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General Safety Guidelines

Always follow these guidelines when working with chemicals:

  • Assume that any unfamiliar chemical is hazardous.
  • Know all the hazards of the chemicals with which you work. For example, perchloric acid is a corrosive, an oxidizer, and a reactive. Benzene is an irritant that is also flammable, toxic, and carcinogenic.
  • Consider any mixture to be at least as hazardous as its most hazardous component.
  • Never use any substance that is not properly labeled.
  • Follow all chemical safety instructions precisely.
  • Minimize your exposure to any chemical, regardless of its hazard rating.
  • Use personal protective equipment, as appropriate.
  • Use common sense at all times.

The five prudent practices of chemical safety sum up these safety guidelines:

  • Treat all chemicals as if they were hazardous.
  • Minimize your exposure to any chemical.
  • Avoid repeated exposure to any chemical.
  • Never underestimate the potential hazard of any chemical or combination of chemicals.
  • Assume that a mixture or reaction product is more hazardous than any component or reactant.

Material Safety Data Sheets

Before using any chemical, read the container label and the appropriate Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Container labels and MSDSs are good sources of information for chemical safety. They provide the following information:

  • Hazardous ingredients
  • Exposure limits
  • Physical and chemical characteristics, including the following:
    • Boiling point
    • Vapor pressure
  • Physical hazards, including the following: Flammability
  • Explosiveness
  • Reactivity
  • Health hazards, including chemicals that are:
    • Toxic
    • Carcinogens
    • Irritants
  • First-aid procedures
  • Proper leak, spill, and disposal techniques
  • Proper storage and handling procedures
  • Other special provisions

Safe Handling Guidelines

Employees should treat all chemicals and equipment with caution and respect.

When working with chemicals, remember to do the following:

  • Remove and use only the amount of chemicals needed for the immediate job at hand.
  • Properly seal, label, and store chemicals in appropriate containers. Keep the containers clearly marked and in a well-ventilated area.
  • Check stored chemicals for deterioration and broken containers.
  • Learn how to dispose of chemicals safely and legally. Follow Texas State University waste disposal requirements.
  • Clean up spills and leaks immediately.
  • Know what to do in an emergency.

Likewise, when working with chemicals, remember the following:

  • Do not store chemicals near heat or sunlight or near substances that might initiate a dangerous reaction.
  • Do not transport unprotected chemicals between the work area and other areas. Use a tray, rack, cart or rubber carrier. Always use a secondary container when transporting hazardous or highly odorous chemicals on an elevator.
  • Do not pour hazardous chemicals down the sink.
  • Do not put fellow workers or yourself in danger.

Hygiene and Chemical Safety

Good personal hygiene will help minimize exposure to hazardous chemicals.

When working with chemicals, follow these guidelines:

  • Wash hands frequently and before leaving the laboratory. Also, wash hands before eating, drinking, smoking, or applying makeup.
  • Remove contaminated clothing immediately. Do not use the clothing again until it has been properly decontaminated.
  • Follow any special precautions for the chemicals in use.

In addition, follow these special precautions:

  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, or apply makeup around chemicals.
  • Do not wear contact lenses near chemicals, especially corrosives or volatile solvents.
  • Do not keep food or food containers anywhere near chemicals.
  • Do not use laboratory equipment to serve or store food or drinks.
  • Do not sniff or taste chemicals.

June 2011
Revised November 2014