Laboratory Safety Overview

Safety is an integral part of laboratory teaching and research.  Safety is critical to achieving the University’s goal of preventing workplace injuries and illnesses, environmental incidents and property loss or damage.  Safety is also essential in complying with all applicable health, safety and environmental protection laws, regulations and requirements.

At UNC Ashevillle, all teaching and research laboratories, studios and academic machine shops are to implement Laboratory Safety Programs.  Laboratory Safety Programs consist of written programs describing work practices in the form of Job Safety Analysis (JSA), Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or written manuals.

The risks associated with participating in laboratory activities are greatly reduced or eliminated when proper precautions and practices are observed in the laboratory.

It is the Laboratory Supervisor/Manager who is responsible for safety in their laboratory.  Safety in the laboratory consists of Administrative Controls, Hazard Communication, Life Safety, Engineering Controls, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Laboratory vigilance.

Administrative Controls

Administrative Controls consist of written programs describing work practices in the form of Job Safety Analysis (JSA), Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or written manuals describing how the laboratory maintains their safety program.  Contact the EH&S Professional for aid in setting up your Laboratory Safety Programs.

Engineering Controls

Engineering Controls consist of Chemical Fume Hoods, Biological Safety Cabinets, guards on equipment, etc.  If an engineering control is not functioning properly, stop use of the equipment immediately and post “out of use” sign until the issue has been resolved.  Contact EH&S and Campus Operations to report a problem.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be in good condition, appropriate for the task and stored appropriately.  PPE consists of but not is not limited to:

  • Appropriate gloves for the task
  • Safety glasses, face shields
  • Laboratory coats
  • Aprons
  • Respirators

It is the responsibility of Laboratory Supervisors and Academic Departments to define the appropriate PPE for the task being done and to ensure that PPE is being properly used.  Departments are responsible for supplying PPE to staff and faculty.  Students are directed as to what PPE they will be supplied with and what PPE is their responsibility to procure.  All questions relating to proper PPE for the task should be directed to EH&S.

Hazard Communication

The hazards of materials you are working with must be communicated clearly.  Follow procedures in UNC Asheville’s Chemical Hygiene Plan, Bio-Safety Program, Laser Safety Program, Radiation Safety Program, and Machine Safety Program to ensure proper labeling of materials and processes that clearly communicate the hazards of your operations.  Hazard Communication is important to properly inform students, staff, faculty and emergency responders of hazards in your laboratory.

Life Safety

Life Safety refers to complying with fire code regulations and emergency response procedures.  It is the Laboratory Supervisor’s responsibility to ensure the following life safety requirements are implemented in their laboratories.

  1. Emergency Phone Numbers are posted.
  2. Emergency procedures are communicated to students.
  3. All emergency equipment is kept clear and unobstructed.  Emergency equipment includes:
  • Safety Showers
  • Eye Washes
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Electrical Panels
  1. Fire Extinguishers are mounted and inspected monthly.
  2. Eyewashes are flushed weekly.

The use of extension cords are prohibited for permanent use.  Extension cords are only to be ued for a temporary purpose and unplugged after use.  Ceiling tiles are to be present and kept securely in place and all laboratories need to limit the amount of combustible materials stored in the lab.

Laboratory Vigilance

Laboratory Vigilance is ensuring that everything in the laboratory is maintained in working order and is well organized.  Trip hazards are eliminated; floors, countertops and equipment are kept clean; aisle space is unobstructed; and excess materials are disposed of timely and appropriately.

Drinking, eating and applying cosmetics in the laboratory are prohibited.  All refrigerators/freezers, microwaves, ice makers, etc. used for laboratory purposes are to be labeled “Caution, No Food Beverage, or Ice for Human Consumption”.

Laboratory furniture needs to be flame resistant and have the ability to be easily decontaminated in case of a hazardous materials incident.  Fabric chairs or other furniture containing fabric is prohibited in laboratories.