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Chemical Safety & Compliance

chemical safety


A laboratory where potentially hazardous chemicals are used or stored is required to comply with the requirements listed below.  These requirements will ensure proper handling and storage of potentially hazardous chemicals and protect lab personnel from exposure.

  1. State and federal laws require that each laboratory have a Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP).  Ensure that a copy of the current WCU Chemical Hygiene Plan as well as a Lab Specific Chemical Hygiene Plan (completed by the PI/responsible supervisor) are available in the lab and all lab personnel have read and signed the training documentation page.

  2. Prepare a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for any particularly hazardous substance (PHS) or hazardous procedure used in the lab.

  3. The Principal Investigator is required to submit the Lab Registration to initially register the space and at any time in the future if the lab relocates, an additional space is occupied by the same PI, or a new hazardous procedure is introduced.

  4. Maintain a current chemical inventory (Chemical Inventory template is available here).

  5. Lab PIs/Supervisors should perform laboratory self-inspections on a regular basis using the Laboratory Inspection Checklist.

  6. Safety Data Sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) for all chemicals used or stored in the lab must be available to lab personnel.  The University permits electronic access, but there must be no immediate barrier to employee access when an SDS is needed.  The SDS should be consulted before using a chemical for the first time.  SDSs are available for download from many different chemical vendors (Sigma Aldrich, Fisher Scientific, Grainger, etc.).

  7. Store chemicals in appropriate cabinets and follow the Chemical Storage Guidelines to separate incompatible materials.  For areas with limited storage capacity, the Compatible Storage Group Classification Chart can be used for guidance.

  8. Peroxide forming chemicals require special consideration and careful monitoring for storage, handling, and use in the laboratory.  Guidance is available for Peroxide Forming Chemical Storage and Peroxide Forming Chemical Labeling

  9. Laboratories where hazardous chemicals and equipment are stored or used are required to post signage in the area and on the equipment to caution personnel of the hazards present.  Laboratory Safety Signs are available to print here.

  10. Laboratory reactions that are left unattended should be posted with an Unattended Lab Reaction sign to indicate the type of reaction (high pressure, running water, etc.) and chemical hazards present.  The sign should be posted on the laboratory entry door and near the reaction site (i.e. fume hood sash).  

  11. Procedures involving volatile chemicals and those involving solids or liquids that may result in the generation of toxic vapors must be conducted in a chemical fume hood (CFH).  This provides protection from inhalation of hazardous contaminants as well as chemical splash, sprays, fires, and minor explosions.  Fume hoods must be used properly in order to maximize their effectiveness.  Follow the Chemical Fume Hood User Guide to ensure adequate protection and hood functionality.  More information about chemical fume hoods and CFH Operation Manuals are available here.

  12. Compressed gas cylinders can present a variety of hazards due to their pressure and contents.  The Compressed Gas Program manual provides guidance for the storage, use, and handling of compressed gases on campus.  In addition to the standard required work practices for inert gases, hazardous gases may require additional controls and work practices, including but not limited to the use of gas cabinets, gas monitors, emergency shutoffs, proper equipment design, leak testing procedures, and the use of air supplying respirators for certain highly toxic gases.  Contact the Safety and Risk Management Office for further assistance with the safe design of equipment involving the use of hazardous gases.

  13. Controlled substances are any drugs or chemical substances whose possession and use are regulated under the United States Controlled Substances Act (U.S. CSA) and the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act (NC CSA).  Registration for all controlled substances listed in Schedules I-VI is required at the State level (NC-DCU) and at the Federal level (US-DEA).  The registration process and compliance requirements are detailed in the Controlled Substance Program manual.  New and/or existing users of controlled substances at WCU must notify the Office of Safety and Risk Management.  Please submit the Notification of Controlled Substance Registration Form to the Safety Office or submit online using the "Controlled Substance Notification Submit Online" option on this page.

  14. Nanotechnology Safety.  Currently, there is limited occupational safety information on nanoparticles and nanomaterials in the university research environment.  Personnel involved with this type of research should be made aware of the potential hazards and risks involved and the control measures that should be utilized to limit exposures.  Please review Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace and the OSHA Fact Sheet:Working Safely with Nanomaterials.  If you have further questions or would like to have a workplace nanotechnology safety evaluation, please contact the Safety Office.
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