Introduction to Laboratory Health and Safety

All chemistry departments strive to expose their students to chemical theory as well as hands on laboratory experience. One of the strengths of the CSUF Chemistry Department is that all students have an opportunity to develop expertise in the chemical laboratory using chemicals, solutions, and different types of analytical equipment. As a consequence the student is exposed to materials which may be hazardous and have the ability to cause bodily harm if used in an inappropriate manner. The Chemistry Department has a continuing commitment to promoting and maintaining safe laboratory conditions for students, faculty, and staff.

All faculty, staff, and students should be aware of the departments policies and procedures related to chemical safety as outlined in the Chemistry Department's Safety Manual.  Some general saftey principles for working with laboratory chemicals include:

  • Because few chemicals are without hazards it is prudent to minimize all chemical exposures. Skin contact with chemicals should be avoided as a cardinal rule. All chemicals can be handled with safety if the hazards associated with that chemical are known and the proper precautions taken.
  • Avoid the underestimation of risk. Even chemicals with no known significant hazard should be handled with care. All substances of unknown toxicity should be considered toxic. One should assume that any mixture will be more toxic than its most toxic component. Do not underestimate the hazards of non-volatile residues from distillations which may contain impurities in concentrated amounts.
  • The best way to avoid exposures to airborne substances is to prevent their escape into the laboratory atmosphere with the use of fume hoods or other ventilation devices. Treat the air in the laboratory as breathing air not as a vapor dispersion medium.
  • Institute and maintain a working, viable safety program designed to minimize chemical exposures. Safety should be a visible, on going part of the educational process.
  • Ventilation levels in the laboratories should never allow the Permissible Exposure Limits or Threshold Limit Values to be exceeded. Use fume hoods to control the vapors or restrict the amount of chemical in use at any given time.

If students have ANY questions or concerns about laboratory saftey, they should discuss them with their laboratory instructor PRIOR to begining laboratory work.