This manual is a safety reference document for laboratory personnel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety prepared this manual, followed by review and approval from both the University’s Laboratory and Chemical Safety Committee (LCSC) and the University Safety and Security Committee (USSC). This manual provides basic information about hazards that you may encounter in the laboratory and safety precautions to prevent laboratory accidents and minimize exposure to hazardous chemicals. The Laboratory Safety Manual is part of the University’s “Chemical Hygiene Plan” required by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in its “Occupational Exposures to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories” Standard (29 CFR 1910.1450).

Each laboratory that uses hazardous materials must have a copy of this manual readily accessible to employees in the laboratory. Each laboratory worker must be familiar with the contents that pertain to his or her workplace and the procedures for obtaining additional safety information needed to perform his or her duties safely.

In order to keep the contents of this manual up-to-date with current regulations and best practices, EHS may periodically rewrite, add, or delete sections. EHS will notify Principal Investigators and Safety Supervisors via email and post the changes to the EHS website when this occurs. You are not required to keep a printed copy of this manual unless your work location does not have access to an electronic version. If you keep a printed copy, the message will prompt you to add, replace, or discard particular pages as needed. EHS will maintain a log of the additions, deletions, and replacements to the Laboratory Safety Manual on the Laboratory Safety page and update the version number and date on the cover.

Comments and suggestions for improving the manual are welcome and encouraged. Please send comments to:

Director, Environment, Health and Safety
1120 Estes Drive Extension, CB #1650
P: 919-962-5507; F: 919-962-0227
Contact Form

Organization Phone Hours
Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) 919-962-5507* 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Work-Related Injuries
(normal work hours)
919-966-9119 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Work-Related Injuries
(after hours)
919-966-7890 After hours
University Police 911 24 hours
Fire or Smoke 911 24 hours
Medical Emergencies 911 24 hours
N.C. Poison Control Center 1-800-84 TOXIN
(1-800-848-6946)
24 hours

*University Police will contact EHS during non-business hours.

  • Gas Leaks or Odors: EHS – 919-962-5507
  • Chemical Spills: EHS – 919-962-5507
EHS employs a staff of professionals trained in the field of occupational and environmental health and safety to provide support for University activities and to assure a safe and healthful environment for employees, students and visitors. The Department’s sections include:

Biological Safety

The Biological Safety section provides general surveillance over activities involving biohazardous agents, monitors and reviews the performance and maintenance of containment systems, provides consulting services on aspects of biological safety, biosafety cabinets, and provides guidance and assistance concerning the packaging and shipping of biohazardous agents.

Chemical Safety

The Chemical Safety section works to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control personnel exposures to chemical hazards. The section provides consultative services to laboratory personnel on proper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals, laboratory chemical hoods, engineering controls, safety equipment and personal protective clothing.

Environmental Affairs – Hazardous Waste Management

The Environmental Affairs section has responsibility for oversight of environmental permitting and compliance activities, such as underground/above ground storage tank management, air quality permits (Title V), water quality (NPDES) permits, surface water quality, storm water management, wetland issues, and environmental assessments at inactive waste sites. This section also manages the hazardous and radioactive waste collection and disposal programs.

Fire Safety and Emergency Response

EHS’ Fire Safety and Emergency Response section is responsible for enforcing the North Carolina Building and Fire Codes, investigating fire incidents, developing evacuation procedures and maintaining fire alarm and extinguishing systems and coordinating the EHS Emergency Response and HazMat Team.

Occupational and Environmental Hygiene

The Occupational and Environmental Hygiene section is responsible for ensuring that indoor campus environments are conducive to good health and wellbeing, by recognizing, evaluating, and controlling health and safety hazards, using knowledge and experience in industrial hygiene, asbestos management, air and water quality, and safety engineering. The section assesses potential safety hazards, possible instances of exposure, and suitability of protective equipment. OEH works with facilities engineering and facilities services personnel to find ways to keep historical buildings functional, while protecting employee health, and works with planning, construction, and startup of new and renovated buildings to anticipate and eliminate building related health issues.

Radiation Safety

The Radiation Safety section provides services that include authorization for use of radioactive material and irradiators, personnel monitoring, x-ray safety surveys, sealed-source leak tests, and laboratory safety inspections.

University Employee Occupational Health Clinic

The University Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) provides occupational health care services to all part-time, full-time, and temporary employee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The UEOHC directs medical care for all workplace injuries/illnesses. The UEOHC also provides pre-employment screening, annual immunization reviews, and medical surveillance for healthcare and non-healthcare workers. Employees working in healthcare facilities are required to have annual immunization reviews. Other groups of employees are required to have medical surveillance screening if they work with asbestos, animals, or use respiratory protection, etc. Departments employing persons that require any services other than workplace incidents/injuries are charged for these services.

Workplace Safety

The Workplace Safety Section provides services to Industrial Maintenance and Construction, Support Services and Clinic Environments. We offer expertise in ergonomics, respiratory protection, safety training, medical surveillance, workers’ compensation and safety management information system.

You can obtain additional information regarding EHS by accessing the EHS website. The website includes Health and Safety forms available for download, Laboratory Safety Data Sheets, several self-study modules, access to employee training history, training schedules, annual reports, guidelines for recombinant DNA use, links to Material Safety Data Sheet sites, and much more. EHS continually updates the website to best serve the UNC community.
Safety training programs available to University personnel provide a review of safe practices and provide an orientation to University policies and state and federal regulations. The online New Employee Orientation for laboratory employees covers the following areas:

  • laboratory safety (required for all laboratory personnel)
  • use of fire extinguishers
  • compliance with the OSHA standard for Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, also known as the “OSHA Laboratory Standard”
  • compressed gas cylinder safety
  • biological safety
  • hazardous waste

Radiation safety training is also conducted by EHS.

Contact EHS for a schedule of classes or to arrange a presentation for your laboratory.

Animal handler training is available through the Office of Animal Care and Use.

(Adapted from Responsible Conduct of Research 2005, Office of Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development)

Safe use of hazardous materials requires knowledge of risks to the researcher, campus community, and environment. Researchers learn to handle hazardous materials safely during their scientific training and experience, as well as through information and training provided by their supervisors and the University’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS). This section summarizes some key requirements, and the subsequent chapters of this Laboratory Safety Manual expand on these requirements.

Through campus committees, the University has established environment, health, and safety policies and procedures to minimize risk and comply with state and federal laws. These policies and procedures are in this Laboratory Safety Manual, the Radiation Manual and Biological Safety Manual as well as the EHS website. All laboratory personnel are welcome to participate in University environment, health, and safety committees. Although many of these policies and procedures are directed at laboratories, any research involving hazardous materials must comply. Principal Investigators (PIs) must ensure that their research complies with these policies and procedures and that their personnel receive appropriate safety information and training.

State and federal laws require that each laboratory have a Chemical Hygiene Plan. At the University, this consists of the Laboratory Safety Manual (LSM) and a Laboratory Safety Plan (LSP). The LSM covers general policies and procedures for laboratories, while each principal investigator prepares a Laboratory Safety Plan to address the hazards and precautions specific to his or her laboratory. The Laboratory Safety Plan identifies hazards and describes procedures for emergencies, special hazards, and handling hazardous materials. The Plan includes laboratory locations, personnel, procedures, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and safe work practices. Chapter 2 of this Laboratory Safety Manual includes instructions for the preparation of a Laboratory Safety Plan. PIs must update location and personnel information when changes occur, but at least annually.
Laboratory personnel must complete and submit an online Worker Registration Form, prior to starting work in a laboratory.

Orientation training is mandatory for all new laboratory personnel. They must complete the online New Employee Orientation for the Laboratory Environment offered on the EHS website. EHS offers additional training in laboratory safety, radiation safety, biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), bloodborne pathogens, formaldehyde use, shipping of hazardous materials, and other topics.

Before beginning work in a laboratory, all personnel are to review the Laboratory Safety Plan and take time to identify the nearest fire alarm, fire extinguisher, safety shower, eyewash station, and spill kit.

The University uses several methods to control exposures to hazardous materials. Widely used methods on campus include engineering controls such as chemical laboratory hoods, biological safety cabinets, and local exhaust ventilation. University environment, health, and safety policies and procedures and the Laboratory Safety Plan describe work-practice controls. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also an important way to minimize exposure by preventing absorption, inhalation, and physical contact. PPE includes gloves, safety glasses, and lab coats. The Laboratory Safety Plan describes appropriate PPE.

Proper selection and use of PPE is critical to protection; laboratory personnel should contact EHS for advice. The PI is responsible for providing all laboratory personnel with appropriate PPE, which should be designed for the task and should fit the employee well. Some guidelines:

  • University policy requires eye protection for all experimental procedures. Safety glasses with side shields offer minimal protection; splash goggles and face shields offer greater protection for procedures involving liquids. EHS encourages laboratory personnel to wear eye protection at all times when in a laboratory.
  • Gloves offer a degree of protection from hazardous materials and hot or cold materials. The type of hazardous material determines the type of glove that you wear. Laboratory personnel should consult the Laboratory Safety Manual (Chapter 5) and the manufacturer for proper selection and use of gloves. Disposable gloves are single use; throw them away after each use.
  • Latex gloves are common, but the University discourages their use because of the possibility of allergic reactions to the natural proteins found in them. Many alternatives to latex are available. When using latex gloves, the University Latex Allergy Policy advises laboratory personnel to wear the powder-free type and to wash hands frequently.
  • Do not wear sandals and open-toed shoes in University laboratories.
  • Do not take lab coats home and clean. Departments should use cleaning services for lab coats.
  • Use of respirators (including N95 or “dust/mist” masks) requires evaluation of the work site by EHS and annual medical evaluation, training, and fit testing.
Laws and University safety policies impose additional requirements for the use of radioactive materials, biohazardous agents, bloodborne pathogens, recombinant DNA, controlled substances, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and substances with a high degree of acute toxicity.

  • Minimize the amount of and safely store flammable, pyrophoric, corrosive, and reactive chemicals when not in use. Laboratory personnel should contact EHS to dispose of excess chemicals.
  • OSHA law includes additional requirements for carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and substances with a high degree of acute toxicity. Examples of each of these are included in the appendices to Chapter 7 of this Laboratory Safety Manual. Researchers who use such chemicals must consider special containment devices, decontamination procedures, and restriction of use to designated areas.
  • PIs must review radioactive material ordering, receipt, storage, use, and disposal responsibilities with each member of the laboratory. See the UNC Radiation Safety Manual for more information.
  • PIs that use or possess a select agent (one with significant potential for use by terrorists) must notify EHS and follow additional security requirements. For more information, see Chapter 14 of the Biological Safety Manual.
  • PIs whose research involves blood and other potentially infectious materials must follow the University Exposure Control Plan. Potentially exposed employees must receive additional training and be offered vaccines at no charge. See the UNC Biological Safety Manual for more information.
  • PIs whose laboratories work with recombinant DNA are required to submit protocols to the Institutional Biosafety Committee to ensure compliance with the National Institute of Health Guidelines for such research.
  • The University Employee Occupational Health Clinic (UEOHC) provides vaccinations and other occupational health services to University employees. Employees with non-emergency hazardous material exposures and injuries should contact the UEOHC.
  • Faculty, staff, and students who are pregnant, think they may be pregnant, or are planning a family, and may potentially be exposed to chemical reproductive toxins, radioactive material, or other ionizing radiation, may voluntarily contact EHS for counseling, evaluation, and exposure monitoring. For more information, see Chapter 8 of this Laboratory Safety Manual.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration require training for employees preparing hazardous materials for shipment. EHS offers this training and more information on the Transporting Research Materials webpage. Regulated hazardous materials include radioactive material, infectious substances, fixed tissue, biologicals in alcohol solutions, dry ice, formalin, unknowns, and other chemicals.
  • Hazardous materials must have appropriate security to prevent accidental exposure, unauthorized access, and theft. Radioactive materials, select agents, controlled substances, and drug precursors require additional security controls. Keep these substances in locked storage. Lock laboratories when not occupied. Laboratory personnel should keep an inventory of these materials so unauthorized removal can be detected. Notify the Department of Public Safety of theft or the presence of unfamiliar or unauthorized personnel.
  • EHS’ orientation training, safety manuals, and web site provide waste management and disposal procedures for chemical, biological, and radioactive laboratory wastes. Laboratory personnel can request a chemical or radioactive material waste pickup from the laboratory at no charge to them via an online form. Federal, state, and local laws severely restrict disposal in the normal trash or sewer. PI support is critical for waste procedure compliance. Contact EHS with further questions.
As required by state and federal law, EHS inspects and surveys all campus laboratories annually, and sometimes more frequently. These surveys are comprehensive and address record keeping, fire safety, egress, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, work practices, and where appropriate, chemical, biological, and radiation safety. EHS sends survey findings to the PI and are available to all laboratory personnel. Previous EHS survey findings are a good measure of laboratory risks. Contact EHS with questions about survey findings or environment, health, and safety policies and procedures.
The following documents must be available to and/or completed by laboratory personnel. Review these with all new staff before working in the laboratory and annually thereafter, and document these reviews.

  1. Laboratory Safety Plan.
  2. Laboratory Safety Manual.
  3. Worker Registration Forms. All new laboratory personnel must complete a “Lab/Radiation Worker Registration Form” even if they have previously worked for a different PI.
  4. Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets) for those chemicals used routinely. Researchers should consult the SDS when using a particular compound for the first time. The University permits electronic access or storage, but there must be no immediate barriers to employee access when a Safety Data Sheet is needed.

Documentation of each laboratory employee’s orientation training, other applicable EHS training, and the online Laboratory Safety Plan and Manual annual review is maintained in an EHS database and can be accessed through the Training Compliance link in the online Lab Safety Plan or via the EHS website with the employee’s PID.

If applicable, the Principal Investigator must keep the following documents accessible in the laboratory (hard copies no longer required):

  1. Radiation Safety Manual. This manual explains the principles of radiation protection, survey requirements, personnel monitoring, and emergency procedures. It contains web links to important forms that are required by the Radiation Safety Manual procedures.
  2. Biological Safety Manual. This manual describes safe handling procedures for pathogens. It includes procedures and forms for registering recombinant DNA experiments with the Institutional Biosafety Committee.
  3. Exposure Control Plan. This plan contains procedures for the safe handling of human blood and other potentially infectious substances, as well as personnel training requirements and vaccination options.

EHS highly recommends that each laboratory obtain a copy of Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals (National Academy Press) and the American Chemical Society’s Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories.

EHS’ website includes manuals, training schedules, material safety data sheets, registration forms, and other safety information. The Laboratory Safety Plan web application is also available on the website. Please contact EHS at 919-962-5507 for more information on the safe handling of hazardous substances.

Proceed to Chapter One