower vacuum is frequently present in much bigger containers, and therefore potentially much more lethal. In these situations, wear a faceshield and make sure your coworkers are protected by some sort of approved barrier (Plexiglas, tempered glass). You need to arrange to trap any vapors that will arise from your work. If you're using the building vacuum, any vapors you fail to trap will build up in the equipment room until a spark from the electrical panel ignites them. Subsequent reports from the science center will be fragmentary.
Question: If you
hear a loud "MOOB", is that from an implosion?
USING A CENTRIFUGE:
Be sure that the
samples you are spinning are balanced. Remove your dangling
necklace, talisman, Soap on a Rope, necktie, or whatever so you
won't be strangled. Don't open the cover. Don't try to brake the
rotor by hand.
USING A CHEMICAL:
1) Read the label.
2) Know the hazards: read the MSDS which can be found in the MSDS binder in the laboratory or on the P: drive under BAClab or VLlab.
3) On the basis of the MSDS, decide whether you really are willing to take responsibility for the correct handling and disposal of this chemical.
4) After making the necessary preparations for its transport and storage, sign out the chemical.
Wait until the hall is relatively clear. (Not between classes!)
5) Return the unused portion of the chemical for restocking.
6) Dispose of the
DON'T DISCARD ANY CHEMICAL IN THE DRAIN OR THE TRASH UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC OK!
THAT IS, ASSUME EVERYTHING IS HAZARDOUS WASTE UNLESS PROVEN OTHERWISE.
USING AN ETHER/EPOXIDE:
Dry diethyl ether
("ether"), tetrahydrofuran ("THF"), and
dioxan are frequently used as solvents. They are dangerous not
only because they are flammable, but also because, over time,
they can be converted to peroxides by exposure to atmospheric
oxygen. Although there are methods (for example, starch-iodine
paper) for testing for the presence of peroxides, it's far better
to carefully dispose of any ether or epoxide that has exceeded
its shelf life. Decalin also has the nasty habit of forming
What to do in an EMERGENCY:
1) Make sure others are out of danger.
2) Make sure you are out of danger.
3) Get help. That means a prof or a phone (911-1 for Campus Security or 911-2 for Huntingdon police, fire department, or ambulance).
4) This is the scary part: You are the authority on what happened. The doctor, or fireman, or cop is going to have to depend upon you to know what knocked people unconscious, why the fire started, or what the person looked like.
1) If it's a fire,
a) Evacuate: Make sure you and others are out of danger,
b) Pull the fire alarm.
c) Call the Huntingdon Fire Department (911-2) and Campus Security (911-1) from a safe location.
d) or use a
fire extinguisher only if you are trained and have an escape route. Remember - it's easy to underestimate a fire. Extinguishers ratings include:
If clothing catches fire,
a) lie down and roll.
b) use the safety shower. That will initially dump 30 or so gallons of rusty water on you, and it may not turn off, but we'll worry about that tomorrow
Rule #1: Minimize your intake.
Waste Management: Rule #1: Same as Waist Management. Not only does using less put less stress on the environment, but it's also a prudent safety precaution:
The explosive force of a reaction increases as the cube of its mass.
example, 3 times as much material = 27 times as much boom)
Every chemical container, no matter
how briefly used or how innocuous the material, must be labeled ("Cradle-to-Grave").
If there isn't a convenient way of labeling in your lab, develop or demand one.
The label should include: the correct chemical name (not "ethyl bromide"
for "ethidium bromide") and concentration of every constituent. Sure
it takes time to label every little thing, but consider what happens if you
don't: At the end of the term, your prof finds a flask containing a substance
with no label. Since everything must be accurately labeled before a clean-up
crew will accept it for disposal, and it's a federal offense to dump or guess
at the contents of an unknown, it must be subjected to exhaustive chemical analysis.
The current minimum rate is $155; if the sample turns out to be something
more complex than water, it could cost thousands of dollars to identify that
little mixture of camphor in HCl/ethanol that you "were just going to use
for a minute".
pour down the drain eventually makes it's way to Mount Union and
beyond. If you have any friends there, remember what an
environmentally-conscious poet once said:
Stuff: Here's a list of chemicals that you should treat with extreme caution. This isn't
the complete list, and items made the list for different reasons
(some go boom, others cause cancer; check the MSDS). WHY ARE YOU
USING THESE? Can't you find a substitute?
batteries, paints, gasoline, ceramic glazes
(Those moving at high speed toward you are particularly
NO LIST WILL EVER INCLUDE ALL OF THE DANGEROUS CHEMICALS!
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
MAKING AN INFORMED JUDGEMENT.
CAS = Chemical Abstracts Service; issues a unique number for every known chemical
CHP = Chemical Hygiene Plan
DEP = Department of Environmental Protection (PA)
EPA = Environmental Protection Agency (federal)
IUPAC = International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry; establishes the rules for naming chemicals
LD50 = Lethal Dose for 50% of the population
MSDS = Material Safety Data Sheet
OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration (federal)
PEL = Permissible Exposure Limit
RCRA = Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
SARA = Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act
TLV = Threshold
Important Phone Numbers
Emergency: 911 then:
Campus Health Services: 641-3410
National Poison Control Center: 1 800-521-6110
Safety Officer: 3555
Famous Last Words
safer (than Chemistry) because it doesn't use chemicals."
Would you rather drink a microliter of methylene chloride or a
virulent strain of E. coli? Which is scarier, a microgram of HIV
need to wear goggles here because this isn't a laboratory."
To an OSHA inspector, anything that quacks like a lab and walks
like a lab is a lab. A classroom which harbors leftover
chemicals from a demonstration 3 years ago is a lab. The hall
through which you carry your sample to the nmr is a lab.
are bad." Then you must be bad, since you're all
"I'm just a
visitor, so I don't need goggles." Thank goodness laboratories permit only smart explosions which know who to injure based on
A graduate student was running a reaction involving peroxides in a magnetically-stirred flask. Since peroxides are known to be temperamental, he placed the reaction behind a free-standing Plexiglas shield and went off to supervise an undergraduate organic lab. With about 120 bodies milling around the lab (Hey, this is a university!), it got quite warm in there, so the student stepped out into the hall so he could take off his goggles for minute to let them "de-fog". A good time to check on his peroxide reaction Damn, the stirrer stalled Just have to reach around this shield and turn the control up a bit
The explosion was so violent that the casing of the magnetic stirrer molded itself around the interior mechanism. The student's Research Advisor, who carried him out to the loading dock to await the ambulance, said the student's face looked like a piece of hamburger. A top Japanese eye surgeon who happened to be on a speaking tour that day managed to remove enough glass fragments from the student's eyes so that the kid can tell the difference between day and night
Moral: Being careful 99.9% of the time doesn't count.
American Chemical Society (1990) Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories, 5th Edition.
ACS Task Force on Laboratory Waste Management (1994) Laboratory Waste Management, A Guidebook.
Lena G. Meck and
Ronald D. Meck (1992) Training Manual for OSHA Laboratory
Standard 29 CFR 1910.1450.
George Lunn and
Eric B. Sansone (1994) Destruction of Hazardous Chemicals in the
Laboratory, 2nd ed. ISBN 0-471-57399-X
Salisbury and Russel W. Phifer (1994) ACS Short Course in
Laboratory Waste Management.
Russell P. Hughes
and Robert M. Ross (1994) Dartmouth College Chemistry Department
Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual.
A. Keith Furr,
ed. (1990) CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, 3rd ed. ISBN
Richardson and W. Emmett Barkley, eds. (1984) Biosafety in
Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.
Cross (1973) Standard First Aid & Personal Safety ISBN
Petersen (1988) Safety Management, A Human Approach, 2nd ed. ISBN
Howard Hughes Medical Institute "Practicing Safe Science"