Health and Safety      College of Science and Engineering (COSE)

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  • Principal Investigators and their Lab Managers supervise work areas and personnel and are responsible for following established safety policies and to provide a safe workplace in compliance with environmental, occupational health, and safety regulations. A guide for completing the lab-specific Chemical Hygiene and Safety Plan is available.



    Common Laboratory Safety Weaknesses


    Compliance Weakness

    Regulatory References*

    Unlabeled or improperlylabeled containers
    8 CCR 5194 (f)(4); (f)(8)
    8 CCR 5191 (h)(1)(A)
    8 CCR 5164 (a)
    (Viol.M501) SFHC1117
    (Viol.M501) SFFC8001.7; 8
    Incompatibles stored together.
    8 CCR 5164 (a)
    (Viol M401) SFHC1116 
    (Viol M401) SFFC8001.11.8
    Improper use or lack of gloves, safety glasses, splash goggles, protective clothing, lab coats.
    8 CCR 3380 (c)
    Respirator violations including lack of fit testing, training, medical, protocol
    8 CCR 5194 (i)
    8 CCR 5144 (c)(1)
    Lack of available MSDSs or knowledge of where the MSDSs are kept.
    8 CCR 5194 (g)(1)
    8 CCR 5194 (h)(1)(B)
    Eating and drinking in the laboratories or food/beverages in chemical/sample refrigerators.
    8 CCR 5194 (f)(4)(A)(3)
    Defective or lack of guards such as the one on drive belts for vacuum pumps, overridden interlocks, coverings, or indicators.
    8 CCR 3320
    8 CCR 3328 (c)
    Damaged electrical outlets and power cords
     (e.g., frayed insulation near plug).
    8 CCR 2510.4
    Expired or untagged hazardous waste
    22 CCR 66262.34 (e)(1)(c); (f)
    (Viol G501) SFHC1117
    (Viol G501) SFFC8001.7
    Inadequate or inconsistent training program
    8 CCR 5191 (f)(1)
    8 CCR 5194 (h)(1)
    8 CCR 3203 (a)(7)
    22 CCR 66265.16 (d); (e)


    Referenced Regulations

    * CCR: Code of California Regulations
    Title 8. Industrial Relations
    Title 22. Social Security
    SFHC:  San Francisco Health Code
    SFFC:   San Francisco Fire Code



    Extension Cords


    Extension cords are for temporary use to power equipment for presentation purposes.

    1. Protect cords from physical damage or wet conditions
    2. Mark cord location or block access to cord to prevent a trip hazard
    3. Make sure all electrical cords are in good condition and used as intended
    4. Computers, monitors, projectors, etc., must be plugged into power strips or extension cords that are rated to handle the load. Light-duty extension cords, especially those without the third grounding hole, are not acceptable.
    5. Power strips must be equipped with GFCI's (ground fault circuit interrupters) that will shut off power to appliances if overloaded.
    6. One may not "daisy chain" extension cords, power strips, etc in order to reach an outlet out of reach of an item needing power.



    Fire Safety Considerations

    1. Blocked exits and aisles
    2. Storage too close to ceiling (2 ft clearance required)
    3. Blocked fire extinguishers, eye washes, and safety showers
    4. Excessive clutter and paper storage
    5. Storage of "Extremely Flammable Liquids" on the floor
      Note: Class 1A flammables such as ethyl ether, pentane, acetaldehyde, petroleum ether MUST
      be stored in a flammables storage cabinet regardless of quantity.
    6. Flammable storage cabinets must have self-closing doors and meet applicable OSHA, NFPA 30, and UFC 79 standards.
    7. Ethyl ether containers must be 1L or less AND must have date received written on it. Expired ethyl ether must be taken to the stockroom for disposal.
    8. Flammable gas cylinders must have attached grounding wires.
    9. No coffee pots, toasters, or microwaves in offices. Allowed in designated food areas only such as department break rooms.
    10. Only "plenum-rated" cords and cables are permitted inside ceilings and walls.


    Gas Cylinders

    1. Gas cylinders must be secured with two chains/brackets -- at the bottom third and top third.
    2. Before relocating gas cylinders, make sure double-brackets and/or chains are in place. In certain cases, a smaller size cylinder may be necessary to make sure it can be correctly double-bracketed.
    3. Cylinders containing flammable gas (i.e., carbon monoxide, hydrogen, acetylene) must be grounded. Make sure a ground wire is attached to the cylinder stem at one end and a metal pipe/rod that goes to ground (i.e., plumbing pipes) wherever it is in use.





    Housekeeping in the Lab

    Good housekeeping in laboratories is essential to reduce risks and protect the integrity of experiments. Routine housekeeping must be relied upon to provide work areas free of significant sources of contamination. Housekeeping procedures should be based on the highest degree of risk to which personnel and experimental integrity may be subjected.

    Laboratory personnel are responsible for cleaning laboratory benches, equipment and areas that require specialized technical knowledge. To facilitate decontamination, the laboratory should be kept neat and free of clutter—surfaces should be clean and free of infrequently used chemicals, glassware and equipment. Access to sinks, eyewash stations, emergency showers and exits, and fire extinguishers must not be blocked.

    Additional laboratory housekeeping practices include:

      1. Reduce clutter on laboratory benches. Surfaces should be clean and free of infrequently used chemicals, glassware and equipment.
      2. Properly dispose of chemicals and wastes. Old and unused chemicals should be disposed of promptly and properly.

      3. Dispose of biohazardous and radioactive waste in specifically labeled containers, and processed in accordance with University policies.

      4. Keep aisles and corridors free of tripping hazards and blockages from trash and stored furniture or equipment.

      5. Remove unnecessary items on floors, under benches or in corners.

      6. Avoid filling up fume hood work space with excessive storage of chemicals or other materials.

      7. Clean and certify all laboratory equipment before being released for repair, maintenance, or disposal.


    Practical Custodial Considerations

    Housekeeping staff will not enter areas they are not authorized to enter, or do work for which they have not been properly trained, or which has not been specifically assigned to them. Housekeeping will not remove biologically contaminated or radioactive trash or move within a lab containers holding such trash. Housekeeping will not assist in spill clean up. If you need assistance with a laboratory spill call your stockroom staff or campus EHOS at x8-1449.




    Personal Protective Equipment

    Engineering and administrative controls aren’t always effective in eliminating hazards and sometimes aren’t feasible for specific tasks. In these situations, using personal protective equipment (PPE) may be necessary to protect the health and safety of workers. For example, transferring hexane from a 5 gallon container may be difficult to do in a fume hood, so the transfer may be done in the solvent storage room. In doing so, however, you lose the protection provided by the fume hood sash and need an alternate way to protect the eyes and face from splashed solvent.

    Using personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect employees is considered the last resort when engineering and administrative controls aren’t enough. In part, this is because PPE effectiveness is dependent upon both consistently choosing the right equipment and wearing it properly.


    Examples of personal protective equipment:

    1. Gloves
    2. Splash goggles
    3. Safety glasses with sideshields*
    4. Faceshield
    5. Lab Coat
    6. Welding apron
    7. SCBA breathing apparatus

    *Note: Safety glasses with sideshields are designed protect eyes from flying objects and provide minimal eye protection from splashes. They don’t protect the face very well and are not suitable for working with corrosive or toxic liquids in anything above very small quantities.


    COSE Policy

    Departments are responsible for setting policies on the type, quantity, and enforcement of personal protective equipment in teaching and research areas. Although COSE Health and Safety staff is available to provide guidance, they neither choose the specific brand or material nor can they be responsible for enforcement of department policies.



    Show people how to use their PPE. When it comes to safety, effectively using and caring for protective equipment is as important as choosing the right equipment.

    1. Train lab workers to use and store their PPE properly
    2. Inform them of equipment limitations
    3. Enforce their use when required




    Respirators and Dust Masks



    Intended Purpose


    Dust masks, or “filtering facepiece respirators”, are intended to protect the wearer from inhaling excessive dust, dirt, aerosols, and for some types, welding fumes. They do not protect against gases, vapors, or harmful quantities of particulates.

    The following conditions must exist in order for dust mask respirators to be used voluntarily:

    1. Exposure to airborne contaminants is below OSHA permissible exposure limits (PELs).
    2. Exposure is only to non-toxic nuisance materials (plant dust, agar dust).
    3. There is no exposure to airborne infectious disease agents.
    4. The dust mask is not worn to reduce exposure to gases or vapors.
    1. COSE Policy covers dust masks
    2. Users must read a short training policy sheet entitled, "Information for Employees Using Filtering Facepiece Respirators When Not Required”.
    3. All dust masks must meet NIOSH N95 standards.

    Simple surgical masks can reduce the spread of bacteria in aerosols. Apart from protecting the wearer from splashes in the mouth with body fluids, they are intended to protect others from the wearer's oral and nasal bacteria. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaled particles.

    Surgical masks are not allowed.



    A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, and/or gases.

    Users must comply with the SFSU Respirator Program before a respirator may be issued by Campus EHOS.

    1. Evaluation of exposure
    2. Medical Review
    3. Training
    4. Fit Testing




    Signs, Labels, and Storage: Frequently Asked Questions

    Is a room sign present and accurate?
    If no, then
    Each lab and hazardous materials storage room must have a current room sign that accurately indicates hazard Information. Contact COSE Health and Safety Staff to update the old sign or to obtain a new one.
    Is the lab-specific Chemical Health and Safety Plan posted or on file?
    If no, then
    The Principal Investigator or Lab Manager must complete and sign a Chemical Health and Safety Plan customized for their laboratory. A supplement to the COSE Chemical Hygiene Plan, this fill-in-the-blank document specifies hazards, safety equipment, and precautions for a specific lab.
    Are cabinets, refrigerators, and shelves labeled with the type of hazardous materials stored inside?
    If no, then
    Labels for cabinets, etc. with hazardous materials inside must be labeled with the type of material and hazard inside. The campus has developed cabinet labels that cover the most common hazard types.
    Contact COSE Health and Safety Staff to get new labels or to obtain specialty labels.
    Are there >6 gallons of flammable liquids stored outside of a flammables storage cabinet?
    If yes, then
    Store excess flammable liquids in an approved cabinet or storage room. These are non-sprinklered buildings so storage of flammable liquids outside of approved flammable storage cabinets is limited to <6 gallons in most labs.
    Are there 5-gallon cans of flammable liquids stored in the room?
    If yes, then
    Store 5 gallon cans of flammable liquids inside an approved flammable storage cabinet or move to a designated flammables storage room. They may not be stored on the floor. Contact your stockroom for assistance.
    Do you transfer flammable liquids from cans into smaller bottles or cans?
    If yes, then
    Perform this transfer in the stockroom flammable storage room using the bonding and grounding clamps provided. Do not do this in the lab.
    Class I flammable liquids, like hexane, methanol, and acetone can build up static electricity during transfer and cause a spark. The flammables storage room also provides a fire suppression system and some ventilation.
    Are non-flammable liquids stored in an NFPA/OSHA/UFC approved cabinet?
    If yes, then
    Relocate them to other storage cabinets or shelves. Only flammable and combustible liquids may be stored in these specialty cabinets.
    Are flammable compressed gases, such as carbon monoxide, acetylene, and hydrogen being used?
    If yes, then
    Make sure that all "in-use" flammable gas cylinders are grounded to a metal pipe or other item that goes to ground. Contact your stockroom or COSE Health and Safety staff for examples of grounding clamps.
    Are compressed gas cylinders secured so they can't fall?
    If no, then
    Secure gas cylinders, whether "in-use" or not with two straps or chains at the top and bottom third of the cylinder. Two straps or chains for each cylinder are required in the City/County of San Francisco, but a cylinder storage rack may be used in lieu of chains. Contact COSE Health and Safety Staff for assistance.
    Does your lab use or store ethyl ether?
    If yes, then
    Check containers to make sure they are 1L or less, have the date opened on them, and that they have not exceeded the expiration date printed on the label. Ethyl ether is extremely flammable and old product can form dangerous, explosive peroxide crystals.
    Are "acutely" or "particularly" toxic chemicals, carcinogens, and reproductive hazards handled and stored in a Designated Area?
    If no, then
    Check the Chemical Hygiene Plan for examples of the most common particularly hazardous chemicals. Carcinogenic chemical containers must be clearly labeled as "carcinogen" in addition to the standard manufacture's label.
    Review the SOP (Standard or Safe Operating Procedure) for the chemical(s) with lab personnel.
    Are new containers of chemicals dated when opened?
    If no, then
    Start doing so with the next shipment. Old chemicals can degrade and some can form hazardous peroxides and other compounds.
    Is there insufficient storage space so containers are stacked on top of each other?
    If yes, then
    Reduce chemical storage by cleaning out unneeded reagents or find other storage locations. Do not stack reagents or work on overcrowded counters.
    Are labels on chemical containers, including cleaners, DI water, etc., damaged or not present?
    If yes, then
    Relabel containers with damaged or illegible labels, including beakers, flasks, and bottles. Unlabeled chemicals pose expensive waste disposal problems and safety risks to lab staff and visitors.
    Are acids and bases stored together?
    If yes, then
    Separate them with secondary containment trays or move one group to a different cabinet.
    Do you use concentrated nitric acid?
    If yes, then
    Keep separate. May be stored in the same cabinet with mineral acids, as long as a separate tray is used for the nitric. Nitric acid is very corrosive, reactive, and a strong oxidizer. Do not store with acetic or formic acids.
    Do you use perchloric acid?
    If yes, then
    Obtain perchloric acid with a concentration of 70% or less. Above 70% requires special approval from the COSE Health and Safety staff and the installation of a designated perchloric acid fume hood equipped with a scrubber.
    Are acids, bases and solvents stored in secondary plastic trays?
    If no, then
    Store containers of hazardous liquids in secondary plastic trays to collect spills and leaks and aid in separating incompatible chemicals.
    Are chemical reactions visible on bottles or trays (discolored reagents, white haze on bottles)?
    If yes, then
    This could indicate that incompatible storage is present. Remove chemicals, wipe off containers and trays, and check for damaged or unneeded chemicals.




    More Information

    Glove Guide (Michigan State University)
    Eye and Face Protection Guide (Michigan State University)

    Electricity and Electrical Appliances (City of Phoenix)    


    Labels for Cabinets Storing Hazardous Materials



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