Department of Chemistry

Chemistry Laboratory Safety

The following are excerpts from the USM Laboratory Safety Plan. A full copy of the Plan is in each laboratory, in Science 361, and in Science 161. Consult the Plan for further detail.
Do not work in any lab without training and certification.

General Guidelines
In an Emergency
If There is a Fire
Personal Injury
Chemicals in the Eyes
Swallowing of Chemicals
Thermal Burns
Inhalation of Fumes
Chemical Spills
  - On a Person
  - In General
Uncontrollable Reaction

 General Guidelines:

When you accept the responsibility for working in a laboratory, first familiarize yourself with the lab's procedures dealing with emergency and safety situations, as well as protocols for managing chemicals, equipment, and waste. As part of your training to work in this lab, you will become acquainted with these procedures as well as with the layout and location of the safety manual so you will be able to access information quickly. When another person needs help, always remember to evaluate the potential danger to yourself before taking action.

  • Campus Police & Safety: 911
  • Poison Control Center: 871-2381
  • Chemical Information (Atlanta): 1-800-424-8802

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 In an Emergency

  1. Report the nature and location of the emergency to your supervising staff member. If directed to do so, or if you have been given permission to work independently and are unable to locate a staff member, be prepared to report the emergency to the appropriate fire or medical facility. Give the following information to emergency personnel:
  • Your name, and the telephone number and address involved
  • Tell where you will meet the emergency vehicle
  • If individuals are involved, report how many, whether any is unconscious, burned or trapped; whether an explosion has occurred, and whether there is or has been a chemical or electrical fire
  • Tell others in the area about the nature of the emergency.
  • To avoid unnecessary injury, do not move any injured person unless s/he is in immediate danger from chemical exposure or fire; do your best to keep him/her warm.
  • If you cannot meet the emergency vehicle as arranged, send someone else.
  • Do not make any other telephone calls unless they are directly related to emergency control.
  • When the emergency is over, the instructor will report the event to the Chair, who will file a USM accident report, if necessary.
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     If There is a Fire:

    Clothing on Fire

    • On yourself: DO NOT RUN. Avoid inhalation of fumes. Roll on floor to smother flames.
    • On another person: wrap the victim in a woolen blanket or apply coats or wet towels. A CO2 type fire extinguisher may be used with caution (away from victim's head). The safety shower may be used only if very close by.
    1. A fire in a small vessel can usually be suffocated by covering the vessel. Do not pick it up. Do not cover it with dry towels, paper, or cloths. Remove nearby flammable materials to avoid spread.
      As a general rule, the instructor will be responsible for using the fire extinguisher.
    2. If the fire is too large to be easily suffocated or put out with the fire extinguisher, all persons should evacuate the area, using the stairs to leave the building. Close doors and windows if possible.
      If you are going to use a flammable substance or mixture, determine in advance whether use of onsite fire extinguishers could generate dangerous fumes or exothermic reactions (example: CO2 burning sodium metal). If so, have available an approved alternate method for putting out any fire which might occur. Chemical fires may generate toxic fumes or reactions to materials in fire extinguishers. DO NOT attempt to fight a chemical fire unless you have been specially trained.
    3. Activate the hallway fire alarm. Notify the instructor, students and co-workers.
    4. Fire fighters should be informed what chemicals are involved or which may become involved. A current inventory for 305 Payson-Smith Hall is kept in the adjoining office. A copy is also kept in 161-SCI (Chemistry office). Individual chemical reagent containers are labeled with the National Fire Protection Association codes or similar manufacturers codes which provide emergency information in this order: Health, Flammability, Reactivity, Special Notice (contact, explosiveness, other).

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     Personal Injury:

    1. If the injured person is not breathing, use an emergency resuscitation technique if you have been trained to do so. Send someone to call for help.
    2. If the victim is bleeding put on latex gloves and proceed. Avoid direct skin contact with blood or sera. If the bleeding is severe, control the bleeding by compressing the wound with a cloth or any available material. Elevate the injured part above the heart if possible. Keep the victim warm to decrease shock and get immediate medical attention. If the wound is less severe, wash the cut with water and remove any pieces of glass. A pressure pad should be firmly applied. Unless the cut is trivial, wrap the victim to lessen shock and get medical attention.
    3. Do not touch a person who is in contact with a live electrical circuit. Disconnect the power before attempting assistance.

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     Chemicals in the Eyes:

    • Flush with large amounts of water from the eyewash fountain while holding the eyelid away from the eye. Once the flushing is started, check for contact lenses and remove them if found. When the bulk of the chemical is gone, continue the washing at the eye-wash fountain for at least 15 minutes. Do not attempt chemical neutralization.

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     Swallowing of Chemicals:

    • If the victim is conscious, call POISON CONTROL (871-2381) and be prepared to administer Ipecac to induce vomiting. Ipecac is located in each first aid kit. If Ipecac is not available, you may be told to quickly administer several (2-4) glasses of water and induce vomiting by tickling the back of the throat.
      DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING in case of acids, bases, organic solvents, petroleum products, or any other chemical which cannot be identified with certainty. CALL PHYSICIAN AT ONCE.

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     Thermal Burns:

    1. If a burn is serious, or you cannot be sure of its severity, CALL PHYSICIAN AT ONCE. Treat as for SHOCK. The burned area may be carefully covered with a gel burn dressing or with several layers of sterile gauze. Avoid ointments and other medications.
    2. If minor, involving merely reddening of a small area, place the affected area in cold water or against an ice pack for several minutes. If blisters develop, consult a physician.

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    • Keep the victim quiet, lying down, and comfortable. Keep him/her warm and make sure s/he has an adequate supply of fresh air. Reassure the victim until medical help arrives.

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    • Lower the victim's head and raise the feet. Move him/her to fresh air. Do not administer liquids while victim is unconscious.

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     Inhalation of Fumes:

    • Remove victim to fresh air. Keep him/her warm and quiet. Begin appropriate resuscitation at once if breathing has stopped and you know the procedure. CALL PHYSICIAN AT ONCE.

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     Chemical Spills:

    On a Person -

    1. For spills contacting small areas of skin, immediately flush with flowing water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Remove any jewelry and inspect the underlying skin surface. If there is no visible burn, wash gently with warm water and soap. Check the MSDS (available at each lab site) to see if any delayed effects should be expected. If there is a burn, even a minor one, it is strongly recommended that medical attention be sought.
    2. For spills on clothing, quickly remove all contaminated items while irrigating with copious water; use the safety shower if necessary. Be cautious when removing pullover tops; to avoid eye contact, you may need to cut away this type of clothing.
      Immediately flood the affected body area with tepid water for at least 15 minutes. If the chemical has penetrated to the skin and/or there is pain or injury, seek immediate medical attention. It is important to make sure medical personnel understand what chemicals have been involved; use the exact chemical name.

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    Chemical Spills in General -

    Plan in advance and have on hand the materials necessary to neutralize or otherwise control any spills which might occur.

    1. All spills should be cleaned up promptly and completely. Appropriately warn others in the area to avoid unnecessary exposure and receive assistance if needed. 
      If the material is volatile, flammable, corrosive, or toxic, immediately warn everyone to extinguish flames, and turn off and disconnect spark producing equipment. Evacuate the area and notify instructor, who will decide how the clean up is to proceed. Make certain that fume hoods are on; maximize ventilation by opening windows and doors if possible.
      If there is no fire hazard and the material is not believed to be volatile or toxic, notify instructor and refer to the MSDS for clean up instructions.
    2. After cleanup, all materials used in the cleanup must be disposed of as wastes of the chemical(s) involved. Your instructor should be consulted as to disposal of these materials.

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     Uncontrollable Reaction:

    1. If an electrical apparatus begins to operate in uncontrolled fashion, unplug it if possible, and notify the instructor, who will break the circuit at the main board if it cannot be otherwise interrupted.
    2. If a gas apparatus becomes uncontrollable, turn off the source if possible, and notify the instructor.

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