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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 and must require strict adherence to personal protective equipment (PPE) policies.

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 with appropriate training and monitoring.


Minors are restricted from working with certain hazardous materials or equipment as follows:

Biological Hazards

  • Minors are prohibited from working with biohazardous materials above Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2).
  • Minors may not be exposed to, or work with, biological material or agents that require medical surveillance.
  • Minors may not perform duties in which they are required to directly work with human and/or nonhuman primate blood, body fluids and tissue.
  • Minors are prohibited from working with human and nonhuman primate retroviruses.
  • Minors may not directly work with research animals.

Radiological Hazards

  • Minors under age 16 are prohibited from working with radiation.
  • Minors 16 or 17 years of age are prohibited from handling source vials and need special permission from the RSO to use other radioactive materials, including performing monthly surveys.
  • Minors who are employees are not permitted in areas of high radiation or airborne radioactivity (as defined in 10 CFR 20.1003) or any area where there is potential exposure to radiation in excess of 0.1 rem (1 mSv) total effective dose equivalent or in excess of the limits set forth in 10A NCAC 15.1611.
  • Minors are prohibited from directly operating X-ray generating equipment.

Chemical Hazards

  • Minors are not permitted to work with carcinogens, reproductive toxins (teratogens or mutagens) or other acutely toxic chemicals.
  • Minors are prohibited from working with controlled substances (Schedule I-V) and chemical precursors.
  • Minors may handle lower risk chemicals in limited circumstances, with proper safety equipment as necessary, at the discretion of the principal investigator.

Hazardous Equipment

  • Minors are not permitted in areas with Class 3B or 4 lasers
  • Minors are not permitted to work with hazardous equipment (such as lathes, drill press, laser cutters, etc)

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

Regulatory Sources