The concern of UNC-Chapel Hill (“University”) for laboratory safety extends not only to employees but also to any persons visiting University laboratories, especially high school students and minors under the age of 18, who may potentially be exposed to hazardous materials. Laboratories are common sources of thermal dangers, compressed gases, electrical hazards, chemical, biological, and radioactive materials, lasers, and sharp objects.

Children Under the Age of 12

Laboratories must never be utilized as a substitute for day care or other childcare options due to the risk presented to a child’s developing immune/neurological systems and a child’s general inability to recognize hazards. No one under the age of 12 is permitted in University laboratories. This includes instances when an employee office is inside a laboratory space.

Visitors Ages 12 to 18

Non-University students between the ages of 12 and 18 who are passing through or touring a laboratory must be under the direct supervision of a University employee who is trained and knowledgeable of the area’s hazards. Persons between the ages of 12 and 18 may be present in laboratories solely as observers (unless the person is (a) a University student who has received the necessary training, or (b) a high school student who has met the High School Laboratory Worker requirements below) as part of officially sanctioned educational programs for high school or college students or other supervised educational activities that have been approved in writing in advance by the Department Chair or designee. No minor (unless the minor is a University student who has received the necessary training) shall be present during any activity with the potential for exposure to hazardous materials. Prior to allowing high school students or minor visitors to tour or observe in a lab, the supervising employee must conduct a basic safety orientation, including both general safety information and any hazards particular to the lab in question.

High School Laboratory Workers Ages of 15 and Above

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to providing educational opportunities, when they arise, to high school students participating in officially sanctioned educational programs. Principal Investigators are allowed to have high-school students (9th grade and above) perform work in a laboratory. However, high school students may not perform duties in which they are required to directly handle radioactive materials, materials at biosafety level 2 or higher (including rDNA, human blood, tissues or cell cultures, or pathogens) or research animals. High school students ages 15 and older may handle lower risk chemicals in limited circumstances, with proper safety equipment as necessary, in the discretion of the principal investigator.

Before a high school student may participate in educational activities in a laboratory:

  • The student must be sponsored by a faculty member;
  • The sponsoring faculty member must complete the “High School Student (Minor) Laboratory Worker Consent Form“, describing the work the student will perform and obtaining signatures from the principal investigator, department chair, direct supervisor of the student, and a representative of EHS. The completed form is kept on file with the PI’s safety records and EHS.
  • The student and his/her parents or guardian must sign the Student (Minor) Agreement and Release and Consent for Emergency Medical Treatment. The form is also kept on file with the PI’s safety records and EHS. One copy of the signed form must be readily available in an emergency if the student is ill or injured so medical personnel may be shown the student’s medical treatment consent.
  • The form must be completed with signatures and submitted to EHS at least one month prior to the start date indicated on the form.
  • The high school student or minor completes the online Laboratory Worker Registration Form.
  • The high school student or minor completes the following training:
  • High School students and minors must be under direct supervision in the laboratory at all times by a trained and knowledgeable University employee.