Department of Chemistry

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

A chemical lab is a potentially hazardous environment where accidents can and will happen. Please familiarize yourself with these lab rules and procedures. Being aware of the risks and the procedures to keep mishaps at a minimum is well worth your time and attention.

Laboratory rules

1. Safety glasses are required – No one is allowed to enter or work in the lab without safety glasses or safety goggles. Safety glasses must have shatter-resistant lenses, side shields and an ANSI rating of "Z87" or higher. Authorized safety glasses and goggles are available through the Chemistry Student Association (CSA) and other local supply houses. Your regular glasses or contact lenses can be worn in the lab, but you MUST wear safety goggles over them.

2. Working alone in the lab is not permitted – Undergraduate labs are NOT "open labs." You must do your work in them only during specified hours and with proper supervision. You may not work in undergraduate labs without an instructor or teaching assistant present.

3. Eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited (this includes instrument rooms) – Many chemicals have exceptionally high toxicity levels. Ingesting them will not be tolerated. Remember: Chemical and biological warfare is illegal by international agreement. Do not wage it upon yourself.

4. Use flammable liquids sparingly – Don’t stockpile flammable liquids (e.g., organic solvents). Large volumes of such liquids constitute a greater fire hazard than smaller amounts. Keep only the amount required for the day's experiment and dispose of waste solvents in the designated receptacles. And NEVER pour solvents down the drain!!!

5. Arms, legs and feet should be covered in lab – This is a safety code, NOT a dress code. Short pants and skirts (which expose calves or thighs) are not allowed. Sleeveless shirts (including spaghetti strap shirts), or shirts that bare your midriff are also not allowed—however, a lab coat may be worn over these shirts during lab. Closed-toed shoes that fully cover your feet are also required. Finally, hair longer than shoulder length must be put up in an appropriate manner to keep it out of harms way.

6. Notify the lab supervisor immediately of any hazardous spill, injury or accident– Check bottle labels, your lab manual, and chemical handbooks for warnings specific to the particular chemicals in use (e.g., lachrymator, carcinogen, toxic substance) and for information about antidotes or proper procedure(s) to be used in case of accidental exposure or to be followed for disposal. The absence of a warning should not be misconstrued as an indication of the absence of dangerous properties. The physiological activity of many materials is unknown.

Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available online at MSDS will give you:

  • Synonyms
  • Toxicity hazards
  • Physical data
  • Fire and explosion data
  • Reactivity data
  • Spill and leak procedures
  • Precautions to be taken in handling and storage

7. Pregnant women must notify the Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics of their condition

8. Chemical waste must be disposed of properly

Because of toxicity and flammability hazards, do not dispose of any chemicals by pouring them into the sink. Municipal sewage treatment plants are not equipped to remove these materials from sewage. Furthermore, with volatile and flammable materials, a spark or an open flame can cause an explosion in the sink or further down the drain.

Please refer to the UT Dallas Environmental Health and Safety website for the proper procedures for dispoal of any chemicals used in the lab:

Some specific rules:

  • The appropriate disposal method for waste solvents is to pour them into the appropriately labeled waste-solvent containers. Two waste-solvent containers are provided. One container is for general organic solvents; the other is for halogenated organic solvents and carcinogenic substances (including methylene chloride, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, benzene).

  • Never put acids, bases, or oxidizing agents into the waste-solvent containers. They may catalyze (possibly violent) chemical reactions resulting in the evolution of heat and fumes.

  • Waste mineral acids should be placed in the appropriate waste container provided.

  • Chromic acid waste should be kept in a separate, appropriately labeled container. Organic acid waste also should be dealt with separately, according to your lecturer's instructions.

  • Waste inorganic bases should be thoroughly diluted and placed into appropriate waste containers. Bases containing heavy metals should be placed in containers and appropriately labeled. Waste organic bases should be dealt with separately, according to your lecturer's instructions.

  • Chemical waste, solid or liquid, containing heavy metals such a mercury, lead, and chromium should be placed in individual waste jars and appropriately labeled. Spills of mercury metal should be reported to the instructor immediately.

  • Other chemical waste (both solid and liquid) must be dealt with according to your lecturer's instructions. Never put any chemical waste into the garbage can unless so instructed. All waste containers must be labeled, identifying contents, the principal investigator and lab room number. No Xerox content list will be accepted.

For additional safety suggestions, see the American Chemical Society's manual, "Safety in Academic Laboratories." This is available on loan from the Chemical Stockroom.

  • Updated: October 29, 2009