Working with certain chemicals requires special planning in case of a spill or exposure. Some
chemicals can penetrate the skin’s surface and
impact other organs of the body, such as the
kidneys, heart, and nervous system. Deaths have
resulted when lab workers spilled very hazardous
chemicals on their skin and lacked the proper
first-aid resources to treat the exposure. Look for
the phrase “Specific Target Organ Toxicity” on
the SDS for any chemical marked with the GHS
skull and crossbones icon to identify chemicals
with this potential. Whenever using such chemicals, special training, adequate ventilation, and
the correct PPE are imperative for safe use.
5. What will I do with the waste? Laboratory work can generate many different
kinds of wastes. Some of the most common among them are
chemicals, sharps, biological wastes, and radioactive wastes. For
practical and legal reasons, these cannot be disposed of in the
sink, trash, or recycling system. Very little information on this
topic will be present on SDSs because laboratory wastes are regulated differently from location to location. For this reason, your
institution will have its own system to ensure the safe collection
and disposal of hazardous wastes. Labeling of waste is strictly
regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, so it’s important that you understand your institution’s requirements.
Be sure to know which protocols apply to any waste materials
you will generate before you start work. The mixing of incompatible materials in waste containers is very dangerous and can
result in the container rupturing. As with an emergency, you
don’t want to be thinking “Where does this go now?” or “Can I
mix these?” after you have already generated the waste.
After taking a couple of chemistry courses, you are probably
feeling pretty safe around chemicals; however, recent fires,
explosions, and other incidents should remind you that even
familiar materials can become dangerous if you are not prepared.
Fortunately, learning to ask and answer the questions listed
above before proceeding with laboratory work or chemical dem-
onstrations during your undergraduate years will advance your
thinking about safety from merely following rules to managing
risk. This good habit will be a powerful advantage as you make
the transition from a student in teaching labs to a chemist in
research and demonstration settings.
Samuella Sigmann and Ralph Stuart serve
on the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety.
Sigmann is the chemical hygiene officer for
the chemistry department and an analytical
chemistry lecturer at Appalachian State
University (NC). Stuart is the chemical hygiene
officer at Keene State College (NH) and Secretary of the ACS Division of Chemical
Health and Safety.
1 NFPA 45: Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals, Chapter 12.
standards?mode=code&code=45 (accessed July 11, 2016).
2 Kemsley, J. Details on the University of Minnesota explosion and response.
The SafetyZone blog, C&EN. http://cenblog.org/the-safety-zone/
?s=university+of+minnesota+explosion (accessed July 11, 2016).
3 Texas Tech University Laboratory Explosion, Case Study No. 2010-05-I- TX.
U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
www.csb.gov/assets/1/19/CSB_Study_ T TU_.pdf (accessed July 11, 2016).
4 Chemical Fume Hood Use Guidelines, Environment, Health & Safety, UC San Diego.
blink.ucsd.edu/safety/research-lab/chemical/hoods/use/#Practice-safe-operating-procedu (accessed July 11, 2016).
Chemical Safety Data Resources
Laboratory Chemical Safety
Summary (LCSS) in PubChem
Developed by the National Center for Biotechnology
Set up by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric
Hazard Assessment in Research Laboratories
A collection of methods and tools for assessing hazards
in research laboratories
The Safety Zone
Covers chemical safety issues in academic and industrial
research labs as well as in manufacturing
Lab Safety Quiz
A quiz based on the ACS pamphlet Safety in Academic
Ball State University Regional Science Fair