This section has been reviewed and updated as needed: April 2014

Legal Requirements

OSHA 1910.1450, “Occupational Exposures to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories” (henceforth referred to as the Laboratory Standard) dictates that employers limit employees’ exposure to hazardous chemicals to below the permissible exposure limit (PEL) (or action level, if applicable) for a specific chemical. This Laboratory Standard requires that employees be apprised of the hazards of chemicals present in their work area through information and training. It also requires that a written “Chemical Hygiene Plan” be developed, implemented, and made available to employees. The Laboratory Standard applies only to laboratories, and, in general, supersedes other OSHA health standards.


The Environment, Health and Safety Office is responsible for development and implementation of the Chemical Hygiene Plan and will assist Principal Investigators in developing their Laboratory Safety Plans, and obtaining chemical hazard information including safety data sheets (SDSs). The Environment, Health and Safety Office provides training for employees on the Laboratory Standard and on general chemical safety. In addition, the Environment, Health and Safety Office is available to offer advice on chemical hazards in the laboratory and will monitor employee exposures upon request.

The Principal Investigator or laboratory supervisor is responsible for developing and implementing a Laboratory Safety Plan for his/her laboratory, providing training and information on chemical hazards, and enforcing safety procedures in the laboratory.

Chemical Hygiene Plan

The Chemical Hygiene Plan is a written program developed and implemented by the employer which sets forth procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment and work practices that are capable of protecting employees from the health hazards presented by hazardous chemicals used in that particular workplace. At UNC the Chemical Hygiene Plan is a Laboratory Safety Manual plus a Laboratory Safety Plan developed by the Principal Investigator. The Chemical Hygiene Plan is to be readily available to employees.

Laboratory Safety Plan

The laboratory safety plan is given to all employees to communicate the investigator’s, and University’s, expectations of safety in the laboratory. The safety plan also serves as written documentation of how hazardous materials are handled. The laboratory safety plan is to be reviewed and updated annually using the online application. The following areas should be addressed in the safety plan:

  • Laboratory Personnel: names of personnel working in the laboratory (populated automatically to the laboratory safety plan via employee completion of the Laboratory/Radiation Worker Registration form)
  • Employee Information and Training: documentation of employee training programs, including the content of training sessions, location of safety data sheets, and signs and symptoms of exposures to the agents with the most highly acute toxicity
  • Laboratory Safety Rules and Procedures: identification of special safety rules and procedures not described in the Laboratory Safety Manualincluding precautions and identification of designated areas for handling chemical carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or chemicals with a high degree of acute toxicity
  • Waste Disposal: identification of the hazardous waste streams generated and instructions for the disposal of various types of hazardous waste
  • Emergency Procedures: spill control procedures including prevention, containment, cleanup, evacuation, and procedures for emergencies occurring outside the laboratory, such as fires. A floor plan of the laboratory showing location of hazardous materials and safety equipment should be included
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): identify the unique PPE required for laboratory procedures
  • Schedules: specific schedules based on type of research you are doing (Schedule B – Hazardous Chemicals; Schedule C – Radioactive Materials; Schedule D – X-ray Equipment; Schedule E – Lasers; Schedule F – Biological Hazards; Schedule G – Recombinant DNA; Schedule H – Use of Transgenic Animals or Plants and Schedule I – Shipping

Employee Information Training

Employees shall be apprised of the hazards and of chemicals present at the time of initial assignment and whenever a new hazard is introduced in the laboratory. Training of employees is documented within the online lab safety plan application using the “Training Compliance” link within the application. A training session covering the items listed below is required for all laboratory personnel.

  • The contents of the Laboratory Standard and University Chemical Hygiene Plan
  • The location of the Laboratory Safety Plan for the laboratory, chemical references, and Safety Data Sheets covering the safe handling, storage, and disposal of chemicals used in the laboratory
  • Current recommended threshold limit values (TLVs) and the OSHA regulated permissible exposure limits (PELs) (available from the SDS for a chemical)
  • The physical and health hazards, including signs and symptoms of overexposure, of the chemicals used in the laboratory
  • Measures employees can take to protect themselves from hazardous chemicals in the laboratory
  • How to detect a release and/or leak of hazardous chemicals in the lab

A general laboratory orientation training program for new laboratory employees, covering the Laboratory Standard and other environment, health and safety procedures for campus laboratories is available online.

Employee Exposure Determination

For laboratory uses of OSHA regulated substances, employees’ exposures must not exceed permissible exposure limits for such substances as specified in 29 CFR part 1910, subpart Z. If employees believe that exposure levels to a regulated substance routinely exceed PELs (or action level, if applicable) they should contact the Environment, Health and Safety Office to measure exposure levels.

Laboratory Hoods

Laboratory hoods are used for operations which might result in release of toxic chemical vapors or dust. Hoods are inspected by the Environment, Health and Safety Office annually. An average face velocity of 90 to 120 feet per minute is required for all laboratory hoods on campus unless EHS has approved a different range. A continuous monitoring device that includes an audible alarm is required for all new fume hoods and is recommended for all existing hoods. More information can be found in the Laboratory Ventilation Policy. Information on obtaining continuous monitoring devices is available from the Environment, Health and Safety Office. Questions concerning hood efficiency should be directed to the Environment, Health and Safety Office.

Particularly Hazardous Substances

Additional precautions must be taken to protect employees when particularly hazardous substances, such as chemical carcinogens or highly toxic materials, are handled in the laboratory. Handling precautions for chemical carcinogens are described in Chapter 7 of the UNC Laboratory Safety Manual. These additional precautions are also to be considered when handling chemicals with a high degree of acute toxicity or reproductive toxins.

Experiments involving chemical carcinogens, as defined below, must be approved by the Environment, Health and Safety Office. The approval process involves submitting a laboratory safety plan including those particularly hazardous substances. The Environment, Health and Safety Office will review the plan, and then send approval and/or recommendations to the principal investigator. Chemical carcinogens are defined as chemicals that are:

  • regulated by OSHA as carcinogens
  • listed by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) as “known to be carcinogens”
  • listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs (IARC) in Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans)
  • Listed by NTP as reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens or by IARC in Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) or in Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) and causing statistically significant tumor incidence in experimental animals

Medical Surveillance

Employees who work with hazardous chemicals are provided an opportunity for medical consultation and/or medical examinations under the following circumstances:

  • whenever an employee develops signs or symptoms associated with a hazardous chemical to which the employee may have been exposed in the laboratory
  • where exposure monitoring reveals an exposure level routinely above the PEL (or action level, if applicable) for an OSHA regulated substance, as prescribed by the regulations for that particular substance
  • whenever there is likelihood that an employee was exposed to a hazardous chemical as a result of a spill, leak, explosion, or other release.