Instructional & Laboratory Services Policy: Laboratory Operations

EH&S Laboratory Safety Manual

All labs need access to the EH&S safety Manual.  Please bookmark on an accessible computer or order a paper copy directly from EH&S.

Good Housekeeping

WISHA regulations require workplaces to be kept free of potential hazards. Inspectors will cite areas with poor housekeeping.

The areas surrounding the following must be kept clear and free of obstruction:

  • Building Exits
  • Emergency Showers
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Stairways
  • Eyewash Stations
  • Electrical Controls
  • Emergency Exits
  • Sprinklers
  • Telephone Stations

The floor must always be kept clear; any accumulation of bottles and apparatus on the floor is to be avoided. Bottles of chemicals on the floor are especially vulnerable to breakage.

BENCH TOPS: Keep laboratory bench tops clean and dry. If a corrosive reagent (i.e. concentrated nitric or sulfuric acid or caustic alkali) is spilled, wash off immediately with water. Neutralize acids and bases with a suitable reagent. Review your lab specific SOPs if necessary.

WRITING DESKS are not to be used as laboratory benches or for the storage of chemicals or apparatus. Remove gloves before using.

FLOOR and floor covering must be protected from corrosive material and water.

  • Remove immediately spills of small quantities of organic liquid.
  • Remove immediately any small amount of acid or base that spills on the floor by using a suitable neutralizing reagent, such as sodium bicarbonate in the case of acids.

Spill clean-up kits are available from the Research Storeroom (BAG 36), and each lab should have one on hand for emergency clean-ups. For large spills, consult the Laboratory Safety Manual and your lab safety officer. Any questions can be directed to the director of undergraduate services (BAG 303D).

WALLS AND DOORS: Do not use cellophane, masking, and other adhesive tapes on painted and varnished surfaces. Notices should not be posted on walls, doors, etc.

Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the Building Coordinator (BAG 082B).

Guidelines for Waste Management and Disposal

HAZARDOUS WASTE MANAGEMENT: The departmental website contains a primer regarding hazardous waste management in this PowerPoint. For more information, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Services (BAG 303D).

Procedures for Waste Pickup by Environmental Health and Safety

If you are wasting a chemical that is in its original container and that container is not broken/compromised, it does not need additional labels or to be put in a separate waste container. Place the original container in secondary containment and submit it as you would any waste.

PACKAGE the chemical waste in a clean, non-leaking container. Original glass chemical bottles function best in this capacity. Please do not use flasks with ground glass, rubber, or cork stoppers.

LABEL the container with a Hazardous Waste label (available from the Research Storeroom) and fill in all information. The waste composition should be clearly identified (e.g., Potassium Dichromate Solution, approximately 5%). This information is essential for proper waste disposal. Do not use vague descriptions or structures.

Your research group is responsible for the following disposal costs:

  • $75.00 per "unknown" item
  • $200.00 or more for disposal of untested and unstable peroxide-forming solvents
  • $2,000.00 or more per lecture cylinder without a label

Complete the online Chemical Waste Collection Request form available on the EH&S website.

All pickups should be made at the lab generating the waste. Do not bring chemical waste to the stockroom or loading dock for pickup.

EH&S may refuse to pick up waste that is unstable or presents a risk to their staff. Unstable compounds such as old peroxide forming solvents or Azides may require stabilization or quenching before waste pickup. Please talk to your lab safety officer, research advisor, or the director of undergraduate services before proceeding with this task.

For further information, visit

Unknown Chemical Policy

LABELING: All containers of chemicals stored for more than a single 8-hour shift must be properly labeled and identified.

IDENTIFICATION: Faculty or supervisors are responsible for proper disposal of chemical waste.

  • Identify chemical composition
  • Label appropriately
  • Dispose of properly or contact EH&S

ENFORCEMENT: All unidentified chemicals in the laboratory must be removed or labeled before a student may check out and receive his/her degree. Unidentified chemicals discovered during routine laboratory safety checks will be disposed. The current charge by an outside consultant is $75 per item.

When a laboratory is reassigned, the Department Administrator will ensure that all chemicals in the laboratory are properly labeled and disposed of. Contact the Safety Committee Chair (3-8183) for more info.

Radioactive Waste Disposal

Consult or call 3-7262.

Biological Waste Disposal

Refer to

SHARPS: Sharps include any medical or laboratory equipment that may cause punctures or cuts. Specifically, the definition encompasses all hypodermic needles, syringes with needles, IV tubing with needles attached, lancets, scalpel blades, glass Pasteur pipettes, microtome blades, dental scalers, razor blades, and other sharp metal laboratory waste.

DISPOSAL: White plastic buckets with lids may be obtained from the Research Storeroom (BAG 36) for disposal of sharps. When full:

  • Place the lid on the container.
  • Seal with the green LABORATORY GLASSWARE tape.
  • Write the PI's name and laboratory room number on the bucket.
  • Leave the bucket by the wastebasket for the custodian to dispose.

NEVER use the glass disposal boxes for the following:

  1. sharps
  2. biohazards that have not been autoclaved
  3. liquid waste
  4. chemically contaminated laboratory glassware
  5. chemical containers that have not been rinsed

Consult the Management Guidelines found in the Laboratory Safety Manual for more information on the disposal of chemical wastes.

BIOHAZARDOUS SHARPS include any medical or laboratory equipment that may cause punctures or cuts and that has come in contact with a biohazard. Sharps containers are considered regulated waste even after they have been autoclaved.

DISPOSAL: Red plastic containers with lids may be obtained from the Research Storeroom (BAG 36) for disposal of biohazardous sharps. The sealed containers should be labeled with the PI's name and room number. Call the Research Storeroom Manager (3-1624) when you have a full container.

LABORATORY GLASS DISPOSAL: Laboratory glass and plastic ware must be placed in sturdy cardboard boxes for safe transport. The Storeroom has cardboard boxes used specifically for this purpose. Boxes must be labeled with the room number and principal investigator's name and sealed with special "laboratory glass" tape. This tape is available from the Storeroom (BAG 36). Place the sealed box alongside regular waste for disposal.

RECYCLING: The Department of Chemistry participates in the campus MiniMax program. See the Building Coordinator for ordering garbage, recycling, and compost bins of any size/type (3-1616).

Use of Utilities and Research Supplies

GASES: Turn off piped utilities when not in use. A fast stream of gas is unnecessary to maintain a neutral atmosphere. A slow stream will suffice to maintain positive pressure. Liquid N2 cylinders are available when needed – see Research Storeroom attendant.

LIQUID GASES: Liquid gases (N2 and O2) are expensive. Dry ice/solvent mixtures can often be used. When using a warm dewar, liquid gasses can be conserved by slowly cooling the dewar before increasing gas flow.

HOKE VALVES: Hoke valves are recognized by their small size and small control wheels. These valves should be carefully hand-tightened.

FUME HOODS should be used when noxious gases are present. They are NOT to be used as permanent storage places, and apparatus set up in a hood should be removed as soon as the operation is completed.

NOTE: Hoods operate optimally with sash approximately 9" above sill and materials kept at least 6” from the back of the hood. An overcrowded hood does not operate as well. These heights also best contribute to room ventilation.

In the Chemistry Building, fume hood sashes should always be fully closed when not in use. Fume hood exhaust fans usually operate 24 hours a day. Fume hood air flows can be checked with a "Varometer", borrowed from the Research Storeroom (BAG 36).

REFRIGERATORS AND FREEZERS: Each group is responsible for purchase and maintenance of refrigerators and freezers for cold storage. Units must be located within group space and labeled to indicate storage of flammable materials. Units must be cleaned regularly by the group responsible and all items must be labeled to indicate ownership, the name of the compound, nature of hazards involved, and the date.

GAS CYLINDER VALVES used with corrosive gases require special attention. After each use, REMOVE AND CLEAN the needle valve or other metallic device used as a junction between the cylinder valve and the apparatus. In many cases, this means disassemble, clean, and reassemble. A partial list of corrosive gases includes hydrogen halides, halogens, boron halides, and nitrogen oxides (except N2O).

UTILITY WATER: Water should never be left running unless it is for a specific purpose. In an average year, flooding causes more damage in the Department than anything else.

ANY FLOOD IS AN EMERGENCY. Contact the Building Coordinator (3-1616) immediately.

IF YOU DISCOVER A FLOOD, whether in your own laboratory or not, you have the prime responsibility to take action at once. Any financial loss due to a flood which results from a research group's activity must be borne by the group.

  1. Find out where the water is coming from and shut it off.
  2. Shut off power if lack of water can cause a dangerous situation.
  3. Call Facilities Services Customer Care at 5-1900 (24/7, press 0 for emergencies) or text Facilities Services at 206-339-5339 to report the flood. It takes about 15-20 minutes for them to load and deliver wetvacs and custodians to operate them. Water vacuums are available in the Research Storeroom (BAG 36) and in the Machine Shop (BAG 82). After hours, call University Police, 3-9331.
  4. Call the administrator and report the flood (3-1612).
  5. Notify the Machine Shop (BAG 82A, 3-1616) as soon as possible. They have plastic film available for covering equipment and desks in rooms below the flooded area and will assist where necessary.

RUNNING WATER: If you find it absolutely necessary to have water running while the laboratory is unattended (such as an overnight reflux), install a water flow device that can shut the system off in case of a failure. These units are commercially available and this small investment could be valuable insurance against your research group's financial loss because of an accident.

DO NOT place rags or other such material in sinks to avoid splattering, particularly where water aspirators are used. Use a small plastic bottle with the bottom removed.

Food for Human Consumption

Food for human consumption cannot be prepared, cooked, or consumed in any laboratory or shop. DO NOT store food in a refrigerator used for chemical storage.

Animal Control

Animals brought onto University property are subject to license and leash laws of the City of Seattle. According to WAC 478.128.030 live animals are not allowed in any University-operated buildings.

Exceptions are research animals maintained in University-controlled quarters, natural wildlife inhabiting University property, service animals and, in certain specified situations, the University mascot. University Police will impound unleashed and stray animals. Citations for violation of city ordinances regarding licensing and leashing of animals will be issued when violations occur outside buildings.

Persons who bring animals into University buildings will be asked to leave. If they refuse, call the University Police at 5-UWPD (8973).

Labs and Offices

Labs and offices must be clearly identified and posted with the room function and work contact.

MOVES WITHIN BUILDING: Requests for office moves must be submitted to the Department Administrator in BAG 109F. Unauthorized relocations are not permitted.

When requesting new keys for a new location, you MUST inform the key custodian that you are moving.

Cleaning Up Chemical Spills

Researchers working in labs MUST have training on proper disposal of ALL spilled liquids. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Services (3- 8183) for more information. See also Health & Safety section.

Mercury Spills

Laboratories and work areas that use mercury-containing equipment MUST have a mercury clean-up kit immediately accessible and laboratory personnel MUST be trained in mercury spill procedures. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Services (3-8183) for more information.

A broken thermometer or a quantity of mercury under 5ml is normally considered a small spill. Several powders, granules, and granule-impregnated sponges are commercially available and are appropriate for cleaning up spills of this size. The following mercury clean-up supplies are available in the Research Storeroom, BAG 36: Mercury Absorbent Powder (20-222).


  1. Mark or cordon off the area of the spill to prevent inadvertent spread of the mercury
  2. Wear gloves and goggles during clean-up operations
  3. Moisten a mercury-absorbent sponge with water and wipe down the area of the spill. Some of the mercury will be absorbed into the sponge and some will be amalgamated on the sponge surface. Sponge capacity can be increased by rubbing mercury absorbent powder into the surface of the sponge.
  4. Slowly wipe or sweep the sponge over all cracks and hard-to-reach areas to pick up as much mercury as possible. If you are unable to remove all the mercury, dust the area with mercury absorbent powder. The resulting amalgam will not emit mercury vapors.
  5. Place any broken glass or mercury-contaminated materials such as gloves in a screw-capped plastic container.
  6. Use additional sponges as necessary until the entire area has been decontaminated. Discard used sponges into a screw-capped plastic container or back into their zipper-locked bag. Label the bottle or bag with a "hazardous waste" label and place in a fume hood or other well-ventilated location, pending pick-up by EH&S personnel. Notify EH&S by submitting a hazardous waste collection request form.


The preferred method for cleaning up mercury spilled on porous flooring or carpeting is a mercury vacuum. Vacuum users should be instructed in proper use and handling. The vacuum can be obtained from BAG 293.


When the temperature is elevated, exposure to mercury vapor is more likely. A thorough clean-up is mandatory:

  1. Close the oven or incubator door
  2. Turn the equipment off
  3. Open the windows
  4. Leave the room until the unit has cooled
  5. If the unit is an oven call EH&S (3-0467) for room monitoring. After the unit has cooled, use the clean-up method described for countertops, taking care to ensure a thorough clean-up.
  6. If disassembly of the unit is required, contact the University Scientific Instruments Division at 3-5580.

Organic Liquid Spills

Organic liquids spilled on the floor constitute a fire hazard as well as destroy flooring. An absorbent material is required in every laboratory. Additional supplies are stocked in the Research Storeroom (BAG 36) and the Undergraduate Stockroom (BAG 271).

  1. Place the material on the spill
  2. Wait several minutes
  3. Pick up
  4. Allowed to evaporate in a fume hood
  5. Discard in a plastic bag.

Acid Spills

Acid spills can be neutralized with bulk sodium bicarbonate, also available in both department stockrooms. Any solid residue should be bagged in plastic and disposed of through EH&S.

After bagging and disposal, call Custodial Services (5-1900) to mop the floor.