Safety Policy & Procedures

The Chemical Hygiene Plan provides certain procedures for health and safety standard operating procedures (SOPs) that apply to laboratory work involving the use of hazardous chemicals, hazardous biological materials, and/or operations with a high degree of risk. SOPs have been prepared so as to standardize the response thereby adding a higher level of safety to achieve a predictable outcome. Additional procedures may be necessary for labs with health and safety hazards greater than those presented in The Plan.


Principal Investigators and Lab Supervisors must assess the risks and identify hazards associated with working in their area. Once hazards are identified, they must develop, implement and maintain lab-specific procedures to safely address high hazard materials/processes, and then train laboratory personnel on applicable procedures. In relatively low hazard labs, the procedures outlined in this manual may be sufficient. Faculty and staff may create their own procedures or use publicly available resources such as reference books, internet sites (of a reliable source), or lab manuals.



  1. Understand the known hazards associated with the materials being used. Never assume all hazards have been identified. Carefully read labels before using an unfamiliar chemical. When appropriate, review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for special handling information. Determine the potential hazards and use appropriate safety precautions before beginning any new operation.
  2. Be familiar with the location of emergency equipment such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency eyewash, and shower stations and know the appropriate emergency response procedures.
  3. Avoid distracting or startling other workers when they are handling hazardous materials.
  4. Use equipment and hazardous materials only for their intended purposes.
  5. Always be alert to unsafe conditions and actions and call attention to them so that corrective action can be taken as quickly as possible.
  6. Wear appropriate skin, eye and face protection.
  7. Always inspect equipment for leaks, tears or other damage before handling a hazardous material. This includes fume hoods, gloves, goggles, etc.
  8. Avoid tasting or smelling chemicals.



  1. Avoid direct contact with any hazardous material. Know the types of protective equipment required while using any chemical. If in doubt, review the appropriate section of the MSDS.
  2. Confine long hair and loose clothing and always wear footwear that fully covers the feet.
  3. Do not mouth-pipette.
  4. Use appropriate safety equipment whenever there is a potential for exposure to hazardous gases, vapors, or aerosols. Check to ensure that local exhaust ventilation equipment is working properly before use. In the event that general or local exhaust ventilation is not functioning properly, immediately stop work, notify Facilities, and place a sign to notify others that work with hazardous materials is suspended until the equipment is working properly.
  5. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling chemicals or biological materials, before leaving the laboratory and before eating or drinking.
  6. If there is a hazardous splash potential, splash goggles shall be worn as eye protection.
  7. Clean and store personal protective equipment as appropriate.
  8. Laboratory employees shall be familiar with the signs and symptoms of exposure for the materials with which they work and the precautions necessary to prevent exposure.



  1. Avoid eating, drinking, smoking, or applying of commercial products in any laboratory area where hazardous chemicals or biological hazards are in use.
  2.  Refrigerators and microwave ovens used for chemical or biological storage or other laboratory use shall not be used for food storage or preparation.



  1. Keep work areas (including floors) clean and uncluttered. Clean up work areas after the work is finished or at the end of each lab or workday.
  2. Dispose of waste per the GVSU disposal policies described in Section 2.10 or the building-specific plan. A separate receptacle must be designated for non-contaminated glass. Contaminated glass is considered hazardous waste and disposed of accordingly.
  3. Clean spills immediately and thoroughly, as per the guidelines in this document and the product MSDS. Ensure a chemical spill kit is available. Faculty, staff, and students should receive training on the proper procedures of cleaning a spill and a designated employee shall assure that the spill kits are properly stocked.
  4. Do not block exits, emergency equipment or controls. Do not use hallways and stairwells for storage.
  5. Assure hazardous chemicals are properly segregated into compatible categories (section 5.1.4).
  6.  Custodial responsibilities are limited to sweeping the floors except when chemicals and biological materials are present and emptying the trash.



  1. Chemical containers with missing or defaced labels should not be accepted.
  2. Chemicals utilized in the laboratory or hood must be appropriate for the type and capacity of the ventilation system.
  3. Hazardous biological materials should be manipulated using safety equipment and techniques appropriate to the risk group and the evaluated biosafety level of the specific experimental conditions. Biosafety cabinets used to protect researchers from biological hazards must be functioning properly, certified annually and appropriate to the biological and chemical hazards in use.
  4. Hazardous materials should be stored in appropriate safety cabinets, closed cabinets or not more than five feet above the floor.
  5. Chemicals shall be segregated by compatibility.
  6. Hazardous material storage areas must be labeled as to their contents (section 5.1.4)
  7. Storage of hazardous materials at the lab bench or work area shall be kept to a minimum.
  8. A Hazardous material mixture shall be assumed to be as toxic as its most toxic component.
  9. Substances of unknown toxicity shall be assumed to be toxic.
  10. Each lab must maintain an inventory of all chemical along with a MSDS for each chemical.



  1. Carry glass containers in bottle carriers or other leak resistant, unbreakable secondary containers.
  2. When moving hazardous materials on a cart, use a cart suitable for the load and with raised edges to contain leaks/spills.
  3. Transporting of hazardous waste between buildings within a campus should be done with all necessary precautions to avoid spills or leaks. Transporting waste between campuses should not be done.



  1. Cylinders with regulators must be individually secured. Only cylinders with valve protection caps securely in place may be safely gang-chained (chained in groups).
  2. When storing or moving a cylinder, have the valve protection cap securely in place to protect the stem.
  3.  Cylinders must be secured in an upright position at all times. Use suitable racks, straps, chains, or stands to support cylinders against an immovable object, such as a bench or a wall, during use and storage. Do not allow cylinders to fall or lean against one another.
  4. Use an appropriate cart to move cylinders.
  5. Never bleed a cylinder completely empty. Leave a slight pressure to keep contaminants out.
  6. Oil or grease on the high-pressure side of an oxygen cylinder can cause an explosion. Do not lubricate an oxygen regulator or use a fuel gas regulator on an oxygen cylinder. Use an oxygen approved regulator.
  7. Always wear goggles or safety glasses with side shields when handling compressed gases.
  8. Use appropriate gauges, fittings, and materials compatible with the particular gas being handled.
  9. When work with a toxic, corrosive, or reactive gas is planned, the CHO should be contacted for information concerning specific handling requirements. Generally, these gases will need to be used and stored with local exhaust ventilation such as a lab hood or a gas cabinet designed for that purpose.
  10. Outside contractors/suppliers have been hired to exchange empty cylinders with full ones. Faculty and staff should limit moving cylinders, but when necessary, use the cylinder restraint cart.



  1. Check with your laboratory supervisor to determine if the operation can be left safely unattended.
  2. If the operation is to be left unattended for extended periods and involves hazardous materials or potentially hazardous conditions, develop a protocol. It should be reviewed by the laboratory supervisor and CHO. The protocol should include responses to potential interruptions in electric, water, inert gas and other services and provide containment for hazardous materials.
  3. A warning notice must be posted near the experiment if hazardous conditions are present. This notice must contain information concerning the hazard such as indicators of problems and who to contact if such evidence is present.



Working alone, whether after hours or in isolation, should be avoided whenever possible. If it becomes necessary to conduct work alone in a laboratory, workshop, or in the field, the Principal Investigator or Lab Supervisor must specify the conditions under which working alone will be permitted. 

  1. In no case is working alone permitted during procedures involving highly hazardous or toxic chemicals or agents and/or dangerous equipment or environments (i.e.: anything that could cause severe injury or death).
  2. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator or Lab Supervisor, with support of GVSU safety staff, to assess activity of high, moderate, or low risk, and develop policies and procedures appropriate for each type of work. It is preferable that departmental staff collaborate on common procedures, processes and equipment for consistency with individual policies.
  3. All faculty and students shall utilize the Laker Guardian app when working alone. Within the app, users must specify the duration of their solitary work periods and indicate the status of ongoing tasks. Additionally, faculty and students shall designate either the Grand Valley Police Department (GVPD) or their Principal Investigator as their primary guardian within the app. To download the Laker Guardian app, click here.
  4. All faculty and students working alone after regular hours are mandated to complete the following training and procedures:
  • Faculty and/or student(s) must request, and receive approval, to work after hours from GVSU's Environmental, Health, and Safety department. 
  • Before approval, the faculty and/or student(s) must complete all safety training requirements
  • Training requirements include hazard communication, work space-specific training, emergency procedures, and basic lab safety training.
  • The Principal Investigation will communicate and train the faculty and/or student(s) on the associated dangers of their work and approve all procedures when working alone. 
  • Faculty and/or student(s) are required to sign an agreement stating that they know the risks of working alone and have finished their training. 
  • A keycard will be issued to the individual who requested after-hours access. 

Failure to adhere to the outline procedures will result in suspension of the individual's program and the removal of key card access. These protocols are designed to prioritize the safety and security of program participants. 



  1. Any volunteer conducting lab work must be provided with written documentation including, but not limited to the following: Indemnification and liability information from the GVSUs Risk Management and Insurance Department; clearly defined scope of work; and instructions to complete safety training prior to working in the lab. A consent form template is provided in the Appendix.
  2. No one under the age of 16 may work or volunteer in a lab.



  1. Laboratory Personnel Responsibilities: For research labs, Principal Investigators are responsible for the security of their laboratories. In teaching labs, the Department Chair is responsible for chemical and equipment security.
  2. Laboratory Access: Faculty, staff and students will be provided with access cards or brass keys upon approval by the Department Chair or Dean of the College, or their designee.

  3. See Chemical Hygiene Plan


Page last modified April 23, 2024