7.0 Laboratory Safety Practices

7.1 General

  • Read and follow the guidelines on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) before handling any chemical only those trained in WHMIS will be permitted entry into laboratories.

  • Approved safety goggles are required eye protection when handling chemicals that may have a splash hazard in the laboratory. Approved safety glasses with side shields may be worn if there is impact hazard and no splash hazard. See also Section 9.0, PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT and SAFETY EQUIPMENT.

  • Wearing a lab coat which extends below the knee, when working in the laboratory or shop, is required.

  • Keep doors locked when no one is in the room.

  • Avoid emergencies by careful thought and planning of your work. Being prepared for emergencies will reduce confusion and shock if an incident does occur.

  • Read and understand the operating instructions before attempting to operate any machine or instrument.

  • Beware of moving parts of machinery. Shut down the machine to make adjustments rather than risk injury.

  • Safety shields or guards must be in place before starting any machine.

  • Be sensitive to the strength (or fragility) of materials. Do not exert brute force on sticky controls, bottle tops, ground-glass connections, and such; there is usually a non-destructive way of freeing them. Screwed fittings should be tightened but not overdriven (extra turns will only damage or seize the threads and weaken the connection).

  • Food or Drink is not allowed in any laboratory.

  • Sandals, and open toed foot wear is not permitted in any laboratory. http://www.safety.queensu.ca/safety/policy/eh&s/footprotection.pdf.

  • Communicate with fellow researchers and advise of experiments in progress.

  • Work involving volatile materials shall be done in fume hood or other containment facility.

  • Do not leave an experiment running unattended when prudence dictates that you should be there to monitor performance. Post a sign on the door indicating; your name, date, what experiment is underway and who to contact in case of problems if it is necessary to leave an experiment unattended.

  • Label reagents and samples according to WHMIS legislation. Experimental codes, or your initials are not sufficient. Any person entering the lab should be able to identify the contents of any container.

  • Personal Listen Devices such as mp3 players are not permitted in the laboratory as they interfere with communication.

  • Cell Phones shall not be used in the laboratory as they will become contaminated.

7.2 Designated Substances

A "designated substance" means a biological, chemical or physical agent or combination thereof prescribed as a designated substance to which the exposure of a worker is prohibited, regulated, restricted, limited or controlled.

The following are designated substances;

  • ACRYLONITRILE
  • ARSENIC
  • ASBESTOS
  • BENZENE
  • CARBON DISULFIDE
  • CARBON TETRACHLORIDE
  • COKE OVEN EMISSIONS
  • ETHYLENE OXIDE
  • ISOCYANATES
  • LEAD
  • MERCURY
  • SILICA POWDER
  • STYRENE
  • VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER
OHSA Chapter 321 1.6, Chapter 0.1 Section 1[1]

Special precautions, as dictated in the OHSA books on designated substances, must be taken when handling these items.

7.3 Mutagens, Teratogens, and Carcinogens

These chemicals fall under WHMIS Class D - Poisonous and Infectious Material, Division 2 - Materials causing other toxic effects (toxic over time).

All of these chemicals or substances should be considered dangerous and require special care and handling according to the MSDS. They are especially dangerous to pregnant women during the first trimester. Consult with your supervisor to discuss the potential risks in your area.

Mutagen a material that induces genetic changes (mutations) in the DNA of chromosomes. Chromosomes are the "blue prints" of life within individual cells.
Teratogen an agent or material that causes physical defects in a developing embryo (most dangerous during the first three months of pregnancy).
Carcinogen a material that has either been found to cause cancer in humans or to cause cancer in animals and therefore is considered capable of causing cancer in humans.

7.4 Working Alone

Working alone is defined as the performance of work by a person who is out of audio and visual range of other persons. Depending on the type of work being done, the work area, and the time of day or night, working alone can be harmless or it can be dangerous.

There are certain activities in Chemical Engineering which should not be performed alone: handling dangerous reactive chemicals, ladder or scaffold work over five feet high, high voltage work, etc. People should work alone only if there is minimal potential for an accident to occur which might render the person helpless to call for assistance.

Hazardous work performed after hours on normal work days, on weekends, or holidays should be kept to a minimum. If these activities are necessary the following procedure must be followed:

  1. After hours, laboratory work must have your supervisor's approval.

  2. Set up a buddy system with a friend, or use the Lone Worker Program.

Lone Worker Program (for Graduate Students)
  1. Call security at 36733 to tell them who you are, what you are doing, your location and phone number, how long you expect to be, and who to contact in case of emergency. They will then set up a check-in routine with you.

  2. Call security when you have completed your work or if your work will extend beyond the time you expected. If you do not call in at the designated time they are to check to see if you are safe.

Walk-home Service 39255 (on campus), 533-9255 (off campus)
Campus Security Escort Service 36080 (on campus), 533-6080 (off campus)

7.5 Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS)

OHSA Ontario Regulation 644/88

      • All supervisors are required to provide WHMIS training for workers who come in contact with hazardous goods (Bill C-70). This is covered by Queens WHMIS Standard Operating Procedure

      • Read Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) before handling any chemical, and follow the guidelines indicated. Maintain MSDS sheets in good order and replace as they expire every three years.

      • Maintain a paper file of MSDS sheets in the laboratory for every chemical contained in the laboratory. MSDS sheets must be updated every 3 years.

      • An electronic copy of the MSDS is available on Chemwatch FFX

      • Label reagents and samples according to WHMIS legislation. Experimental codes are not sufficient. Any person entering the lab should be able to identify the contents of a container.

      • A list of all chemicals in the laboratory is available on Vertere. This database is only available from computers on Queens Campus. You will need an ID and Login which will be provided when you complete your Safety Orientation Forms.

7.6 Handling of Chemicals

7.6.1 General

      • Know the properties of the chemicals you are handling before you use them.

      • Do not requisition unnecessarily large quantities of chemicals.

      • All containers with chemicals must be labeled in accordance with WHMIS criteria.

      • Know the appropriate action to take in the event of a chemical spill.

      • Dispose of surplus and waste chemicals promptly. For proper disposal procedures, consult with the Chemical Technologist, or the supplier of the chemical, or visit http://www.safety.queensu.ca/hazwaste/. (See also Section 8.12).

      • Transport hazardous chemicals (i.e. solvents) and chemical waste in approved safety carriers, which can be obtained from the Chemical Technologist. Chemicals, specifically gases and liquid nitrogen should never be transported by private vehicle.

      • Manipulations of volatile hazardous chemicals shall be performed in a fume hood.

7.6.2 Strong Acids and Bases

      • Use an approved safety carrier for carrying glass bottles of these chemicals, which can be obtained from the Chemical Technologist.

      • Wear personal protective equipment (gloves, safety glasses, lab coat, apron) when pouring strong acids or bases.

      • When making solutions, always pour concentrated acids into water, and not vice versa.

      • In dissolving alkalies, use cold water and add the flakes or grounds of alkali slowly to avoid boiling and spattering.

      • When making or transferring strong acids or bases always use a drip tray.

7.6.3 Flammable Liquids

A liquid with a flash point below 37.8°C
      • The maximum capacity of any container containing flammable liquid in any laboratory shall not exceed four litres. Four litre containers shall not be used for routine benchwork. Four litre containers are to be stored in a solvent safety cabinet. Maximum size for routine bench work is one litre. Flammables in four litre containers are to be transferred to one litre containers before using. (Queen's Occupational Health and Safety and NFPA 45).

      • All bottles or cans of flammable liquids shall be stored in a solvent safety cabinet when not in immediate use.

      • Handle any volatile hazardous chemical in a fume hood.

      • Do not handle these liquids near possible ignition sources (switches and motors that are not explosion-proof, variacs, flames, open electric heaters, etc.).

7.6.4 Toxic Chemical

      • Avoid inhalation of gases or vapours when handling these materials in a fume hood or in a well-ventilated area.

      • Avoid contamination of skin by wearing personal protective equipment.

      • Review your working area regularly, remove hazardous chemicals promptly and dispose of properly.

      • When using toxic gases such as Carbon Monoxide or Hydrogen Sulfide a detector is required in the area which the gas is used.

7.7 Bottled Compressed Gases

      • Cylinders of compressed gases must be properly secured individually at ALL times.

      • When moving gas cylinders, use the carts available for that purpose. Secure the cylinder to the cart with a strap, chain, or tie. The cylinder cap should always be in place before the cylinder is moved.

      • Never attempt to move or lift a cylinder by holding onto the collar at the top. The collar is not welded to the cylinder and may dislodge.

      • Use the correct type of pressure regulator for the given gas and cylinders. Never interchange regulators. Never attempt to repair a regulator.

      • Be aware that connections with grooved nuts are reverse thread. Nuts with reverse thread have notch in the flat.

      • DO NOT USE Teflon tape on valves, regulators, or in making connections with cylinders.

      • Do not lay gas cylinders down for use. They must be upright and secured against falling.

      • Replace the cylinder cap when the cylinder is disconnected.

      • When returning empty cylinders, close the valve before shipment - leave some positive pressure in the cylinder.

      • Full and empty cylinders should not be stored together. Return empty cylinder promptly to shipping area. Mark cylinder as "EMPTY" or "MT".

      • Open the cylinder valve slowly with the reducing valve closed (reducing valves close by turning counter-clockwise). With the cylinder valve open, slowly turn the reducing valve clockwise until the desired pressure is reached. To shut off gas, close the cylinder valve first. Keep both valves closed when the gas is not in use.

      • When venting flammable, toxic, or corrosive gases, established waste disposal procedures must be followed. Caution some gases auto-ignite.

      • When discharging gas into a liquid, a trap or suitable check valve must be used to prevent liquid from suck back into the cylinder or regulator.

      • Never use a flame or subject any part of a compressed gas cylinder to high temperatures.

      • All gas delivery components shall be leak-tested when the bottle is changed.

      • Lubrications shall never be applied to any regulator as this may cause a violent reaction.

7.8 Chemical Storage

      • Follow MSDS for storage suggestions and restrictions. Store chemicals in accordance with the Chemical Storage Procedures.

      • Do not store chemicals alphabetically. Segregate the following groups from each other; acids, bases, flammables, water reactives, oxidizers. Segregation means walls or distance.

      • Ensure all containers are in good condition and labeled according to WHMIS standards.

      • Store chemicals away from direct sunlight or sources of heat.

      • Store flammables in approved fire safety cabinets.

      • Store solids above liquids.

      • Properly dispose of empty, old or surplus chemicals. Disposal of Chemicals.

      • Liquids shall not be stored above eye level.

      • Do not store hazardous chemicals on high shelves out of easy reach.

      • Keep corrosives away from metal containers and heat sources.

      • Flammable liquids should only be stored in explosion-proof refrigerators or freezers if recommended by MSDS.

      • Do not store items protruding beyond the shelf edge.

      • Clean off containers from any drips or spills before returning container to storage.

      • Never store excessive quantities of chemicals any laboratory.

7.9 Biohazard

      • Facilities are accredited on a case-by-case basis, by the University Biohazard Committee based on the equipment, training and the work in progress/ proposed. 

      • All work must be accredited by the University Biohazard Committee before it can commence in any given facility.

      • All personnel working within any biohazard area must be trained in accordance with the facilities that they are working in. Biohazard Training.

7.10 Fumehoods

      • Are inspected annual to ensure proper operation.

      • Supervisors are to ensure that personnel using fumehoods have been instructed in its proper use. Fumehood SOP.

      • It is an offence under the Occupational Health & Safety Act to disable any protective device, such as the air flow monitor/alarm.

7.11 Distillations

      • Distillations must be reviewed by the Supervisor and the Safety Officer before they can be set up or moved.

      • Written Standard Operating Procedures for each distillation shall be approved by the Supervisor and the Safety Officer before distillations can be performed.

      • All heating mantles and cords shall be inspected before commencing any distillation.

      • While a distillation is being performed a responsible person shall remain in attendance of the distillation. The distillation should be signed as to the liquid being distilled and the person performing the distillation.

      • The sash of the fume hood shall remain closed while the distillation is in progress.

      • The water cooling line connections for all condensers must be clamped and the end of the hose to the drain must be weighted so as to prevent the hose from coming out of the sink. The water pressure changes in building according to water usage. In some cases it will be advisable to install a pressure reducing valve to regulate the pressure of the water.

      • Do not distill organic liquids to dryness.

7.12 Spills

      • Read Queens Spill SOP .

      • In the event of a mercury spill, clear the area and contact a Departmental Chemical Technologist. Post warning signs to keep everyone out of the immediate area.

      • Report Spills and use of spill material in order that it may be replaced.

7.13 Waste Disposal

      • Read the Hazardous Waste Disposal SOP.

      • Waste organic solvents shall be put in the marked containers provided for this purpose. When solvent is visible in the flash arrestor do not add additional material. It is your responsibility to have the container taken to the designated pick up spot for Chemical Engineering. Solvents must NEVER be dumped down laboratory sinks.

      • Glass and metal wastes shall be placed in containers provided for this purpose. NO OTHER WASTE SHALL BE PLACED IN THESE CONTAINERS.

      • Bottles and Cans must have the label defaced.

      • Needles should be disposed of in a container marked "SHARPS". Do not fill above the fill line on these containers. Sharps Disposal SOP.

      • Solid non hazardous wastes other than metal or glass, reasonably inert, dry and of low bulk density shall be placed in garbage containers provided.

      • Loose Packing Material from shipments received may be placed in the waste disposal can in the laboratory. Boxes should be broken down as should Wooden crates from equipment received and placed on the loading dock in the containers provided.

      • Regular boxed cardboard and other shipping containers can be left in the hallways. Will be removed by custodial staff on a regular basis.

      • Empty chemical bottles and containers shall be placed in the laboratory in a location designated for disposal. All containers should be rinsed and labels defaced. Empty Waste Chemical Container Disposal.

      • Organic solvents can be placed in the solvent waste container. To arrange disposal when solvent container is full, submit a Solvent Waste Disposal form.

      • Solid chemical waste can be placed in the designated chemical waste disposal area in the laboratory. It will be removed by sumbiting a Chemical Waste Disposal Form.

      • Small quantities of biohazard waste can be decontimated by autoclave. Autoclave SOP. For larger quantities, contact the Queen's Biohazard Safety Officer at 77077.

      • From other items that are not listed above, please contact one of the Departmental Chemical Technologist for assistance.

7.14 Lock-Out

      • All sources of power (electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, potential, chemical, etc.) must be de-energized before attempting to repair or alter a piece of equipment. Switching the equipment off does not offer the worker any sufficient protection.

      • Power must be locked with a padlock to which only one key exists and it is in the possession of the person doing the work. Next test the start button to ensure the power has been disengaged before starting work. A tag or sign should be attached to the lock or equipment so others will be aware of the problem. If two or more people are working on the same piece of equipment then each person must have their own lock on it. In some cases moving parts must be blocked to prevent movement.

      • Some pieces of equipment, machines, or pipelines will require locking out or disconnecting several power sources at once to make the job completely safe.

7.15 Heat Trapping

      • Equipment shall be sufficiently insulated to protect personnel and equipment from over-exposure to heat or cold.

      • When using water for cooling all flexible lines must be secured so as to prevent the lines from becoming disconnected. The water pressure changes in building according to water usage. In some cases it will be advisable to install a pressure reducing valve to regulate the pressure of the water.

7.16 Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act

    • Be aware of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act and the exceptions to the act. For more information contact the Safety Officer or the Environmental Health and Safety Department.

    • Ensure that all equipment is rated in excess of the pressure that you are subjecting the equipment to.