Laboratory Procedures

Laboratory Safety Resources

Chemical Safety Committee (CSC) information

Department of Homeland Security Reporting

In late November, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new regulations for Universities and other “chemical facilities” regarding specific chemicals that can have an impact on national security.

A copy of the unedited Department of Homeland Security list, provided for reference purposes, which includes all chemicals of national concern is presented below.


Lab inspections are a tool used to educate researchers on safe operating practices and compliance measures as well as to perform hazard assessments — all in an effort to grow the safety culture in laboratories. Lab inspections are conducted by the Lab Safety Manager and/or Safety Committee as either a part of the Group Safety Representative Program (see description below) and/ or as a hazard assessment by the Lab Safety Manager. Principal Investigators and lab supervisors are responsible to perform periodic lab inspections and develop corrective action plans in response to all inspections. The Lab Safety Manager will conduct inspections for laboratories containing chemicals, the Biosafety Officer will conduct inspections for those laboratories using bio-hazardous agents and the Radiation Safety Officer will conduct inspections for laboratories utilizing radioisotopes.

Group Safety Representative Program

Goal: The program strives to raise awareness of safety in the laboratory or shop setting and identify where improvements can be made so as to make the laboratory or shop environment safer and achieve compliance.

Group Safety Representative Responsibilities

The Group Safety Representatives (GSRs) will:

  • Advise and assist their laboratory or shop supervisors in:
  • Training new personnel
  • Disseminating safety information
  • Conducting inspections of their group’s laboratories or shops
  • Inspecting and ensuring the maintenance of group safety equipment (spill containment kits, fire extinguishers, safety showers, and eyewash facilities)
  • Be responsible for assisting the PI or laboratory supervisor in:
  • Addressing safety and chemical hygiene issues
  • Evaluating and making recommendations of safety issues that concern the entire department
  • Participating in periodic safety inspections of department laboratories or shops
  • Investigating accidents and implementing improvements to the laboratory operations identified as post-accident assessment recommendations.

Eating, Drinking and Smoking

Eating, drinking, smoking, gum chewing, applying cosmetics and taking medicine in laboratories where hazardous chemicals are used is strictly prohibited.

  • Food, beverages, cups, microwaves and other drinking and eating utensils must not be stored in areas where hazardous chemicals are handled or stored.
  • Glassware used for laboratory operations should never be used to prepare or consume food or beverages.
  • Laboratory refrigerators, ice chests, cold rooms, ovens, microwaves and so forth must not be used for food storage or preparation. They must be labeled  for “Research Use Only”.
  • Laboratory water sources and de-ionized laboratory water should not be used for drinking water.
  • Desk areas are to be assessed for location to chemicals prior to use as an area to eat or drink.  Floor to ceiling walls and a door must separate food and drink consumption areas from a chemical use area.
  • UWM prohibits tobacco use on all campus property. All public sidewalks that border campus property are included in the policy. Smoking, chewing or vaping is allowed if you cross the street to a sidewalk across from campus property.


Rooms that are adjacent, but separated by floor-to-ceiling walls and a door, and do not have any chemical, radioactive or bio-hazardous agents present, may be used for food consumption, preparation or applying cosmetics at the discretion of the project director responsible for the areas.



Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications.

Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.

What’s New

Carbon Nanotubes And Nanofibers: NIOSH Seeks Comment On Draft Recommendations, Research Needs

NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin: Occupational Exposure to Carbon Nanotubes and Nanofibers pdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required


Minors in the Lab

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee restricts minors from laboratories, studios, shops and other campus areas where physical, chemical, biological or other potential health hazards are present.  Minors must be kept away from any area with a known hazardous condition. Babies and infants must be protected from any area with even a potential exposure or hazardous condition. Minors must be restricted from areas that store or use research animals, hazardous chemicals, radioisotopes, carcinogens, or biohazardous agents. Only minors who are authorized and trained are allowed in laboratories (i.e.: Students performing High School research projects). Authorization of minors in research labs is processed in conjunction with the approval of Principal Investigators, Department Management, Departmental Chair, parents and University Safety and Assurances. Minors are not allowed to be in the labs until after they guidelines are discussed and approved by US&A.

Please contact University Safety and Assurances with any questions.

Child Abuse and Neglect Policy and Criminal Background Check Policy

In accordance with UWM’s Child Abuse and Neglect Policy and Executive Order #54, “Criminal background checks will be performed pursuant to UWM’s Criminal Background Check Policy, and must be conducted on employees, volunteers, and contractors who have regular contact with children in the course of performing duties or services for UWM or in connection with a UWM-sponsored activity.” This policy applies to those individuals affiliated with UWM. Click on the links above to access the two policies and for more info and training.

Scientific Diving

Most educational and scientific diving activities at U.S. universities and research institutes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (29 CFR 1910). In the State of Wisconsin these regulations have been adopted by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. The School of Freshwater Sciences has been delegated the responsibility for ensuring that all university departments involved in scientific diving comply with these regulations.

The purpose of the scientific diving standards is to ensure that all scientific diving under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is conducted in a manner that will emphasize protection of scientific divers from accidental injury and/or illness.

For additional information, please contact Geoff Anderson, Diving Safety Officer, (414-382-1709, or email

Working in Isolation

The “Working in Isolation” policy was created through the UW System to ensure the safety of faculty, staff and students who work, volunteer, or perform for credit activities alone in potentially hazardous environments within, but not limited to campus teaching and research laboratories, studios, workshops and other facilities or environments.

In order to comply with the policy UW-Milwaukee University Safety and Assurances has developed a BP logix  Working in Isolation Form to support the policy and procedures to operationalize this UW System Administrative Policy.

Supervisors, PIs, Staff and students can utilize the sign off when isolated work is needed to ensure “they receive explicit written approval from the person in charge of the work” as directed by the policy.  This policy applies to faculty, staff and students who work, volunteer, or perform for credit activities alone in potentially hazardous environments within, but not limited to campus teaching and research laboratories, studios, workshops and other facilities or environments.  

Individuals conducting hazardous operations or using hazardous chemicals or materials within campus laboratories, studios and workshops, research facilities or similar environments ordinarily should not work in isolation. Those performing maintenance or repair of equipment or campus property involving hazardous operations, chemicals or materials ordinarily should not work in isolation. At least one other individual who is knowledgeable of safety equipment and can come to the aid of the worker should be in visual or audible range. This policy does not supersede activities that have more stringent requirements such as permit required confined spaces.

Individuals may work in isolation if they receive explicit written approval from the person in charge of the work. Written approval may be granted if the person in charge of the work has completed the checklist of items provided in this form. A copy of the completed and approved checklist is automatically forwarded to University Safety and Assurances via BP Logix. Store a copy of the approved form in an easy to find location, that is accessible to all and available at all times.

The checklist for written approval includes the following list of items to be completed by the person in charge of the work:

  1. Conducted a hazard analysis to assess the work area to identify potential or existing hazards, determine if the hazards can be mitigated, and decide whether such activities should be closely monitored, restricted or disallowed.
  2. Implemented procedures and corrective actions to eliminate, minimize or control hazards when individuals are working in isolation.
  3. Assessed and documented the requirements for emergency equipment, emergency aid, and a means of obtaining emergency assistance based upon the nature and degree of the exposure to the hazard.
  4. Ensured emergency aid and communications systems are available and compatible with work assignments. This includes providing an effective communication system between any individual who works in isolation and person(s) capable of assisting the individual.
  5. Ensured a point of contact is aware of the individual’s location and the time frame they will be at the location while working alone.
  6. Ensured the individual understands and is fully trained on emergency procedures.
  7. Educated and trained (document training) the individual on all safety procedures, practices and protocols which include:
    1. Adherence to appropriate measures established for working in isolation; and
    2. Awareness of the hazards and the methods used to control or eliminate them so work can be performed safely.
  8. Evaluated safety measures on a regular basis to ensure that the practices are applicable, effective, compliant and in consideration of any new changes in work tasks or operations.
  9. Ensured incidents and injuries are reported immediately to the person in charge of the work.
  10. Ensured all incidents are investigated, corrective action taken when necessary and documented.
  11. Developed a system, such as after-hour permits or permission forms for undergraduate students, to prevent untrained persons from gaining access to laboratories and other hazardous locations within campus buildings.

The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the UW System is committed to providing a safe and healthful higher education environment for students, faculty, staff and other people using UW programs and facilities. As part of this commitment, it is essential that UW System institutions have risk assessments, hazard analyses and procedures in place for circumstances that may require an individual to work in isolation in a hazardous or potentially hazardous environment or one with high-risk hazards.

A copy of the completed and approved checklist is automatically forwarded to University Safety and Assurances via the BP Logix form once it is completed by the area supervisor/PI. Store the approved form in an easy to find location, that is accessible to all and available at all times.

Reactive Chemicals

Laboratory workers must be trained to recognize those chemicals which they may come across which are potentially reactive or explosive. Reactive chemicals, for the purpose of this page, are defined as those substances which can, in contact with air, water or other common substances, vigorously or violently give off heat, energy or toxic gases or vapors. Some of the classes of chemicals which can contain reactive chemicals include:

Reactive Chemicals List.pdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required

For a partial listing of chemical incompatabilities, see “Chemical Incompatabilities.”
(This document is courtesy of the University of Kansas, Department of Environmental Health and Safety)

Air Reactives:

Air reactive chemicals are chemicals which react violently in contact with air or oxygen or with compounds containing oxygen. Sometimes air reactive chemicals are called spontaneously combustible or pyrophoric materials. Pyrophoric materials burst into flame spontaneously upon contact with air or oxygen. These materials are sometimes sold in gas cylinders, although they may not be gases themselves. They may be sold packaged under nitrogen or some other inert atmosphere, or they may be created by a chemical reaction in your laboratory. The flame of certain pyrophoric materials is clear and not readily visible. Spontaneous combustion means that the material does not need an ignition source to begin combustion, or to burn.


  • alkali metals (potassium, cesium)
  • finely divided metal dusts (nickel, zinc, titanium)
  • hydrides (barium hydrides, diborane, diisobutyl aluminum hydride).

Water Reactives:

Water reactive materials can react violently or vigorously in contact with water, wet surfaces, or even the moisture in the air. These chemicals may react to give off a flammable gas (such as hydrogen) or a toxic gas, (such as phosgene) or spontaneously burn or explode. Water is obviously NOT a good choice for putting out fires caused by water reactive chemicals. A class D fire extinguisher is designed to be used to fight fires caused by certain water reactive chemicals.


  • Alkali metals (Sodium metal, lithium metal)
  • Anhydrides (acetic anhydrides)
  • Carbides (calcium carbide)
  • Halides (Acetyl chloride, titanium chloride, stannous chloride)
  • Hydrides (sodium hydride)
  • Organometallics (tetramethyl aluminum)
  • oxides (sodium oxides)
  • Peroxides (sodium peroxide)
  • Phosphides (aluminum phosphide)
  • and others (chlorosulfonic acid, aluminum tribromide).

Peroxide Formers:

Certain chemicals can form peroxide either upon aging, or upon contact with air or other substances. Some of the peroxides are shock sensitive and can explode if handled less than gingerly, or upon heating. Sometimes peroxides can be present in a solvent and cause no problem until the solvent is evaporated (during distillation, for example) and the peroxides concentrate.

If you work with peroxide formers:

  • Date bottle when material is received
  • Test for peroxides before every use or every 3 months
  • Write the test results on the bottle with the date tested and your initials
  • If the material is greater than or equal to 80ppm, it is considered a peroxide hazard, contact Environmental Protection office.



  • Ethers (Isopropyl ether, ethyl ether, diethyl ether)
  • 1,4-dioxane
  • Tetrahydrofuran


Out of the many polymers today, a many generate large amounts of heat upon polymerization, and a few can cause runaway polymerization reaction which can explode. Sometimes the heat buildup can cause bumping, over-booking, or rupture of the container, which can also cause explosive-like damage.


  • acrylic acid
  • butadiene
  • cyclopentadiene
  • ethylene
  • styrene
  • vinyl chloride


Explosives can release extremely large amounts of thermal or physical energy. Explosive can cause a true detonation, which is defined as a shock wave traveling at supersonic speeds. Subsonic shock waves are called deflagrations.


  • Acetylanic compounds
  • Azides
  • Azo compounds
  • Chlorite/chlorate/perchlorates
  • Fulminates
  • Nitro compounds
  • Nitro esters
  • Other compounds with excess nitrogen
  • Picrates
  • Peroxides
  • Strained ring compounds

Additional Resources:

Please keep in mind when chemical reactions are not properly managed, they can have harmful, or even catastrophic consequences, such as toxic fumes, fires, and explosions. Laboratory personnel should protect themselves by identifying those substances which have the potential to cause violent reactions. Clear identification of containers, proper storage practices, complete training and information on chemicals, and timely removal and disposal of reactive chemicals can significantly reduce the probability of accidents or injuries. For disposal of reactive chemicals, please contact Environmental Affairs staff at x4999 or x2883.

Additional information on working safely with dangerously reactive solids and liquids can be found at:

Accident/Incident Reporting

All university employees, with the exception of Research Assistants, are covered under the provisions of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act, Chapter 102, Wisconsin Statutes, at no cost to the employee. Worker’s Compensation pays benefits in the event an employee is injured, acquires a disease or dies as a result of employment at UW-Milwaukee. Benefits provided may include disability payments, death benefits, and payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses.

All accidents, injuries, or near-misses should be reported to your supervisor. Supervisors are required to complete the “Employer’s First Report of Injury or Disease” form and send it to Worker’s Compensation, located in Engelmann 125, within 24 hours after being notified of a work-related injury or illness. This form must be properly completed in order to meet state and federal reporting requirements and to file a claim under Workers Compensation. The information on this form may initiate an accident investigation by the Department of University Safety and Assurances, where applicable.

NOTE: Should an injury result in more than three days lost time from work, contact the Worker’s Compensation Office at x5652. Medical documentation is required to substantiate disability payments under Worker’s Compensation.

A “General Incident Report”pdf format, Adobe Acrobat Required is completed when an undergraduate student (not employed by UWM), a Graduate Student Research Assistant (payrolled by UWM), a volunteer or guest is injured. Students who are payrolled as Graduate Student Research Assistants are considered to be working on a degree and are not considered employees for worker’s compensation purposes. The “General Incident Report” form should be completed within 24 hours of the injury and submitted to the University Safety and Assurances.

Whenever an incident/injury occurs the following actions must be taken:

  1. Incident/injury must be reported immediately to supervisor.
  2. Supervisor and/or department completes the State of Wisconsin standard form for Workers Compensation injuries. These forms can be obtained from the Worker’s Compensation Office located in Engelmann Hall, Room 125.
  3. Questions regarding the Worker’s Compensation form or claim handling should be referred to the Worker’s Compensation Office in Engelmann 125 or at x5652.
  4. Supervisors and/or departments should investigate the cause or causes of incidents to prevent reoccurrence. The Department of University Safety & Assurances located in Engelmann Hall Room 270 (x6339) can be contacted by the department for technical assistance if needed.
  5. Follow-up should be done by the department to ensure that corrective action has been taken.
  6. The UW-System Office of Safety and Loss Prevention records all Worker’s Compensation claims received from the UWM Worker’s Compensation Office. Incidents are summarized according to accident type, injury type and body part. In addition, a summary of incident date, name, occupation, incident description and days lost are listed.

The “Employee’s Work Injury and Illness Report” and the “Employer’s First Report of Injury or Disease” forms are available online or from the <a “”>Worker’s Compensation Office in Engelmann 125. Any questions or concerns regarding the Worker’s Compensation Program should be addressed to staff in the Worker’s Compensation Office at x5652.