Laboratory Safety

The goal of the Laboratory Safety program at Mount Holyoke is to create and maintain a safe and healthful teaching and research environment, teach safe practices, and promote safety awareness so that our students may learn to be responsible, creative, ethical and effective scientists. 

To accomplish this objective, the College requires that students, staff, faculty and visitors adhere to the laboratory safety procedures detailed in the sections that follow. These procedures address chemical safety, biological safety, radiation safety, use of machine tools and waste disposal and reference the requirements of a number of safety organizations and federal and state regulations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Department of Transportation, Department of Homeland Security, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 29 CFR 1910.1450: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) 105 CMR 120.000: Standards for Protection Against Radiation.

The lab safety procedures cover all science departments within the Science Center (Carr, Clapp, Cleveland, Kendade, Reese and Shattuck) as well as the Center for the Environment. The term 'Department' will be used throughout to refer to a multitude of departments and programs.

In addition to these general lab safety procedures, Science faculty/ staff members will establish additional work-specific safety requirements for hazards that may be encountered in their laboratories. Faculty/staff members are relied upon to use their best judgment in identifying and controlling additional hazards in the laboratory and are responsible for the safety of the students under their supervision.

Laboratory Working Alone and After Hours Policies

These policies apply to laboratory work in the Science Center: Clapp Laboratories, Carr Laboratories, Cleveland Hall, Kendade Hall, Reese Building and Shattuck Hall. Departments or individual faculty members may establish more restrictive policies for spaces under their control.

Laboratory Working Hours 

Working in laboratories from 9 pm to 7 am is defined as working "after hours". Working in laboratories at all other times is defined as working during “regular hours". Working between midnight and 7 am requires special authorization by the responsible faculty/ staff member.

Students Enrolled in Course Laboratory Sections 

Students enrolled in course laboratory sections are not allowed to perform laboratory procedures alone or after hours under any circumstances. When working in the laboratory during regular building hours, they must be accompanied by a qualified person: a member of the Mount Holyoke College community who is familiar with emergency procedures and who must be aware that they are serving in the "buddy" capacity. Properly accompanied students can work in a course laboratory outside of the regular laboratory periods but only during regular hours with the permission of the instructor.  The instructor is responsible for ensuring that the students receive sufficient training to work safely under the contemplated circumstances.

Student Independent Research Work 

A student may use laboratory facilities for independent research only after the faculty/ staff member in charge has reviewed the experimental procedure and any associated hazards, and has determined that the student possesses adequate training in proper experimental and emergency procedures. Students are responsible for performing all their work in accordance with those procedures. They must report all accidents, chemical spills, and unsafe conditions to the supervising faculty/ staff member. Certain laboratory operations require that a faculty/ staff member be present (e.g., use of pyrophoric material) or that another person be present regardless of the time of day. The responsible faculty/staff member will determine what operations require these or other special precautions and inform the students. Students working with chemicals must also satisfactorily complete chemical safety training provided by the Office of Environmental Health & Safety.

Students must have written permission from the supervising faculty/ staff member prior to working after hours in a laboratory. The Permission to Work Independently Form must be completed and on file in each student’s department or program office and a copy of the completed form must be posted in the laboratory. If the after hours work involves the use of chemicals, the permission form must also indicate that chemical safety training has been successfully completed. The Office of Environmental Health & Safety provides certification of successful training completion via direct email to the student.  Students must show their certificate to their supervising faculty/ staff member so they can complete the verification on the permission form.

Students working in research laboratories after hours must be accompanied by a qualified person in the laboratory.  If the qualified person is outside of the lab, they must remain within speaking distance.

Public Safety and Service will require a student to leave the building after hours if the student is working alone or if the student does not have a completed "Permission to Work Independently" form posted in the laboratory. Independent work students who are conducting laboratory procedures during regular building hours are encouraged to work with a qualified person nearby.

Student laboratory work between midnight and 7am should only be authorized when the experimental procedure requires that work be done during that time frame. This permission must be noted in the "Hours access is allowed" section of the "Permission to Work Independently" form. Students must be accompanied by a qualified person.

Faculty/Staff in the Laboratories 

There are no restrictions on the use of laboratories by faculty/ staff, research associates, technicians, or technical staff. They are expected to avoid working alone whenever possible and to use good judgment about performing hazardous procedures when working alone. This in no way implies that other safety requirements are waived - the use of good judgment implies expert knowledge of safe procedures and practices.

Emergency Procedures

Emergency Planning  

Effective emergency response requires preplanning. It is the responsibility of each science faculty/ staff member to evaluate the hazards of the experiments being performed, to determine appropriate emergency procedures, and to make all employees and students aware of those procedures. Call Public Safety and Service for all emergencies: 413-538-2304.

Emergency Equipment 

Easy access to emergency equipment is essential to quick response. Emergency equipment (fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, drench showers, alarm pull stations, gas shutoffs, panic alarm buttons) should never be blocked. Aisle space must also be maintained to ensure that the equipment can be reached. A quick check should be made of the laboratory each time it is entered to ensure that emergency equipment is accessible - any obstructions should be removed immediately. If any equipment is missing or damaged, it should be reported immediately to the Department Chair or Department Coordinator.

In laboratory courses, the instructor must demonstrate the use of fire extinguishers, safety showers, and eyewash stations at the beginning of each semester. Activation of the safety equipment is not required during demonstration.

Laboratory door windows to the hallway should not be covered unless necessary to block light for an experimental procedure. Visual contact between the labs and the hallway is an important safety measure.

Emergency Exits and Evacuation Plans 

Ready access to the exit(s) must be maintained in each laboratory. Remember that by blocking any exit in your laboratory, you may be blocking a necessary exit in the adjacent laboratory. You must consult Facilities Management before blocking any exit. Aisle space must also be maintained to ensure ready access to exits.

Exit signs designating all exits from the building and hallways are equipped with emergency lighting. These lights are on auxiliary power in the event of a power failure. Instructors must inform students of the location of emergency exits and of evacuation routes and assembly areas at the beginning of each semester.

Faculty/ staff should plan and discuss evacuation procedures with any persons in the laboratory that may need assistance during an evacuation.

Public Safety and Service conducts evacuation drills. If any faculty/ staff member is conducting research that could be impacted by an evacuation drill, they should notify their Department Coordinator regarding critical time periods for that research.  Public Safety and Service coordinates drills with Department Coordinators, Facilities Management and Environmental Health and Safety.  Faculty/ staff involved in animal care are notified in advance of all drills so preparations can be made.  

Emergency Communication 

Panic alarm buttons are located in Carr and Kendade laboratories, and some other areas of the Science Center.  The alarm is a blue box with a push button. Pushing the button sends an alarm alerting Public Safety and Service that there is an emergency situation in that area and an Officer will be dispatched. If a hazardous condition exists, leave the room after pushing the alarm. If no hazardous condition exists, await Public Safety and Service response for assistance. These alarm stations should not be used as a substitute for the fire alarm pull boxes, as they will not signal for building evacuation and a delay in Fire Department response would result.

Emergency fire alarm pull boxes are located in all hallways. These boxes sound an alarm throughout the building signaling evacuation, and directly alert Public Safety and Service. The emergency number (413-538-2304) should also be called from a safe distance to provide Public Safety and Service with details.  At the beginning of each semester, instructors inform students of the location of emergency alarm boxes and other emergency equipment and that immediate evacuation is mandatory upon hearing the alarm.

A card with the campus emergency number (413-538-2304) and whom to contact for information on the hazards of a particular laboratory is posted on every laboratory door. Departments are responsible for keeping signs current and legible.  Door cards are available from Environmental Health and Safety.

Public Safety and Service maintains a list of emergency contact information for critical locations including all areas with alarmed equipment. Public Safety and Service request updated information annually - any additional changes should be provided to Public Safety and Service by the departments.

General Emergency Procedures 

The first priority in emergency response is the protection of life and health. The following four basic steps apply to all emergency situations. Additional procedures for specific situations follow.

  1. Make sure everyone in the immediate vicinity is aware of the problem
  2. Contain the emergency if it can be done safely
  3. Pull the alarm to evacuate the building if the emergency cannot be contained or there is any doubt as to the severity of the situation
  4. Summon Aid Immediately - Call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304) for all emergencies

Chemical Emergencies

Faculty/ staff members should evaluate the hazards and quantities of the chemicals in use in their laboratories to determine what level of response would be required in the event of a chemical release. Particular attention should be devoted to procedures for releases of substances defined as acute toxins and reactive chemicals. All employees and students must be informed of any emergencies that would require immediate evacuation of the room or building. The Chemical Hygiene Officer can provide assistance in evaluating specific hazards and appropriate emergency response procedures upon request.

Possible incidents are classified into two categories: emergency responses or incidental releases. An emergency response is an occurrence that results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of hazardous materials that requires a response effort by employees outside the release area or other designated responders (e.g., fire department, clean-up contractor). Situations generally resulting in emergency responses include:

  • the release requires evacuations of the area
  • the release poses, or has the potential to pose, conditions that are immediately dangerous to life and health
  • the release poses a serious threat of fire or explosion
  • the release requires immediate attention because of imminent danger
  • the release may cause high levels of exposure to toxic substances
  • there is uncertainty that those working in the area can safety handle the hazard
  • the situation is unclear or data is lacking on important factors

An incidental release of hazardous materials occurs when (1) the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release by those in the immediate release area or other laboratory personnel, or (2) a release where there is no potential safety or health hazard.

Utility Loss

Each department should keep current procedures to be followed in the event of power or water loss (e.g., equipment shut-off). In the event of power loss, no operations releasing hazardous vapors should be conducted as ventilation is not adequate. In the event of water loss, no hazardous chemicals should be used in the laboratory as emergency eyewashes and showers are not available.

Hoods in Carr and Kendade are connected to the emergency power system. If the power is off, the emergency power system will maintain enough flow in the hoods to maintain a negative pressure, preventing contaminants from escaping into the room. In the event of a power failure (hoods will go into alarm), all chemical operations should be shut down, the hood sash(es) closed, and the lab evacuated.


It is important to stress that it is not the job of any science faculty, staff or students to extinguish fires - your job is to get out safely and alert others as you’re moving toward the exit.  Many small laboratory fires can be controlled by removing the source of ignition, dousing with water (do not apply water to chemical fires), or smothering the flame with a watch glass or beaker. If the fire cannot be extinguished with those immediate steps, the following actions should be taken:

  1. If the fire is in a hood, close the sash
  2. If your clothing or hair is on fire: drop to the floor and roll or use the deluge shower to extinguish the flames
  3. Pull the fire alarm to signal evacuation
  4. Evacuate the building
  5. Provide Public Safety and Service with details on location and nature of the emergency and known hazards in the area 


Upon hearing the fire alarm or upon any order to evacuate given by Public Safety and Service, laboratory occupants should: shut off ignition sources, close the laboratory door when everyone is out, and immediately exit the building using the nearest exit.  Everyone present in the building at the time of the alarm should assemble in class groups at the designated assembly areas listed below. Public Safety and Service may direct assembled groups to move to other areas to maintain a safe distance from the buildings and emergency vehicles. Faculty/ staff members should confirm that all students in their classes are outside. No one should leave the area until specifically directed to by Public Safety and Service.


Assembly Area


Library East Entrance


Library East Entrance


Dwight South Entrance


Reese West Entrance


Reese West Entrance


Carr Loading Dock Entrance

Personal Injury

In the event that someone is injured, take the following actions:

  1. Seek the assistance of a faculty or staff member
  2. Rescue the victim from life-threatening danger if it can be done safely
  3. Notify Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304), or push the blue panic alarm button if available. All Public Safety and Service Officers have first aid training
  4. For minor injuries, treat with local first aid supplies and, if necessary, call Public Safety and Service for transport. (A student with minor injuries may walk to the Health Center if accompanied - call in advance: 413-538-2121). During the summer and College breaks when the Health Center is closed, call Public Safety and Service - they will arrange transport to a medical facility
  5. An injured/contaminated student going to the Health Center or other medical facility should be accompanied by a teaching assistant (TA) or other person with knowledge of the incident. Call the Health Center in advance to inform them that the student is coming and the nature of the injury - Call 413-538-2012 first - they may direct that the student go directly to an emergency facility. If a chemical is involved, documentation (e.g., SDS, lab handout) of the chemical name should be brought
  6. Students and faculty/staff with serious injuries should be taken directly to Holyoke Medical Center - Call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304)
  7. Contact the supervising faculty/ staff member
  8. Clean up or control any hazardous condition that caused, or was caused by, the accident if it can be done safely

Chemical Contamination

In the event of eye contamination take the following action:

  1. Go immediately to an eyewash station, drench hose or sink and flush the eye for at least 15 minutes (the 15 minute flushing time is essential to prevent damage to the eyes)
  2. The eyes should be held open (remove contact lenses)
  3. Call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304) or push the blue panic alarm button, if available
  4. Medical evaluation is required for all cases of eye contamination

In the event of skin or clothing contamination take the following action:

  1. Use the safety shower, hose or sink to thoroughly flush the area. In the event that non-emergency washing is advisable, the shower room (Carr LL13), can be used - Someone must remain in the shower room with the person
  2. Remove all contaminated clothing. If the head has been contaminated, flush well prior to removing safety goggles so that contaminants are not flushed into the eyes
  3. Call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304) to report the incident and receive assistance
  4. In cases of visible tissue damage, contamination of a large area, or contamination with an acutely toxic substance, medical evaluation is required. The area must be thoroughly flushed prior to transport. Public Safety and Service will transport or arrange for transport to a health facility

Accident Reporting

All accidents, however slight, must be reported immediately to the supervising faculty/staff member or, in the case of employee accidents, the Supervisor or Department Chair. 

For non-employees, a First Report of Accident form must be completed as soon as possible. 

Employee accidents must be reported to the Supervisor and Human Resources.  The required Employer's First Report of Injury or Fatality (Form 101) and Supervisor's Accident Investigation forms are available on the Human Resources website. 

Chemical Releases

While most chemical releases in the laboratory are incidental releases and can be controlled by laboratory ventilation and cleaned up by laboratory personnel with minimal risk, some releases can pose a fire hazard or health hazard to lab personnel and other occupants of the building. The following procedures for notification and spill cleanup should be followed to ensure the safety of all building occupants and minimize potential property damage.

Release Notification 

  1. Make everyone in the laboratory aware of the release and instruct them to stay away from the area - if there is a fire or health threat, instruct everyone to leave the laboratory

  2. Notify the supervising faculty/ staff member or other lab personnel

  3. If there is a threat of fire or an immediate or significant long term health hazard, pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building. This will automatically alert Public Safety and Service and the Fire Department

  4. If the release is not confined to the laboratory in which it occurs (e.g., vapor release to the hallway), or if there is any doubt regarding a potential fire or health threat, call Public Safety and Service immediately (413-538-2304) to describe the incident

Hazard Assessment and Evacuation 

  1. If laboratory personnel believe there is a threat of fire or an immediate or significant long term health hazard they should initiate evacuation by pulling the fire alarm

  2. If the release is contained in a small area within a laboratory and there is no threat of a fire or immediate or significant long term health hazard, the faculty/staff member will determine if the release is an incidental release or an emergency response. If the release is an incidental release, the faculty/staff member will proceed to cleanup the material. If the faculty/staff member determines that the release is an emergency they will immediately call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304)

  3. If immediate evacuation did not occur and there is any doubt regarding a potential fire or health threat, Public Safety and Service will evacuate the building until the potential hazard can be assessed. This can be done by activating the building fire alarm or, if there is no immediate fire or health threat, by Public Safety and Service officers clearing the building

  4. All building occupants must evacuate the building immediately upon hearing the fire alarm or upon being told to leave by Public Safety and Service. Occupants may not reenter the building until the fire department or Public Safety and Service has authorized reentry

  5. Public Safety and Service and South Hadley Fire District 2 (SHFD2) personnel will meet with the following people, if they are available, to assess the potential hazard.  If evacuation has occurred, these individuals should meet the ranking Public Safety and Service Officer and SHFD2 personnel on the road side in front of the Carr/Clapp connector:

  • responsible faculty/ staff member

  • Director of the Science Center

  • Department Chair

  • Chemical Hygiene Officer

  • Facilities Management 

  • other Department representatives within the building

  • In consultation with the above individuals, Public Safety and Service will determine:

    • if the spill is an incidental release and can be cleaned up by laboratory personnel

    • if the spill is an emergency response and outside advice or assistance is needed

    • if additional evacuation is necessary

    • what additional remedial actions are necessary

    • when the building can be reoccupied

  • If the building is to remain closed, all exterior doors will be locked and signs posted indicating that entry is prohibited

  • Spill Clean Up

    If the spill is an incidental release and can be safely cleaned up by laboratory personnel, follow the procedure listed below. Spill response should be done under the immediate supervision of the faculty/ staff member responsible for the laboratory or other lab personnel.

    1. Assign specific tasks and keep everyone else away from the area

    2. Obtain the supplies and equipment needed

    3. All persons involved in spill cleanup must wear protective equipment. The minimum level of protective equipment is:

    • lab coat

    • splash goggles

    • nitrile or other chemical resistant gloves 

  • Contain the spilled material to as small an area as possible

  • Proceed to clean up the spilled material using absorbent, neutralizers, etc. 

  • Collect all spilled material and contaminated material for proper disposal 

  • If the spill is an emergency response and outside assistance is needed, Public Safety and Service or Environmental Health and Safety will contact outside resources for assistance, including: 

    South Hadley Fire District 2 (if there is a fire or immediate health threat): 413-534-5803

    Triumvirate Environmental, Inc. (hazardous waste contractor/ clean up services): 800-966-9282

    Spill Control Supplies 

    Spill control supplies for use in cleaning up spills that can be controlled by laboratory personnel are located in Carr LL11, Carr 1st floor corridor, Clapp 2nd floor corridor and in Reese 128. Science departments are responsible for stocking, maintaining and replenishing their spill cleanup materials.  Supplies in these locations include:

    • nitrile gloves
    • tyvek protective suits
    • chemical splash goggles
    • absorbent pads
    • acid, base and solvent neutralizers
    • mercury clean-up powder
    • disposal bags

    Additional spill control supplies available in Carr LL23 include:

    • absorbents (pillows and pads)
    • acid/base neutralizers
    • gloves/goggles/tyvek suits
    • disposal bags and pails

    Mercury Spills 

    Metallic mercury is toxic by skin absorption, inhalation and ingestion. Long term exposure to low concentrations of vapor is harmful. Particular care should be taken in cleaning-up mercury spills to ensure that the area is totally decontaminated. For cleaning up small spills of mercury (e.g., broken thermometers) take the following actions:

    1. Provide maximum ventilation in the contaminated area
    2. If the mercury is spilled in an oven or other heated device, turn off the unit, evacuate the laboratory and call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304)
    3. Avoid contamination of shoes or other items in the area
    4. Never sweep with a broom, as this breaks up the droplets and results in increased vaporization.
    5. Push pools of mercury together
    6. Pick up the pools with a medicine dropper, mercury pump, or pipette with a closed bulb and transfer into a plastic bottle
    7. Use mercury clean-up powder to form an amalgam of the residual that can then be picked up
    8. All mercury and clean-up debris must be disposed of as hazardous waste

    In the event of a large spill of mercury or any other hazardous chemical, call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304). 

    Safety Equipment

    Fire Extinguishers 

    Extinguisher use instructions are provided by the responsible lab personnel at the beginning of each laboratory course. Fire extinguishers are in the laboratory to assist in the evacuation of laboratory occupants. At Mount Holyoke, they should be used if fire is blocking your ONLY way out.  If there is a clear exit path you should take it immediately. Extinguishers should only be used if ALL of the following are true:

    1. Someone has been sent to pull the alarm for evacuation and to call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304)
    2. The fire is small (no larger than a wastebasket) and confined to the immediate area where it started (e.g., the fire has not spread)
    3. There are no flammable chemicals or other combustible materials near the fire area
    4. You can extinguish the fire while maintaining a safe escape route
    5. You have had training in the use of the extinguisher and are confident that you can operate it effectively

    Fire extinguishers are classified according to the types of fires they fight.  Lab faculty/ staff are responsible for evaluating the hazards of the materials in their lab and for working with Facilities Management to ensure that the fire extinguisher installed in their lab is appropriate for the hazards they’re introducing with their research or other work.  

    Class A - ordinary combustible materials (wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics)

    Class B - flammable liquids (oils, greases, tars, oil-based paints, alcohols, flammable gases)

    Class C - energized electrical equipment

    Class D - combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium

    Class K - Fires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats)

    Facilities Management inspects extinguishers each month to ensure that each extinguisher:

    1. is located in its designated place
    2. is not obstructed in access or visibility
    3. has visible operating instructions and nameplate
    4. has unbroken seals
    5. indicates pressure is in the operable range
    6. has no physical damage, corrosion or leakage

    Annual extinguisher maintenance and periodic hydrostatic testing in accordance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.157 and NFPA 10 is done by a contractor under the supervision of Facilities Management.

    Panic Alarms 

    Panic alarm buttons are located in Carr and Kendade laboratories, and some other areas of the science complex. The alarm is a blue box with a push button. Pushing the button sends a direct  alarm alerting Public Safety and Service that there is an emergency situation in that area - a Public Safety and Service officer will be dispatched.

    Eyewash Stations and Emergency Showers 

    All chemical laboratories are equipped with eyewash stations. Eyewash stations are flushed once a week for at least three minutes by lab faculty/staff or other science department staff assigned by the departments. All instructional chemical laboratories have either hand-held drench hoses or emergency showers. Facilities Management tests emergency showers twice per year. The spray hose units in Carr and Kendade are not emergency devices as they are not connected to the potable water system.

    Proper use of eyewash stations and emergency showers is described by the faculty/ staff member at the beginning of the semester in all laboratory courses.

    Eyewash/shower units in Carr and Kendade are connected to a flow alarm system. When the unit is activated, the alarm notifies Public Safety and Service that a unit is being used on that floor. This alarm is not intended to alert Public Safety and Service to the need for assistance and Officers will not be dispatched. The blue Panic Alarm button should be pushed or the emergency number (413-538-2304) called if emergency assistance is required. 

    First Aid Kits

    Departments are responsible for supplying, maintaining and restocking their first aid kits. Additionally, labs using particular chemicals with special first aid requirements must keep those materials in the lab. For example, a Geology lab that wants to use hydrofluoric acid must keep 2.5% calcium gluconate for immediate treatment of skin contact. Lab faculty/ staff should discuss such special requirements with the Chemical Hygiene Officer.

    Gas Shut-Offs

    All laboratories in Carr and Kendade are equipped with gas shut-offs. In the event of a fire in the laboratory, the instructional staff should shut off the gas in the room. There are two types: lever handles and push buttons. Lever handles may be both turned on and off by laboratory personnel. Push button shut-offs require Facilities Management service to restart gas flow.

    General Ventilation 

    Working with chemicals is prohibited when the ventilation in the room is not working.

    Fume Hoods

    Fume hoods are equipped with alarms which signal when face velocity is less than 100 lfm, or, for hoods with horizontal sashes, when the sash height is raised above 15 inches. Chemical operations should not be conducted in a hood which is alarming or on which the alarm has been muted. Many of the older flume hoods in Clapp Laboratory do not have alarms - use a “Kimwipe” to verify inwward air flow prior to working.

    Hood alarm noise level or indicator lights should not be relied upon to ensure that a hood is functioning. An airflow check should be conducted by lab personnel daily or prior to starting work to ensure that the exhaust is functioning. A “Kimwipe” should be held at the hood opening to determine if there is an inward air flow. If the airflow check indicates that there is no inward flow, post the Do Not Use Fume Hood sign and contact Facilities Management.

    If the alarm sounds because the sash is raised and does not stop when the sash is lowered below 15 inches, close down all chemical operations, lower the sash and report the problem to the responsible lab personnel.  Lab personnel should notify Facilities Management (413-538-2012) for all fume hood problems. Do not use fume hoods that are posted as having an inadequate flow or otherwise not operating properly.   

    If all hood alarms in a room go off simultaneously, close down all chemical operations, lower the sash, exit the room and report the problem to the responsible faculty/ staff member and Facilities Management (413-538-2012).

    If the power is off, the emergency power system will provide enough flow in the hoods to maintain a negative pressure, preventing contaminants from escaping into the room. Hoods should never be used when operating on emergency power (all hoods will be in alarm) - all sashes should be kept closed and the room should be evacuated.

    Facilities Management checks fume hood performance annually. Acceptable performance is defined as an average face velocity of at least 100 linear feet per minute (lfm) with the sash open to 15 inches, marginal performance as a face velocity of 75 to 100 lfm, and unacceptable performance as a face velocity of less than 75 lfm. All hoods are equipped with sash stops or posted with acceptable sash location indicators. Any hood with unacceptable performance is posted with a Do Not Use Fume Hood sign until repaired.

    Report all fume hood problems to Facilities Management (413-538-2012).

    Oxygen Sensors 

    Some rooms in the Science Center are equipped with portable oxygen sensors that will alarm if oxygen levels fall below 19.5% or increase to 23.5%.  Oxygen sensors are located in:

    • Carr LL05A
    • Carr G27-North
    • Carr G27A
    • Shattuck G03

    These rooms contain cryogens that could pose an asphyxiation hazard in the event of an unplanned release.

    If the alarm sounds and there are no visual signs of evaporating helium and nitrogen gases (e.g., plume in the room and there has been no indication that a release is likely):

    1. Evacuate the room immediately
    2. Close the door when everyone is out
    3. Report alarm condition to responsible faculty/ staff member

    The lab faculty/ staff member will assess the situation and either use a second monitor, if available, to slowly enter the room to determine if an alarm condition truly exists, or call Public Safety and Service to have oxygen levels independently checked by Facilities Management with their confined space meter. 

    If the alarm sounds and there are signs that a release may be occurring (noise, visual signs of evaporating gas escaping):

    1. Evacuate the room immediately
    2. Close the door when everyone is out
    3. Report alarm condition to the responsible lab personnel
    4. Call Public Safety and Service (413-538-2304)

    Public Safety and Service will contact Facilities Management for independent monitoring.  

    If there is a medical emergency, call Public Safety and Service to initiate response from the Fire Department.

    Chemical Safety

    The objective of this section is to provide guidelines for the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals. These general safety guidelines apply to all laboratory work that uses hazardous chemicals. Science faculty/staff members may establish additional requirements to address hazards specific to their operations.

    The OSHA Laboratory Standard defines a hazardous chemical as one that exhibits physical or health hazards as follows:

    Physical Hazard - a chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, pyrophoric, unstable (reactive) or water reactive

    Health Hazard - a chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur...includes ...carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents which act on the hematopoietic (blood) system, and agents which damage the lung, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.

    Determination of the hazard of a chemical is the responsibility of the manufacturer of the chemical. Information on the hazards of a particular chemical can be found on the product label and in the manufacturer's Safety Data Sheet (SDS) - SDSs are available in the Science Center Chemical Environmental Management System (CEMS) inventory. 

    The term "chemical" is used interchangeably with "hazardous chemical" throughout the plan. Both refer to those chemicals defined as hazardous by OSHA as described above. The requirements outlined here apply to the laboratory use of chemicals that could result in chemical exposure under routine or emergency situations. They do not apply to the use of chemicals when no exposure is possible. For example, the use of lead shielding for radiation protection does not result in lead exposure and, consequently, the requirements for handling lead as a reproductive toxin do not apply.

    The attitude of those working in the laboratory is the most important factor in the safe conduct of laboratory experiments. All stages of an investigation, from design through completion, must consider safety as a guiding principle. The key to designing and carrying out safe laboratory experiments is knowledge of the potential hazards. It is the responsibility of each individual working in the laboratory to become thoroughly familiar with the hazards of the chemicals they are using and the operations they are performing.

    Controlling Sources of Exposure

    All experiments must be designed and carried out to minimize chemical exposure. Source reduction, engineering controls, and protective equipment, in that order, are the three primary means of controlling exposure. The following are examples of source reduction and engineering control techniques.

    Source Reduction

    • Use the least hazardous chemical that will serve the intended purpose
    • Design experiments to use the minimum amount of chemical required
    • Always close containers when not in use
    • Minimize the surface area of open containers (e.g., use of flask vs. beaker)

    Engineering Controls

    • Use fume hoods whenever possible
    • Do not use fume hoods for long-term storage of equipment or chemicals
    • Avoid the release of chemicals in cold rooms as they have recirculating air systems
    • Use equipment and glassware only for its designed purpose - never use damaged equipment or glassware
    • If operations must be left unattended, provide for containment of hazardous chemicals in the event of equipment failure

    Protective Equipment

    While minimum levels of protective equipment are required, it should be recognized that source reduction and engineering controls are generally more effective means of exposure control.

    Personal Hygiene

    Good personal hygiene practices are essential to minimize chemical exposure and potential injury from other hazardous conditions in the laboratory.

    • The storage or consumption of food or beverages, cosmetic application and smoking are prohibited in all laboratories and chemical storage areas - the entirety of Mount Holyoke is a Smoke and Tobacco Free Campus
    • Avoid "routine" exposures - do not smell, taste, or mouth pipette any chemicals
    • Gloves are required when working with chemicals - always wash hands after glove removal, immediately upon contamination, after handling chemicals and before leaving the laboratory
    • Long hair and loose clothing, jewelry, lanyards, etc. must be confined
    • Wash contaminated clothing or lab coats separate from other clothing
    • Closed shoes (heel and toe) with no perforations must be worn in all laboratories where hazardous chemicals, biological hazards or radiation hazards are present and in the machine shop or when using tools or moving heavy objects


    Keeping the laboratory work area organized and clean is essential to safe handling of chemicals. Only the equipment and chemicals necessary for the particular procedure being performed should be kept in the work area - this is particularly important when working in a fume hood as storage of numerous containers or pieces of equipment can severely diminish the effectiveness of the hood. If several people are working in the same laboratory, requirements for space and hood access should be discussed and work areas agreed upon.

    Floors and surfaces should be kept clean and spills cleaned up immediately.  The entire work area should be cleaned up at the end of each day.

    Chemical Hygiene Plan

    The Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) establishes procedures to protect members of the Mount Holyoke College community from chemical hazards and was developed in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 29 CFR 1910.1450: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories.  

    While the OSHA Standard applies only to employees of the College, the same standards of protection are established for students and other members of the community. Contact with questions about the CHP.  

    Pets in Laboratories

    Pets are not allowed in laboratories or any College building, in accordance with the Pets on Campus Policy.

    Service Animals in Laboratories

    Service animals are allowed in all College buildings - compliance with the Service Animal Policy is required.  The only exception for service animal access in the Science Center is in vivariums, research labs containing animals or where radiation or biological hazards are present.   Service animal users/ handlers should work with lab personnel regarding the provision of a human assistant when working in those areas. Students wishing to request a modification or exception to this policy as a reasonable accommodation should contact Disability Services.  Faculty/staff that wish to request an exception should contact Human Resources. Service animal users/handlers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their service animals at all times. 

    Chemical Receipt, Transport Within the Science Cen

    The Science Center Stockroom, located in Carr Laboratory room G27, receives all chemicals purchased by Science Center faculty/staff.  Some chemicals require prior approval before purchase is allowed.  Chemicals are received at the Science Center Stockroom, logged into the CEMS inventory and stored for pick up by the requisitioner.

    A bottle carrier or cart must be used when moving any quantity of an acute toxin and 1 liter or greater containers of flammables or concentrated acids or bases from the stockroom to the laboratory or between laboratories. The use of a bottle carrier or cart is recommended when moving other chemicals from the stockroom to the laboratory and between laboratories.

    All shipments of hazardous materials (e.g., chemicals, biological materials) from Mount Holyoke College to other locations must comply with the College’s Export Control Policy and Department of Transportation (DOT) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations. Contact the EH&S Office for assistance before planning any hazardous material shipments to ensure that they are packaged and labeled properly and that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.

    Chemicals Requiring Approval Prior to Purchase

    There are two categories of chemical purchases that require approval prior to purchase: (1) particularly hazardous substances and (2) chemicals subject to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reporting.  Department Chairs or the Science Advisory Board may also designate additional materials or processes that require pre approval.

    A material is classified as a Particularly Hazardous Substances (PHS) because it meets the OSHA lab standard’s definition for a select carcinogen, reproductive toxin, or acute toxin (has a high degree of acute toxicity through any route of exposure).  Requirements for PHS are in a separate section of this plan.  Prior approval is required before purchasing any chemical that meets the criteria of a PHS.

    DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) regulates high risk chemical facilities to ensure that measures are in place in order to prevent certain hazardous chemicals from being weaponized. Universities and laboratories are subject to this regulation.  Facilities that manufacture, distribute, store or use chemicals at or above the screening threshold quantities (STQ) on the Chemicals of Interest (COI) List must report within 60 days of coming into possession of the COI.  Prior approval is required before purchasing any chemical on the COI list.

    To obtain approval to purchase substances that fit either of these categories, you must submit the Prior Approval Request Form for review by EH&S and the Department Chair. If approval to purchase the material is granted, a PHS or COI Protocol must be developed for the lab (if not already in place) prior to working with the material.  

    Container Labeling and Empty Containers

    All new chemical products must be barcoded and logged into the MHC CEMS inventory upon receipt.  

    All newly purchased chemical containers will have the manufacturer’s label, which includes the chemical name, information on proper storage and the hazards of the product, including signal word and hazard pictogram.  Containers into which chemicals are transferred or in which solutions are prepared must be labeled by the user with the chemical name. Containers larger than one liter must also be labeled by the user with appropriate hazard warning(s). Sharpies or marking pens resistant to the contents of the container should be used, or the label should be taped on - ensure that it is completely covered with clear tape so it remains secure and legible.

    Unknowns for instructional use should be labeled with the hazards of the constituents and lab personnel must communicate the hazards to those handling the samples. A key identifying each unknown must be kept by the responsible faculty/ staff member.

    Lab personnel are responsible for ensuring all chemicals in their lab are properly labeled and must take corrective actions immediately if they notice any labels that are becoming faded, blurry or otherwise illegible.  

    Manufacturer labels and MHC chemical inventory barcodes must not be removed or defaced unless the container is empty.  Remove the barcode and place it on the Barcode Return Log in your lab prior to reusing or disposing of the container.  If you manage your own inventory in CEMS, you do not need to put the barcode on the collection log - be sure to mark the container as ‘empty’ by logging into your CEMS account and clicking ‘mark empty’ followed by ‘save’.  Following that action, please use a sharpie to cover over the barcode so others know that it has been removed from the inventory.

    Many empty containers can be reused in the lab for hazardous waste collection.  Bottles containing acute toxins must be triple-rinsed, collecting the rinsate as hazardous waste, before the container can be disposed of.   When reusing a container, the original label must be removed, crossed out or fully covered by the hazardous waste label.   If you do not wish to reuse the container for hazardous waste collection, you are responsible for disposing of it - be sure to cross out the label and write ‘empty” prior to disposing.  Unwanted glass bottles should be put in the broken glass box in your lab.

    Unattended Operations

    Avoid leaving operations unattended. When it is necessary to leave an experiment unattended, provide for containment of hazardous chemicals in the event of equipment failure. Additionally, leave the lights on and place a warning sign on the door if, in the event of an emergency, there would be a hazard to persons entering the room.

    Reporting Unsafe Conditions

    It is the responsibility of each individual to be alert to unsafe conditions in the laboratory, take necessary actions to prevent injury (e.g., turning off faulty equipment, posting signs). Any unsafe condition that cannot be immediately remedied should be reported to the responsible faculty/ staff member, the Department Chair, and the Chemical Hygiene Officer. All emergencies must immediately be reported to Public Safety and Service.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    Protective equipment must be worn to guard against injury from routine or accidental events. Each supervising faculty/ staff member is responsible for choosing appropriate protective equipment for those they supervise.  The following guidelines can assist in selecting PPE.

    Eye Protection 

    Each department and program will develop an eye protection policy. Lab faculty/ staff are responsible for assessing the hazards associated with their research, determining the appropriate eye protection within the requirements of the department or program policy, and communicating those requirements to their students and anyone they supervise. 

    In the case of shared labs, the faculty/ staff members should discuss appropriate eye protection to protect against all laboratory hazards.  Examples include splashes or mists from hazardous chemicals, heat (sparks, hot vapors, or boiling fluids), flying objects, glassware under vacuum or pressure, UV radiation, or airborne particles (e.g., hazardous chemical dust). 

    In instructional laboratories using hazardous chemicals, goggles must be worn at all times. In research labs, some form of eye protection must be worn whenever active work is taking place.  Safety goggles must be worn whenever particularly hazardous operations are being carried out, when a splash hazard exists, or when glassware under pressure or vacuum is being used. 

    Approved safety glasses (or prescription glasses) with side shields  (meeting ANSI Standard Z87.1) may be worn whenever operations of low hazard are being performed. In the case of uncertainty, students should assume that goggles are necessary.

    In instrument rooms, no eye protection is necessary when an individual is operating an instrument unless a particular hazard is associated with the use of that instrument - Lab Technicians will make the determination and set requirements for their area.

    When using lasers, appropriate eye protection must be worn. 


    Decisions regarding the need to wear gloves and type needed are dependent on the hazard of the chemical, potential for contamination during the experiment and dexterity requirements. These decisions are made by supervising faculty/ staff members.

    Proper glove selection is a function of the specific chemical resistance of the material as measured by permeation rate and breakthrough time. Disposable latex gloves, in addition to latex-allergy concerns, have limited resistance to many commonly used laboratory chemicals and should not be purchased by departments or used in operations where contamination is anticipated.  Gloves must be removed immediately and hands washed should they become contaminated.

    More resistant gloves include natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, butyl, Viton, and polyvinyl chloride. Recommendation of the glove manufacturer and the Safety Data Sheet for the particular chemical should be used in choosing the appropriate gloves. 


    The purpose of protective clothing is to prevent contamination of the skin and to prevent the carrying of contaminants outside the laboratory. Street clothes may afford limited skin protection but may result in contaminants being carried outside the laboratory. 

    Lab coats, or other protective clothing, must be worn when handling:

    • large quantities (greater than one liter) of any Select Carcinogen, Reproductive Toxin and Acute Toxin that is readily absorbed through the skin
    • greater than one liter of concentrated acids and bases
    • any quantity of pyrophoric material - fire resistant lab coats required

    Other specialized protective clothing may be necessary in certain high hazard operations as determined by the responsible lab faculty/staff member.

    Hearing Protection

    Hearing protection is generally not required in the laboratory; however some operations, such as rock crushing in Geology can be noisy and hearing protection should be worn. If there are questions about whether hearing protection should be required, the Chemical Hygiene Officer will work with lab personnel to evaluate the operation.

    Respiratory Protection

    Respiratory protection is generally not required in the laboratory due to engineering controls. Chemical handling should be done in a fume hood whenever feasible. Should respiratory protection be required, the individual must be in the College’s respiratory protection program and must contact EH&S in order to complete the following prior to use:

    • medical questionnaire and examination
    • respirator training
    • respirator fit testing

    Individuals that choose to wear a respirator for ‘comfort use’ when respiratory protection is not required do not need to be in the respirator program, but they must be provided with the information in OSHA’s 1910.134 Appendix D: “(Mandatory) Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard”.

    Chemical Storage

    Laboratory storage of chemicals is an important aspect of chemical safety. While storage requirements and locations will vary significantly from laboratory to laboratory, the following general guidelines should be followed:

      • Keep acids and bases separated
      • Keep nitric acid separate from organic acids
      • Keep oxidizers away from flammables, combustibles and organics
      • Label peroxide formers immediately upon receipt - test every 3 months thereafter
      • Store flammable chemicals in rated cabinets and keep the cabinets closed
      • Do not store hazardous chemicals on high shelves - keep them below eye level
      • Do not store chemicals in shipping canisters
      • Do not store chemicals in fume hoods

      Compatible Chemical Storage

      Chemicals should always be segregated into compatible groups during storage to prevent hazardous reactions in the event of an accident. Storage areas and shelves should be clearly labeled as to their appropriate hazard class. Consult the product label or SDS for information on proper storage.   


      Manufacturers' container labels are the primary source of information on the physical and health hazards of a particular chemical. These labels should never be removed or defaced until the container is empty and decontaminated, if necessary.  Lab personnel should check their labs and storage areas frequently to ensure that labels are tightly affixed to the container. Any loose labels or MHC inventory barcodes should immediately be secured.  


      Storage should be isolated from working areas whenever possible. Exposure to heat or sunlight should be avoided.  Storage for volatile chemicals should be ventilated when feasible. Bench tops should not be used for storage and hazardous chemicals should not be stored on shelves between bench tops. Shelving should be sturdy and firmly anchored.

      Storage in hoods severely diminishes their effectiveness, and is prohibited in hoods that are used for chemical handling. Hoods used to store noxious or acutely hazardous materials should be designated solely for storage.

      All chemicals stored in hoods, on counters with a sink, or in any other area where a spill could reach a drain should be stored in secondary containment. The secondary containment must provide for separation of chemicals that are incompatible. Chemicals should not be stored on the floor with the exception of 5-gallon pails in secondary containment, or in areas well protected from foot traffic. 

      Chemical Evaluation

      Faculty/ staff should periodically review the chemicals stored in their laboratories and chemical storage areas. The review should answer the following questions with the resulting action as described. 

      1. Is the chemical still in use?
        If the answer is yes, confirm that the container is labeled properly with the chemical name hazard(s), the container remains in good condition (no rust, discoloration, disfigurement, contamination on the exterior, etc.) and that it is stored in the correct location. If necessary, relabel the container or repackage the chemical. If you are repackaging a bar-coded container, be certain to affix the barcode to the new container.    

      2. Is the chemical still useable?
        If the answer is no, due to age, contamination, deterioration, etc., the chemical should be classified as waste and properly disposed of.  Use the Hazardous Waste Determination Form as a guide or contact EH&S for assistance or if you need a hazardous waste pick up.  

      3. Will I use the chemical in this laboratory in the future?
        If the answer is no, but the chemical is in its original container and in good condition, you should first see if others in your department will use it - be sure to update the CEMS inventory if storage location and/ or ownership of the chemical changes.  Contact EH&S if you need assistance with inventory updates.  If the container is in poor condition or the chemical is not in the original manufacturer-labeled container, it should be classified as waste and disposed of properly.


      Flammable materials are rated according to their flash point, boiling point, auto-ignition temperature or explosive limit.    Information on these physical characteristics are listed on the manufacturer's container labels and on the product’s safety data sheets (SDS). Flammable materials must be stored in appropriate cabinets, safety cans, rated refrigerators or freezers and kept separate from oxidizers.

      For a fire to occur, these conditions must be met:

      1. the concentration of the flammable vapor must be between the lower and upper flammable limits
      2. an oxidizing agent (e.g. the air in the room or a chemical oxidizer) must be available
      3. there must be a source of ignition, or the material is at its auto ignition temperature

      Fire conditions can be prevented by eliminating ignition sources, (e.g., open flames, sparks, electrical equipment, static electricity), keeping all unnecessary materials away from the work area, proper storage in closed containers and cabinets, and using proper bonding and grounding when dispensing flammable liquids from large containers.  

      Stockroom and Solvent Room Storage and Dispensing

      All flammable and combustible chemicals stored in the stockroom (Carr G27-North) must be located in flammable storage cabinets or safety cans.  Carr LL23A is a specially designed solvent storage room with flammable storage cabinets and designated shelves for solvents. 

      Bulk Dispensing of Flammable Liquids

      All bulk dispensing (from 5-gallon containers or larger) of flammable liquids must be done in the solvent room. Only faculty, staff, or students specifically trained by the lab personnel may dispense these solvents. These solvents can only be dispensed into approved flammable safety cans equipped with spring loaded covers and flame arresters, with the sole exception being when contamination from the metal container is a concern. The drum must be grounded and the container bonded (connection between the drum and safety can) to prevent accumulation of static electricity. Dispensing drums or containers must be equipped with a self-closing faucet or pump approved for flammable dispensing.

      Laboratory Storage

      The quantity of flammable chemicals, liquids, solids and gases, stored in laboratories should be kept at an absolute minimum. If chemicals are purchased in multiple lots for future use, excess containers should be stored in the solvent storage room (Carr LL23A) or a flammable storage cabinet until needed.

      For those flammables which must be stored in the laboratory, the preferred storage method is in flammable storage cabinets. Storage in flammable storage cabinets should not exceed the rated capacity of the cabinet. Only one 5-gallon container can be stored outside of a cabinet in any lab. No containers larger than a 5-gallon capacity may be stored in any lab.

      If refrigeration of volatile flammable chemicals is required, the refrigerator or freezer must meet NFPA Standards for flammable storage. Flammable materials refrigerators and freezers have spark free interiors. Explosion-proof units also have spark free exteriors and are designed for use in hazardous environments. All units designed for flammable storage should be clearly marked as "approved for flammable storage". All units not approved should be clearly marked "not for flammable storage" or other similar wording.  Food and beverages cannot be stored in any laboratory refrigerator.

      Ethyl Alcohol

      Access to ethyl alcohol is controlled by a designated individual in Biology and Chemistry.  Alcohol purchases must be in accordance with the College’s Industrial Alcohol User Permit, issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Questions about this permit should be directed to the Purchasing Office.  

      Laboratory Use

      All laboratory procedures using flammable chemicals should be designed to:

      • minimize the release of flammable vapors
      • prevent the travel or accumulation of vapors
      • eliminate sources of ignition
      • minimize the amount of flammable chemical or other combustible materials in the vicinity of the handling area

      The following precautions should always be followed. These precautions do not apply to the use of natural gas as a fuel for combustion. Additional precautions may be necessary in certain situations.

      1. Use flammable liquids in fume hoods whenever possible, particularly when transferring large quantities or heating in open containers
      2. Always use flammable gases in a fume hood
      3. Never use open flames in the same room where flammables are being used
      4. Control other sources of ignition and heat in the laboratory such as electric motors and ovens in areas where flammable vapors are expected to exceed 10% of the lower flammability limit
      5. Use non-sparking equipment and control static electricity
      6. Use steam baths, heating baths, or explosion proof heating equipment for heating
      7. When transferring flammable liquids in metal containers, ground and bond the containers
      8. Minimize the generation of dust when handling flammable solids


      Reactive chemicals are chemicals that can, under certain conditions, release very large and potentially dangerous amounts of energy. Reactive chemicals can lead to reactions that differ from the routine mainly in the rate at which they progress. A chemical reaction can be considered routine if the reaction rate is relatively slow or can be easily controlled. The rate of reaction and ability to control that rate that marks certain chemicals as warranting special precautions and the label “reactive chemical”.

      The primary difficulty in identifying reactives stems from the variety of conditions under which certain chemicals can undergo an uncontrollable hazardous reaction. Some chemicals are simply unstable and can vigorously polymerize, decompose or condense, or become self-reactive. Other chemicals can react violently when exposed to common environmental chemicals or conditions. The following discussion highlights the most common groups of reactives and includes examples of chemicals in each group.

      Some chemicals react spontaneously with very common chemicals in the environment such as water or the components of the atmosphere. Many pure metals, for example, will oxidize on exposure to the atmosphere. Many chemicals are stable except when combined with certain other chemicals. 

      Some chemicals require very little energy of activation to initiate a spontaneous reaction. If the reaction is exothermic, the energy initially produced may accelerate a continued reaction and a release of energy too violent to be controlled. Temperature, shock, static, or light may trigger an uncontrollable reaction. In some combinations one chemical will act as a catalyst reducing the amount of energy normally needed to initiate or sustain a reaction.

      Spontaneous decomposition or changes in physical state, even at a slow rate, may create a reactive hazard by creating a less stable chemical. For some chemicals, this decomposition is rapid and violent. For others it is so slow as to be imperceptible but results in a byproduct with a much higher reactivity hazard. Peroxides that can form when certain organic chemicals are exposed to air radically increases the hazards of working with those chemicals. The formation of shock sensitive picric acid crystals from an aqueous solution is a serious hazard created by a simple physical state change in the same chemical.

      There are some additional hazardous conditions that are not usually attributed to “reactive chemicals” but should be mentioned. Extreme differences in physical state can cause an uncontrollable release of energy. For example, bringing a hot liquid such as an oil into contact with a liquid with a lower boiling point such as water will cause instantaneous vaporization of the lower boiling point liquid and a violent release of energy.

      Manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheets (SDS) should be consulted to determine the specific reactive characteristics of a particular chemical.

      General Safety Procedures For Working With Reactive Chemicals

      1. Find out as much as possible about the reagents and procedures before the experiment
      2. Investigate the purity of the materials. Determine whether impurities or spontaneous decomposition products (such as peroxides) will make the experiment more hazardous
      3. Conduct small scale preliminary experiments to assess the thermodynamic and physical properties of the reaction
      4. Use as little of the chemical or as dilute a solution as possible
      5. Consider all methods of controlling reaction variables. The rate of addition can be controlled as well as the rate at which the energy of activation is supplied. Cool exothermic reactions adequately to control the reaction rate. Remember to provide cooling arrangements for both liquid and vapor stages if appropriate. Pressure relief valves should be included in pressurized systems and checked before adding chemicals to the system
      6. Determine the proper degree of agitation and mixing rate. Add oxidants slowly with appropriate cooling or mixing
      7. Use a face shield in addition to goggles when appropriate
      8. Work in a fume hood using the sash as a protective shield
      9. Have emergency equipment at hand. Be certain that you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is and that it is appropriate for the type of potential fire hazard.  It is important to consider not only which type of extinguisher would be most effective but also if a particular type of extinguishing medium would cause an increased hazard. For example, diborane, pentaborane, and diethyl zinc react violently with halogenated extinguishing agents.  Remember, the primary objective for all MHC community members is to get out safely and warn others
      10. Notify people in the laboratory of any new or unique hazards that could potentially be created by use of a reactive chemical

      Labeling And Ranking Standards

      Because of the diversity of reactive materials and their potential hazard, several organizations have developed labeling systems for reactive materials. The most widely used is the “NFPA diamond”.  Reactivity information is displayed in the right hand, yellow portion of the diamond. The reactivity hazard is ranked, as are the fire and health hazards, using an ordinal ranking system with values of 0 to 4. In addition, the lower portion of the diamond is used to note Special Warnings, including water (or moisture) reactives and oxidizing materials. 

      While very useful, it’s important to note that the NFPA labeling system’s purpose is to safeguard the lives of those individuals concerned with fires occurring in an industrial plant or storage location where the fire hazards of materials are not readily known.  The NFPA labeling system was not designed directly for laboratory decision making.  All chemical use requires judgment by the responsible faculty/ staff, particularly around how much of a very reactive material can be safely handled with a given procedure. 


      Oxidizers are chemicals that can readily provide reactive oxygen under certain conditions. When contaminated with organic materials, (e.g., wood. paper, organic chemicals), or other easily oxidizable chemicals, (e.g.,metal powders), oxidizers can form unstable and explosive compounds sensitive to shock. A very few examples of some oxidizers include bromine and compounds, nitrites, picrates, peroxides.  

      Water Exposure Sensitive

      Water Reactive Chemicals can develop pressure, generate flammable, explosive, corrosive or toxic gases, or ignite or explode when exposed to water or moisture. A very few examples of some water reactive chemicals include alkali and alkaline-earth metals (sodium, lithium, calcium, potassium, magnesium), aluminum chloride, calcium oxide, nonmetal halides
      (boron tribromide, phosphorus pentachloride), nonmetal oxides (acid anhydrides, trioxide).

      Air Exposure Sensitive 

      Air Exposure Sensitive Chemicals can develop pressure, generate flammable or explosive gases, ignite or explode when exposed to air. A very few examples of some air exposure sensitive chemicals include alkylmetal derivatives (ethoxydiethylaluminum and dimethylbismuth chloride), finely divided metals (calcium, titanium), metal hydrides (potassium hydride and germane), white phosphorus.

      Temperature Sensitive

      Temperature Sensitive Chemicals may decompose when held above their maximum safe storage temperature resulting in pressure buildup, flammable or explosive gas generation, ignition or explosion. A very few examples of some temperature sensitive chemicals include certain oxidizers (perchlorates, chlorates, nitrates, bromates, chlorites, iodates), certain “azo” compounds, lithium nitrate, organic peroxides, phenylhydrazine hydrochloride.

      Spontaneous Decomposition

      Spontaneous Decomposition Chemicals are chemicals which change structure over time and, with no apparent stimulation, will develop pressure, generate flammable or explosive gases, ignite or explode. A very few examples of some spontaneous decomposition chemicals include benzoyl peroxide (dry), contaminated concentrated hydrogen peroxide, nitroglycerine.

      Shock, Friction And Static Discharge Sensitive

      Shock, Friction, and Static Discharge Sensitive Chemicals are chemicals that will violently decompose when initiated by shock, friction, or static discharge. A very few examples of some shock, friction and static discharge chemicals include azides, contaminated oxidizers, nitro compounds, organic and inorganic peroxides.


      Many common laboratory compounds can form peroxides when exposed to air over a period of time. A single opening of a container to remove some of the contents can introduce enough air for peroxide formation to occur. Peroxides are sensitive to heat, friction, impact, and light and are among the most hazardous chemicals that are encountered in laboratories. Their hazard potential is all the greater because they may not be suspected or detected in commonly used solvents or reagents. Many explosions have occurred during distillation of peroxide-containing substances, particularly when the distillation has been taken to or near to dryness.

      Crystal formation or cloudy appearance inside a container is a possible sign of peroxide formation. Crystal formation is most likely (and most hazardous) around the cap. Friction caused just by turning the cap can cause an explosion that ignites flammable solvent in the container.

      Peroxide formation can also occur in many polymerizable unsaturated compounds. These peroxides can initiate an uncontrolled, and sometimes explosive, polymerization reaction.

      Structural groups of chemicals that can form peroxides are below, listed in approximate order of decreasing hazard.

      Peroxide Formers - Organic Structures:

      • ethers and acetals with alpha hydrogen atoms
      • olefins with allylic hydrogen atoms
      • chloroolefins and fluoroolefins
      • vinyl halides, esters, and ethers
      • Dienes
      • vinylacetylenes with alpha hydrogen atoms
      • alkylacetylenes with alpha hydrogen atoms
      • alkylarenes that contain tertiary hydrogen atoms
      • alkanes and cycloalkanes that contain tertiary hydrogen atoms
      • acrylates and methacrylates
      • secondary alcohols
      • ketones that contain alpha hydrogen atoms
      • Aldehydes
      • ureas, amides, and lactams that have a hydrogen atom on a carbon atom attached to nitrogen

      Peroxide Formers - Inorganic Substances:

      • alkali metals, especially potassium, rubidium, and cesium
      • metal amides
      • organometallic compounds with a metal atom bonded to carbon
      • metal alkoxides

      Special Procedures For Peroxide Forming Chemicals

      It is important that information on the age of peroxide forming chemicals be maintained and that these chemicals be tested or disposed of on a regular basis.

      The following peroxidizable compounds should be labeled upon receipt with labels that read:

      Peroxidizable Compound.  Date Opened __/__/__. Discard Or Test Within ___ Months After Opening.

      These labels should also be placed on any other compounds known to be peroxide formers. The date and discard period should be filled in the first time the container is opened.

      The level of peroxides can be tested using peroxide test strips purchased by the department.  The following are recommendations for testing or disposal of potential peroxide forming chemicals:

      • Group A: Severe peroxide hazard on storage with exposure to air.

        • Discard within 3 months

          • diisopropyl ether (isopropyl ether) [108-20-3]

          • divinylacetylene (DVA)

          • potassium metal [7440-09-7]

          • potassium amide

          • sodium amide (sodamide) [7782-92-5]

          • vinylidene chloride (1,1-dichloroethylene) [75-35-4]

      • Group B: Peroxide hazard on concentration 

        • Do not distill or evaporate without first testing for the presence of peroxides

        • Discard or test for peroxides after 6 months

          • acetaldehyde diethyl acetal (acetal) [75-07-0]

          • cumene (isopropylbenzene) [98-82-8]

          • cyclohexene [110-83-8]

          • cyclopentene [142-29-0]

          • decalin (decahydronaphthalene) [91-17-8]

          • diacetylene [106-99-0]

          • dicyclopentadiene [77-73-6]

          • diethyl ether (ether, ethyl ether) [60-29-7]

          • diethylene glycol dimethyl ether (diglyme) [11-96-6]

          • dioxane [123-91-1]

          • ethylene glycol dimethyl ether (glyme) [110-71-4]

          • ethylene glycol ether acetates

          • ethylene glycol monoether (cellosolves)

          • furan [110-00-9]

          • methylacetylene [74-99-7]

          • methylcyclopentane [96-37-7]

          • methyl isobutyl ketone [108-10-1]

          • tetrahydrofuran (THF) [109-99-9]

          • tetralin (tetrahydronaphthalene) [119-64-2]

          • vinyl ethers

      • Group C: Hazard of rapid polymerization initiated by internally formed peroxides 

        • Normal Liquids - Discard or test for peroxides after 6 months

          • chloroprene (2-chloro-1,3-butadiene) [126-99-8]

          • styrene [100-42-5]

          • vinyl acetate [108-05-4]

          • Vinylpyridine

        • Normal Gases - Discard after 12 months

          • butadiene [106-14-3]

          • tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) [116-14-3]

          • vinylacetylene (MVA)

          • vinyl chloride [75-10-4]

      Student Use Protocols

      If a research student will be using reactive chemicals with the exception of routine use of small quantities of oxidizers or peroxide formers, the faculty member must develop a written protocol outlining the experimental procedure to be followed, necessary protective equipment and safety precautions, and emergency procedures. This procedure must be carefully reviewed with the student.

      Special Precautions for Pyrophoric Materials

      Direct faculty/ staff supervision is required for student use of pyrophoric materials. Fire resistant lab coats must be worn.


      Personnel working in laboratories where nanotechnology is used in research must take measures to prevent exposure to nanomaterials, which can occur through inhalation, skin contact and ingestion.  To understand how small a nanometer (one billionth of a meter) is, this example from the National Nanotechnology Initiative may be helpful: “On a comparative scale, a sphere with a diameter of 1 nanometer is to a softball as a softball is to the Earth”. Faculty/ staff are responsible for establishing work-specific safety procedures for their lab. All work with nanomaterials must take place in a fume hood, glove box or under local exhaust ventilation and any spills must be cleaned up using wet methods or a HEPA-filtered vacuum.  As with all lab operations, good housekeeping and hygiene, including thorough hand washing, are required.  

      Compressed Gases

      Compressed gas cylinders should be considered high energy sources regardless of the type of gas and all should be treated as potential explosives. Compressed gases have many properties that make them a unique hazard such as their pressure, diffusivity, low flash points for flammable gases, low boiling points, and, for some, no visual and/or odor warnings.

      The following are general safety precautions for working with compressed gases.

      Cylinder Storage

      Cylinders may be stored in a designated location or in the laboratory where they will be used.    Storage areas must be securable - storage in hallways or outside of the building is not allowed.

      1. Store oxygen away from flammable gases. Oxygen and fuel gases must be separated by a distance of at least 25 feet or by a 5-foot high noncombustible wall when stored. As an alternative, oxygen can be moved directly to the area of use
      2. The valve protection cap must be kept on at all times, except when a cylinder is in use
      3. Each cylinder must be chained or strapped tightly in place to prevent it from falling over. Cylinders must be secured individually. The attachment point must be below the neck and tapered portion of the cylinder
      4. Corrosive gases should be stored for the shortest possible time period: under three months is preferable.

      Inspection Of Cylinders

      Cylinders should be inspected, especially before moving, to ensure that they are in good condition (no signs of damage or corrosion), they have a valve cap on when not in use and the label identifying the contents is in place and clearly legible.

      Moving Cylinders

      Lab personnel or students authorized and trained on safe cylinder handling by their supervising faculty/ staff member may move cylinders from one area to another.  

      1. Always consider cylinders full and handle them accordingly - the same hazards exist even if the cylinder is only partially full
      2. Use a hand truck to transport cylinders that cannot be easily carried -do not drag, roll, or slide cylinders
      3. Do not ride in an elevator with a compressed gas cylinder or dewar.  Have a colleague assist you by waiting on the destination floor to meet the elevator.  Secure the cylinder on a dolly and send it to the destination floor unaccompanied.  Make sure your colleague is ready and waiting to ensure that no one gets on the elevator with the cylinder inside 
      4. The valve protection cap should remain on until the cylinder has been secured in its final position and is ready for use
      5. Never drop a cylinder or permit cylinders to strike each other violently
      6. Protect cylinders from any object that will produce a cut or abrasion in the surface of the metal
      7. Mount cylinders so that the valve is easily accessible and the label is visible
      8. Always chain or strap cylinders immediately. Cylinders must be secured individually. The attachment point must be below the neck and tapered portion of the cylinder. Do not leave a cylinder in a laboratory if equipment is not available to secure it

      Laboratory Use

      1. Attach the proper regulator designed for the particular gas that is being used. Cylinder valves have been standardized for specific families of gases to prevent the interchange of regulator equipment between gases that are not compatible - do not force the fitting of a regulator to a cylinder. Be sure that all components of a distribution system are compatible with the gas in use. Corrosive gases require special attention to the materials in the distribution system

      2. After connecting the regulator, secure all hose connections with clamps, secure any loose hoses to prevent sudden movement when pressure is supplied, and place a trap between the regulator and the reaction vessel to prevent suckback.

      3. Bond and ground all cylinders and piping containing flammable gases to prevent the hazards caused by the buildup of static electricity

      4. Start the gas flow with the following procedure:

        1. With the regulator secured to the cylinder valve outlet, turn the delivery pressure adjusting screw counterclockwise until it turns freely

        2. Next, slowly open the cylinder valve until the cylinder pressure gauge on the regulator reads the cylinder pressure. The cylinder valve should be opened by hand - never use a wrench or other tool unless the vendor supplies a special tool for that purpose

        3. With the cylinder valve open and the flow control valve (the outlet from the regulator) in closed position, set the desired delivery pressure by turning the delivery pressure adjusting screw clockwise until the desired pressure is reached

        4. Flow from the cylinder can now be commenced by opening the flow control valve at the outlet of the regulator

      5. Door signs should be posted in rooms in which flammable compressed gases are present

      6. Never mix gases in a cylinder unless it is a specially designed cylinder, such as for calibration gases

      7. Never completely empty a cylinder - leave a slight pressure (about 25 pounds) to keep out contaminants that may react with the contents or corrode the cylinder

      Special Precautions

      Some compressed gases require precautions in addition to all those previously described in this section.


      1. Gaseous acetylene under pressure may decompose with explosive force and should not be used at pressures in excess of 15 psig (30 psi absolute pressure).  Acetylene pressure gauges should have a warning red line at this point

      2. Acetylene in cylinders is dissolved in a liquid (e.g. acetone) and should always be used in an upright position - do not use a cylinder which has been stored or handled in a non-upright position until it has remained in an upright position for at least 30 minutes

      3. The outlet line of an acetylene cylinder must be protected by a flash arrestor

      4. Use the correct kind of tubing to transport the gaseous acetylene - some tubing materials, such as copper, can form explosive acetylides


      Oxidizers under pressure (oxygen, chlorine, etc.) will rapidly oxidize organic material, such as oil or grease, resulting in an explosion. Never use oil or grease on valves or gauges intended for oxygen cylinders.


      Cryogenics is the science of very low temperatures. An accepted temperature used to distinguish between refrigeration and cryogenics is -73.3℃ (-100℉). Low temperatures in the cryogenic range are generally obtained by the liquefaction or solidification of gases. 

      The primary hazard of cryogenic materials is their extreme coldness, which can result in frostbite and severe tissue damage. Accumulated vapors may also act as an asphyxiant. Liquid gases are extremely concentrated relative to room temperature gases and, consequently, their potential hazards are magnified. Liquefied inert gases, such as nitrogen, in contact with cold metal surfaces can cause condensation of oxygen from the room air resulting in an oxygen enriched atmosphere and, consequently, an increased fire hazard. The low temperatures involved also affect the properties of other materials - for example, rubber may become brittle and disintegrate and some metal alloys may become brittle.

      Cryogens have very high liquid: vapor expansion ratios. For example, liquid nitrogen expands to 700 times its initial volume when it vaporizes. For liquid hydrogen, 22 cubic feet can expand to fill 16,000 cubic feet. This rapid expansion can cause a displacement of oxygen and consequently a life threatening asphyxiant atmosphere.

      Storage And Handling Precautions

      Lab faculty/ staff are responsible for establishing specific procedures for  cryogenic operations in their lab.  The following are general safety guidelines: 

      1. Store and use cryogens only in containers and equipment recommended for cryogenic service
      2. Avoid confined areas where vaporization occurs (e.g., do not put your head in the dry ice container)
      3. Ensure that all apparatus is properly vented to prevent accumulation of pressure and be cognizant of ice blocks that could block vent lines
      4. Always wear chemical splash goggles and a face shield in cases where there is a likelihood of contact
      5. Always wear long sleeves and/or a lab coat
      6. Watches, rings, or other jewelry that could trap the material next to the skin should not be worn
      7. If gloves are necessary to handle containers or cold metal parts, they should be impervious and loose enough to be thrown off in the case of contamination
      8. Neither liquid nitrogen, liquid air, or any other cryogen with a normal boiling point < 183℃ should be used to cool a flammable mixture in the presence of air as oxygen can condense from the air leading to an explosive mixture
      9. Equipment must be kept clean to avoid contamination of organics with a cryogenic oxidant (e.g., liquid oxygen) or oxidants with cryogenic fuel (e.g., liquefied natural gas)
      10. When flammable gases are being used, eliminate potential ignition sources
      11. Flammable and toxic gases should only be used in a fume hood
      12. If liquid nitrogen has a blue tint, it has been contaminated with oxygen and should be replaced -the contaminated material is dangerous and potentially explosive
      13. When spilled, liquid oxygen soaks into materials it comes into contact with - the resulting mixture may be explosive

      Particularly Hazardous Substances: Select Carcinog

      Prior approval is required before purchasing particularly hazardous substances - requests are made via the Prior Approval Request Form.  There is no definitive list of particularly hazardous substances (PHS) - chemicals will be categorized as PHS if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

      1. The chemical is a select carcinogen - substances that pose a cancer risk

      2. The chemical is a reproductive toxin - substances that affect reproductive capability, including  physical agents (e.g. radiation), biological agents (e.g. viruses), metabolic imbalances in the pregnant person, and chemical agents.  Reproductive toxins include four general categories:

        • Mutagens - substances that may cause a change (mutation) in the genetic material of a cell
        • Teratogens - substances that may affect the viability or cause physical or metabolic defects in the developing embryo or fetus when a pregnant person is exposed to that substance
        • Sterility/Infertility - substances that may affect fertility
        • Lactation - substances that may be transferred from the parent to the child through breast milk and cause adverse health effects in the child
      1. The chemical is an acute toxin - substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity through any route of exposure

      • Animal toxicity data is available and meets the following LD50 criteria:

            • LD50 - ingestion: < 50 mg/kg
            • LD50 - contact (24hrs): < 200 mg/kg
            • LD50 - inhalation: < 200 ppm/1hr
      • The container label or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) identifies the substance as "acutely toxic", "highly toxic", "may be fatal if inhaled", "may be fatal if enters the bloodstream", or similar warning of acute toxicity

      • All chemicals with a Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazard Class of 6.1 and chemicals with a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) health rating of 4 for highly toxic chemicals

    • The faculty/ lab member has knowledge that the chemical is a particularly hazardous substance

    • A written protocol is required for any use of a PHS.  The protocol must be submitted to the Chemical Hygiene Officer and Department Chair and reviewed with all lab personnel and students.  The protocol must include:  

      • Experiment procedure
      • Designated area and method of containment  (e.g., fume hood, glove box, other means) 
      • PPE requirements 
      • Safety precautions
      • Emergency procedures
      • User training 
      • Housekeeping and decontamination procedures
      • Waste disposal

      While the OSHA lab standard classifies these three categories (select carcinogen, reproductive toxin and acute toxins as PHS, responsible faculty/ staff may need to develop special procedures and written protocols for other classes of chemicals that they work with  (e.g. certain flammable liquids, oxidizers, pyrophoric materials,  corrosives) which can be just as hazardous, or more hazardous, than PHS.  

      Personal Protective Equipment

      Laboratory coats must be worn when handling greater than one liter of any PHS that is readily absorbed through the skin.  Laboratory coats used while working with PHS may not be worn outside of the laboratory. Contaminated clothing must be removed immediately and disposed of or laundered separately from street clothes.

      Gloves appropriate for the task and with the required chemical resistance must be worn. Disposable gloves must be discarded after every use and immediately after overt contact with a PHS. Non-disposable gloves must be designated for use only with PHS and must be decontaminated after every use.

      Eye protection is required and must be appropriate for the hazards of the work 

      Personal Hygiene

      Hands must be washed with soap and water immediately after overt contact, at the completion of any procedure, and prior to leaving the laboratory. If eyes or other parts of the body are contaminated, they must be immediately washed or flushed - call Public Safety and Service in all emergencies and if medical assistance is needed.  Report all accidents to the responsible faculty/ staff member.

      Work Area Identification And Access

      Each designated work area where PHS are used on a regular basis must be labeled with a warning (e.g. Caution -- Acute Toxin or Caution -- Reproductive Toxin or Caution -- Select Carcinogen).

      When work areas have not been decontaminated or experiments involving PHS are left in progress, a “Do Not Enter” sign listing the name and phone number of the responsible faculty/ staff member must be posted on all lab entry doors.

      Handling And Storage Procedures

      All work surfaces on which non-volatile PHS are used should be smooth and nonporous or covered with stainless steel or plastic trays. The work surface or trays must always be decontaminated after the procedure is complete.


      Procedures using volatile PHS or that may result in the generation of aerosols or airborne particles must be contained by working in a fume hood, glove box or other containment device. Examples of aerosol generation procedures include: transfer operations, blending, open vessel centrifugation, and injection.

      Vacuum Lines

      Vacuum lines, other than water aspirators, should be protected (e.g., with an absorbent or liquid trap and a HEPA filter) to prevent entry of any PHS into the system.


      Equipment and contaminated materials should be decontaminated using procedures that deactivate the PHS, if such procedures are available. If deactivation procedures are not available, the equipment should be rinsed with an appropriate solvent and the solvent collected as hazardous waste. Decontamination of the work area must be done whenever there has been overt contamination and at the end of each experiment. Ideally, the work area should be decontaminated daily. If a work area is not decontaminated prior to leaving for the day, a “Do Not Enter” sign must be posted.

      Container Labeling

      Containers in which PHS are stored must be labeled with, at a minimum, the chemical name and a warning indicating the hazard (i.e. acute toxin, select carcinogen, reproductive toxin). 

      Waste Disposal

      All waste and contaminated materials must be collected for off-site incineration. Follow the procedures in the hazardous waste disposal section of this plan.   


      Formaldehyde is a sensitizing agent that can cause an immune system response upon initial exposure and a cancer hazard. OSHA established 29 CFR 1910.1048, a separate standard for formaldehyde that applies to laboratories, industry and other users of formaldehyde. The standard requires employee exposure monitoring to determine if a particular experiment results in overexposure to formaldehyde. Mount Holyoke’s Chemical Hygiene Plan applies the same safety protections to students that OSHA requires for employees.  

      Faculty/ staff members should notify the Chemical Hygiene Officer at least two weeks before any experiment where formaldehyde is used in concentrations greater than 0.1 percent. If monitoring has been conducted previously for that experiment, notification is not required unless conditions/ work practices of the experiment have changed.  Results of the monitoring will determine if other requirements from the standard apply.   

      The Formaldehyde Standard also establishes hazard communication requirements for the use of all solutions greater than 0.1 percent, or materials capable of releasing formaldehyde in excess of 0.1 ppm.


      For products capable of releasing 0.1 to 0.5 ppm, labels must include a warning that the product contains formaldehyde and that more information is available on the SDS. For products capable of releasing greater than 0.5 ppm, the label must also address health hazards and include the words "Potential Cancer Hazard". Products purchased after December 1992 should be properly labeled by the vendor. Products purchased before that date or that are not in their original labeled container must be labeled with the appropriate warning. 

      Safety Data Sheets (SDS) 

      Safety Data Sheets must be readily accessible for all formaldehyde-containing products.  SDSs are available in the Science Center Chemical Environmental Management System (CEMS) inventory. 

      Information and Training 

      Annual training is required for all formaldehyde product users. Training is the responsibility of the faculty/ staff member supervising the use of the formaldehyde product.  To accomplish the training, lab faculty/ staff can review and provide the formaldehyde fact sheet to all formaldehyde users that they are responsible for.  


      Corrosives are one of the most commonly encountered hazards in the laboratory. Corrosives are chemicals that can cause visible destruction of, or irreversible alteration in, living tissue, as well as destruction of other materials. The major classes of corrosive chemicals are strong acids and bases, dehydrating agents, and oxidizing agents. Some chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, belong to more than one class. In addition, many corrosives have other hazards such as reactivity (e.g., perchloric acid), flammability (e.g., organic acids), or toxicity (e.g., phenol).

      The strength of acids and bases is defined as the degree of ionization of the acid or base in water. The inorganic or mineral acids, such as hydrochloric acid, a strong acid, generally ionize more than the organic acids, such as acetic acid, a weak acid. Similarly, sodium hydroxide is highly ionized and classified as a strong base, whereas ammonium hydroxide is slightly ionized and characterized as a weak base. The concentration of the acid or base, which is unrelated to its strength, refers to the percentage of the chemical dissolved in water. The corrosivity of acids and bases is dependent on their strength and concentration.

      Dehydrating agents, (e.g. sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, calcium oxide and glacial acetic acid), are corrosive because of their strong affinity for water. This reaction with water is extremely exothermic - concentrated acids should always be added slowly to water. If water is added to the concentrated acid, the rapid generation of heat can cause the water to vaporize, causing the hot concentrated acid solution to splash.

      Many oxidizing agents (e.g. halogens, peroxides, nitric acid, chromic acid) are also corrosive, in addition to their fire and explosion hazard.

      Many corrosives require chemical-specific handling procedures.  The following are general safety precautions when working with corrosives:

      1. Always investigate the additional hazards such as flammability and reactivity
      2. If only a small amount is needed, purchase in small quantities for easier handling and storage
      3. Purchase in plastic coated bottles when available
      4. Use a bottle carrier or some other means of containment when moving chemicals from the stockroom to the laboratory or between laboratories
      5. Store separately from incompatible materials
      6. Wear appropriate protective equipment, always including splash goggles
      7. Always add chemicals slowly, and always add acid to water
      8. Keep ignition sources away from inorganic acid spills which may produce flammable hydrogen gas on contact with metals and away from glacial acetic acid which is itself a fire hazard
      9. When neutralizing corrosives, never add a concentrated acid to base or a concentrated base to acid

      Hazards Of Selected Corrosives

      Corrosives can damage human tissue in their solid, liquid and vapor state. Acute hazards can be manifested as burns, ulceration, permanent tissue damage, or toxic effects. Many corrosives also have chronic hazards, as repeated exposure to even dilute solutions or vapors can cause dermatitis, bronchitis, or eye damage. Acid burns are generally perceived as more painful, which is due to the formation of a protective protein layer which resists further penetration of the acid. In fact, tissue damage from bases is often more serious, as no protective layer is formed and the injury penetrates deeper. The destructive effect of corrosives is greatly increased when they are used at elevated temperatures.

      In addition to the health hazards, the physical hazards posed by many corrosives must also be remembered. For example, many inorganic acids release flammable hydrogen gas when in contact with metals, posing a serious fire and explosion hazard. The hazards of each corrosive should be thoroughly investigated prior to its use.

      Following are examples of some of the hazards of commonly used corrosives - the list is by no means exhaustive: 

      Sulfuric Acid 

      Sulfuric acid is a strong acid, a dehydrating agent, and an oxidizing agent when heated. As a dehydrating agent, it is highly water-reactive, generating tremendous amounts of heat on contact with water. Sulfuric acid is very destructive to tissue and metals and releases flammable hydrogen gas on contact with active metals (e.g., Rb, K, Ca, Mg, Al, Mn, Zn, Fe, Ni, Na). Fuming sulfuric acid is even more hazardous and produces extremely hazardous vapors.

      Nitric Acid 

      Nitric acid is a strong acid and powerful oxidizing agent and can release hydrogen on contact with most metals. Nitric acid is extremely corrosive and its vapors are toxic. The vapors contain nitrogen oxides which can cause delayed respiratory distress, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and death. Nitrogen oxides can also be released as a reaction with metals. Fuming nitric acid is more dangerous than regular nitric acid, again due to the presence of nitrogen oxides.

      Halogen Acids

      Halogen Acids include hydrofluoric, hydrochloric, hydrobromic, and hydriodic acid. The corresponding acid gases, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen bromide, and hydrogen iodide are very soluble in water.  Upon exposure to moisture on the body, formation of the acid occurs. All are strong acids and release hydrogen on contact with active metals.

      Hydrofluoric acid 

      Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive and attacks glass as well as metal - it is extremely dangerous in all concentrations. Hydrofluoric acid causes severe, slow-healing burns to tissue that may not be noticed for several hours. Hydrofluoric acid can also cause severe and permanent damage to the respiratory system, including fatal pulmonary edema, and blindness. In addition to these corrosive effects, it can cause delayed systemic poisoning, including depletion of tissue calcium and magnesium. 

      The following special handling procedures are required in the lab that works with hydrofluoric acid and must be included in the lab’s written PHS protocol: 

      1. The number of people using the acid should be limited to the extent possible - all users must be trained by the responsible faculty/ staff member in the chemistry of the acid, its hazards, proper handling procedures and emergency procedures
      2. When possible, the acid should be purchased at the concentration required for the experiment in order to avoid having to prepare solutions
      3. Hydrofluoric acid should be purchased in small containers on an as-needed basis only
      4. Always work in a functioning fume hood with the sash as low as possible and no higher than 15 inches
      5. Only use in a room equipped with an eyewash station and safety shower
      6. Keep ignition sources away from the area
      7. Wear chemical splash goggles, a face shield providing face and neck protection, neoprene or polyvinyl chloride gloves, and non-absorbent resistant clothing
      8. Dispose of protective clothing and wash hands thoroughly after each use
      9. Use only resistant equipment (e.g., polyethylene, teflon)
      10. Prior to performing experiments using hydrofluoric acid, disposal procedures should be defined - waste acid must be collected as hazardous waste
      11. Spills should be contained and diluted with water and the resulting solution neutralized with lime prior to disposal
      12. Calcium gluconate gel must be in the lab and the responsible faculty/ staff member must ensure that it remains accessible and that all hydrofluoric acid users know where it is stored and the emergency first aid procedure to follow in the event of hydrofluoric acid exposure 
      13. HF Exposure First Aid Procedure sign must be posted in the area of use: 
      • For ALL exposures, have someone call Public Safety immediately (413-538-2304) and inform them that someone has been exposed to hydrofluoric acid (HF) and must be taken to the emergency room for treatment
      • Skin Contact
        • Flush with cool water for at least 5 minutes
        • Apply 2.5% Calcium Gluconate get as soon as rinsing is stopped  
        • Massage gel into site continuously until medical treatment is received
      • Eye Contact
        • Flush eyes for at least 15 minutes, holding eyelids open to allow thorough flushing
        • Ice water compresses should be applied to the eyes during transport to the emergency room
      • Inhalation
        • Move to fresh air
        • Oxygen should be administered by ambulance personnel during transport to the emergency room
      • Ingestion
        • Drink large amounts of water immediately
        • Do not induce vomiting
        • If available, milk, maalox, or mylanta may be given during transport to the emergency room
      • Physicians and other healthcare providers may not be familiar with hydrofluoric acid, or they may confuse it with hydrochloric acid - it is important to stress to all emergency care providers that this is hydrofluoric acid.   Honeywell’s “Recommended Medical Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure” may be a helpful reference.

      Perchloric Acid 

      Perchloric is a strong acid and, at temperatures above 160℃, a strong oxidizing and dehydrating agent. Perchloric acid may decompose explosively when heated - if distilled, dried, or reacted with dehydrating agents or any oxidizable materials, the mixture may spontaneously explode. Perchloric acid forms flammable hydrogen gas on contact with many metals and forms explosive metal perchlorates on contact with certain metals. Perchloric Acid is especially hazardous at concentrations above 70%.

      The following special handling procedures are required in any lab that works with perchloric acid and must be included in the lab’s written PHS protocol:

      1. Plan for all hazards, especially if working with perchloric acid at concentration greater than 70% or involving heating of the acid above 160℃
      2. The number of people using the acid should be limited to the extent possible, and all users should be familiar with the chemistry of the acid, its hazards, proper handling procedures and emergency procedures
      3. Direct flame heating or use of oil baths is prohibited
      4. Perchloric acid should never be used in areas where the material would be absorbed if spilled
      5. Perchloric acid should be purchased in small containers on an as-needed basis only and must be stored separately from incompatible materials
      6. Prior to performing experiments using perchloric acid, disposal procedures should be defined - waste acid must be collected as hazardous waste 
      7. Spilled solutions must not be allowed to dry - they should be neutralized and then soaked up with rags or paper towels. The area should then be rinsed with a large quantity of water. The wet rags or paper towels should be placed in a container and the container should then be filled with water and tightly closed. The container should be disposed of as hazardous waste.

      Acetic Acid 

      Acetic acid is a severe irritant to the skin and eyes. Severe irritation can occur at 25 ppm, but eye damage can occur at lower concentrations. Glacial (100%) acetic acid causes severe eye and tissue damage.  Glacial acetic acid is a dehydrating agent, reacts violently with oxidizing agents and is flammable.


      Phenol is a crystalline solid that adsorbs moisture from the air. In addition to being corrosive, phenol is highly toxic and readily absorbed through the skin in liquid or vapor phase.

      Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide 

      Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are strong corrosives and often referred to as caustics, a term referring to hydroxides. They are both solids which readily absorb water and can absorb enough water from the skin to cause severe injury if not washed off immediately. Both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are both dehydrating agents and cause severe and permanent eye damage. At low concentrations, the sensation of irritation may not occur for several hours and can result in severe ulceration. Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are even more hazardous in heated solutions.

      Chemical Safety Information and Training

      Under the OSHA Laboratory Standard all employees working in laboratories must receive specific information and training regarding the requirements of the standard, chemical hazards, handling methods, and emergency procedures. Employees include anyone who receives compensation from Mount Holyoke College for their services - this includes faculty, staff, and students on work study or grant funded. Students doing independent research must also receive this training.

      New faculty and staff must meet with the Chemical Hygiene Officer to review our lab safety procedures and requirements of the chemical hygiene plan. Departments must provide the EH&S office with the names of all new lab faculty/ staff so they can schedule this meeting.

      Student training has two components: an interactive online training program administered by the Chemical Hygiene Officer and individual instruction by the responsible faculty/staff member.

      Departments must provide EH&S with the contact information for all students that will be Teaching Assistants (TAs) in labs using hazardous chemicals, doing independent laboratory or field research, employed to work in preparing labs or the stockrooms and/ or who will be paid with funds from research grants and are working in any laboratories using hazardous chemicals.  EH&S will contact the students - work or research in these areas cannot begin until the training is completed. 

      Lab faculty/staff must train their students with regard to specific hazards, handling procedures, PPE requirements, safety equipment (eyewash, shower, alarm locations), evacuation and emergency procedures in their laboratory. Training must be accomplished prior to working with hazardous chemicals in the laboratory. 

      Lab faculty/ staff must provide specific notification to their students and ensure that PHS protocols are reviewed and followed if an experiment involves the use of a particularly hazardous substance (acute toxin, select carcinogen or reproductive toxin).  If formaldehyde containing products containing greater than 0.1 percent formaldehyde or capable of releasing in excess of 0.1 ppm will be used, the specific requirements detailed previously in this plan must be followed.

      Biological Safety

      The objective of this section is to provide guidelines for the safe handling and use of biological materials in the laboratory. There are multiple agencies, including the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that establish guidelines and principles to work safely in laboratories conducting biological research.  Science faculty/ staff members must establish requirements to address all hazards specific to their operations.

      Recombinant DNA Research

      The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids as: 

      1. Molecules that 
      • are constructed by joining nucleic acid molecules and, 
      • that can replicate in a living cell, (i.e., recombinant nucleic acids)
    •  Nucleic acid molecules that are chemically or by other means synthesized or amplified, including those that are chemically or otherwise modified but can base pair with naturally occurring nucleic acid molecules, i.e., synthetic nucleic acids, or  
    • Molecules that result from the replication of those described in (i) or (ii) above. 
    • All recombinant DNA research must be conducted in accordance with the NIH’s Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic  Nucleic Acid Molecules.

      Institutional Biosafety Committee

      The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) ensures the safe and responsible conduct of biological research involving recombinant DNA (rDNA) molecules, synthetic nucleic acids, and other potentially biohazardous materials within Mount Holyoke College, in compliance with NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (NIH Guidelines), Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) and state and local public health agencies. To learn more about MHC’s IBC, or to see if your research requires registration, please visit the MHC Institutional Biosafety Committee Google Site.

      Microbiological Laboratories

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established best practices and laboratory biosafety level (BSL) criteria based on risk factors including infectivity, severity of disease, transmissibility, nature of the work being conducted and the origin of the agent, whether indigenous or exotic. Each level of containment describes the microbiological practices, safety equipment, and facility safeguards for the corresponding level of risk associated with handling an agent. All lab personnel working in microbiological laboratories must strictly follow all procedures for the safety of all in the Science Center as well as the public and environment.  The following is a brief summary of BSL containment levels:

      • Biosafety Level 1 (BSL-1)

        • basic level of protection and is appropriate for defined and characterized strains of viable biological agents that are not known to cause disease in immunocompetent adult humans
          • Special Practices: standard microbiological practices
          • Primary Barrier: no primary barriers required
          • PPE: protective laboratory clothing, protective face and eyewear, as determined by the responsible faculty/ staff member
          • Facility Requirements (Secondary Barriers): laboratory doors, sink for handwashing, laboratory bench,  windows fitted with screens, lighting adequate for all activities
      • Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2)

        • appropriate for handling moderate-risk agents that cause human disease of varying severity by ingestion or through percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure
        • All requirements of BSL-1 must be in place, plus the following:
          • Special Practices: limited access, occupational medical services (medical evaluation, surveillance, and treatment, as appropriate), all procedures that may generate an aerosol or splash conducted in a biosafety cabinet (BSC), decontamination process for laboratory equipment
          • Primary Barrier: BSC or other primary containment device used for manipulations of agents that may cause splashes or aerosols
          • PPE: protective laboratory clothing, protective face and eyewear and any other PPE as determined by the responsible faculty/ staff member
          • Facility Requirements (Secondary Barriers): self-closing doors, sink located near exit, windows sealed or fitted with screens, autoclave available
            • A sign with the universal biohazard symbol must be posted at the entrance to the laboratory when infectious materials are present and must include: the laboratory’s Biosafety Level, name and contact information (cell phone) of the responsible faculty/ staff,  PPE requirements, general occupational health requirements (e.g., immunizations, respiratory protection), and required procedures for entering and exiting the lab
      • Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3)

        • appropriate for agents with a known potential for aerosol transmission, for agents that may cause serious and potentially lethal infections, and that are indigenous or exotic in origin. Exotic agents that pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease by infectious aerosols and for which no treatment is available are restricted to high containment laboratories that meet Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) guidelines
          • BSL-3 level research is not conducted at Mount Holyoke College
      • Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4)

        •  are applicable primarily for laboratories working with dangerous and exotic biological agents that pose a high individual risk of life-threatening disease that may be transmitted via the aerosol route and for which there is no available vaccine or therapy
          • BSL-4 level research is not conducted at Mount Holyoke College

      All microbiological laboratories must conduct their work in accordance with the CDC’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories

      Animal Care and Use

      Working with animals requires additional considerations.  The Mount Holyoke College Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) ensures compliance with federal regulations and the continual humane treatment of all animals used in teaching and research.  All IACUC requirements must be met before any use of animals can take place. The following are basic OSHA guidelines for working safely with animals:

      • No eating, drinking, handling contact lenses, applying cosmetics, or taking or applying medicine
      • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes
      • Avoid using sharps whenever possible
        • Be extremely careful when using a needle and syringe or when using sharps during procedures
        • Never remove, recap, bend, break, or clip used needles from disposable syringes
        • Use safe needles whenever possible.
      • Never use your mouth to pipette liquids - only use mechanical pipetting devices
      • Keep doors to rooms holding research animals closed
      • Perform procedures carefully to reduce the possibility of creating splashes or aerosols
      • Restrict operations that generate hazardous aerosols to biological safety cabinets or other ventilated enclosures
      • Clean up all spills immediately
      • Promptly decontaminate work surfaces when procedures are completed and after surfaces are soiled by spills of animal material or waste
      • Properly dispose of animal waste and bedding
      • Wear PPE as determined by lab faculty/ staff
      • Remove gloves and wash your hands after handling animals or animal tissues and before leaving areas where animals are kept

      Responsible faculty/ staff must provide specific training on working with animals in their lab, in  addition to the training and all other protocols required by IACUC.

      Bloodborne Pathogen Control

      Human blood, blood products, body fluids and tissue may contain bloodborne pathogens such as the hepatitis B (HBV) and HIV viruses. Special precautions are required to protect students, faculty and staff from exposure to these sources of infection. The Mount Holyoke College Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Program describes procedures for protection of employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens as required by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030. That Program does not address potential student exposure in the laboratory when human blood, blood products, body fluids and tissue are used. This policy establishes procedures for the use of human blood and tissue in academic laboratories. The procedures described below do not cover the isolation or use of the HIV or HBV viruses in research, which would require more detailed and protective control methods.

      Employee And Research Student Laboratory Use

      All faculty, staff, and research students who are potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens in the laboratory, with the exception of the use of their own blood or tissue, are covered by the Mount Holyoke College Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Program and must comply with its requirements including work practice controls, use of personal protective equipment, housekeeping, labeling, waste disposal, and training. As participants in that program they are eligible for hepatitis B vaccinations and post-exposure medical evaluation and follow-up. Prior to the use of human blood, blood products, body fluids, or tissue in any laboratory, the responsible faculty member must contact the EH&S office to register themself and the potentially exposed staff and research students they supervise as participants in the Mount Holyoke College Program. Training must be completed prior to potential exposure.

      Student Laboratory Use

      Students may only use their own blood and tissue in the laboratory. Samples must be self-collected by the student (e.g., finger prick, cheek scraping), or at the Health Center (by appointment only - call 413-538-2012) and can only be handled by that student or trained lab faculty/ staff members.

      The responsible faculty/ staff must obtain the written statement of understanding from the students who volunteer to use their blood or tissue - students cannot be required to participate in that aspect of the laboratory. All students in the laboratory must be informed by their instructor of the potential hazards of bloodborne pathogen exposure.

      If samples are collected at the Health Center, they must be placed in a second plastic container with a closed lid and a biohazard label and carried by the student to the laboratory.

      Each student must be assigned a discrete laboratory space and all student work is restricted to that location. Each student must also be provided with all equipment and supplies necessary for the experiment - equipment and supplies cannot be shared between students. Procedures that could result in splashing or generation of aerosols (e.g., open tube centrifugation) are not allowed.

      Written instructions must be developed by the responsible faculty/ staff detailing the experimental procedures and describing procedures to prevent contamination of adjacent spaces or other areas of the laboratory, and to properly decontaminate all work areas and decontaminate or dispose of supplies and equipment.

      Personal Protective Equipment And Personal Hygiene

      All students, faculty and staff must wear gloves when in areas or performing operations where there is the potential for contamination. Gloves worn in a potentially contaminated area must be removed or changed before moving to another area of the laboratory. Contaminated gloves must be disposed of as biomedical waste.

      Eating, drinking, cosmetic application or handling contact lenses are prohibited in the laboratory. Everyone must thoroughly wash their hands prior to leaving the laboratory.

      Decontamination And Waste Disposal

      All work surfaces and reusable equipment must be decontaminated with a hospital-rated disinfectant - disinfectants with this rating are considered effective against both HIV and HBV. Alternatively, a 1% solution of bleach (1/4 cup per gallon of water) with a 10-minute contact time may be used - used bleach may be discharged to the sewer. Chemical splash goggles should be worn when using bleach. Each student must be responsible for decontaminating their own work area and equipment. As an alternative, each student could place equipment into the disinfectant and a trained faculty/ staff member may complete the cleaning process. Lab faculty/ staff will supervise all decontamination procedures. 

      All contaminated sharps (e.g., lancets) must be placed in a needle disposal container designed specifically for that purpose. Full needle containers must be closed securely and disposed of as biomedical waste. All other disposable supplies must be collected in red bags and  collected as biomedical waste for incineration.

      Emergency Procedures

      In the event that any one in the laboratory becomes contaminated with blood or tissue from another person, the body area should be flushed with water (eyes and mucous membranes) or soap and water (skin) and the person should seek medical attention. For employee exposures, the employee notify their Supervisor who should contact Human Resources to report the incident and for referral to Holyoke Medical Center for post-exposure evaluation. Students should call the Health Center. During College breaks when the Health Center is closed, call Public Safety and Service - they will arrange transport to a medical facility.

      Select Agents

      The Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP) oversees the possession, use and transfer of biological select agents and toxins which have the potential to pose a severe threat to public, animal or plant health or to animal or plant products.  Responsibility for FSAP is shared between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Select Agents and Toxins and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Division of Agricultural Select Agents and Toxins. 

      FSAP is a result of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002 and the USA Patriot Act of 2001 which require that academic and research institutions that plan to possess “select agents” collect information, register and obtain prior federal government approval.  Institutions must comply with the following Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations: 

      If you are proposing to possess an agent on the Select Biological Agents and Toxins list, the initial step is to review the regulations listed above and the information on the CDC’s Federal Select Agent Program site, including their frequently asked questions (FAQs). Following your full review, if you wish to proceed, you must file a Select Agent Registration Form with the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).   

      If approved by the Mount Holyoke College IBC, the next step is to apply for registration with the CDC.  You should anticipate a significant delay in obtaining approval, due both to security requirements and extensive review of the application by the CDC, as well as the procedures that will need to be established at the College. There may be requests that the College cannot accommodate because of facility restrictions and security requirements. All registration requests trigger a CDC security risk assessment.  

      Radioactive Materials

      Ionizing radiation is potentially hazardous unless used with strict adherence to safety rules and procedures. Unlike most other such hazards, the risks of unguarded exposure to ionizing radiation include the possibility of damage to future generations. The safety rules that govern all uses of ionizing radiation are concerned with preventing genetic damage as well as protecting the health of the exposed individual. When followed, these rules limit the exposure of persons who work with radioactive materials to levels far below those that are believed to cause any adverse effects. The rules and procedures set forth in this plan have one purpose: to protect all Mount Holyoke College community members and the public against unnecessary and potentially harmful exposure to ionizing radiation.  

      **This will be back up soon - the radiation safety section of the plan is under review**


      This section of the plan describes requirements for personnel protection from laser radiation and other associated hazards. These requirements are designed to comply with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) regulation 105 CMR 121.000: To Control the Radiation Hazards of Lasers, Laser Systems and Optical Fiber Communication Systems Utilizing Laser Diode or Light Emitting Diode Sources.

      All operations or research involving the use of high power lasers and laser systems must be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that personnel exposure to laser radiation is below the maximum levels specified in 105 CMR 121.600. 

      Laser Requirement Summary


      Laser Class

      Warning Label






      Warning Sign






      Registered with RSO






      Laser Safety Training






      Laser Safe Operating Protocol






      Medical Surveillance






      *If invisible to the eye, and if a cw laser, with visible beams > 15mW of power.

      Laser Classification

      Lasers are classified according to the definitions of Section 3.3 of ANSI Z136.1. Classification and labeling of commercially purchased lasers is the responsibility of the manufacturer. In addition to meeting the general requirements of this plan, lasers must meet specific requirements based on laser class. Only lasers fabricated on-site would require classification by the Investigator, which requires approval of the Radiation Safety Officer. Laser classification and entry controls are summarized as follows: 

      Class 1: exempt lasers or laser systems that cannot, under normal operating conditions, produce a hazard. Equipment such as laser printers that completely enclose the laser and laser beam are normally specified as Class 1.

      • Class 1 lasers must be labeled, but are exempt from other requirements.

      Class 2: low power visible‑radiation lasers or laser systems. Visible continuous-wave (CW) helium-neon (HeNe) lasers above Class 1, but not exceeding 1mW (milliwatt) radiant power, are common examples of this class. Because of the normal human aversion or blink response, these lasers normally do not present a hazard. Class 2 lasers may present a hazard if viewed directly for extended periods of time, like many conventional light sources.

      • Class 2 lasers must be labeled and registered with the Radiation Safety Officer, but are exempt from other requirements 
      • The warning label or sign shall caution users to avoid staring into the beam or directing the beam toward the eye of individuals, and shall be placed on or near the laser in a conspicuous location

      Class 3a: lasers or laser systems that normally would not produce a hazard if viewed for only momentary periods with the unaided eye. They may present a hazard if viewed using collecting optics. Visible CW HeNe lasers above 1mW but not exceeding 5mW radiant power are examples of this class.

      • Class 3a lasers must be operated in a location where access to the beam can be controlled 
      • The potential for viewing of the direct or specularly reflected beam must be minimized
      • The operator of the laser shall inform personnel entering the area of the presence of the laser beam and the precautions they need to follow

      Class 3b: lasers or laser systems that can produce a hazard if viewed directly. This includes intrabeam viewing or specular reflections. Except for the higher power Class 3b lasers, this class laser will not produce hazardous diffuse reflections. Visible CW HeNe lasers above 5mW but not exceeding 500mW radiant power are examples of this class.

      • Class 3b lasers must be used in areas where entry by unauthorized personnel can be controlled
      • Entry into the area of personnel untrained in laser safety may be permitted by the laser operator if they are instructed on safety requirements and are provided with protective eyewear, if required.

      Class 4: lasers or laser systems that can produce a hazard, not only from direct or specular reflections, but also from a diffuse reflection. In addition, such lasers may produce fire and skin hazards.

      • Class 4 lasers must be operated by authorized users in areas dedicated to their use
      • Failsafe interlocks must be used to prevent unexpected entry into the controlled area and access must be limited by the laser operator to persons who have been instructed on specific safety procedures and who are wearing proper laser protection eyewear, if required, when the laser is capable of emission
      • Authorized operators are responsible for providing information and safety protection to untrained personnel who may enter the laser controlled area as visitors

      For pulsed systems, interlocks shall be designed so as to prevent firing of the laser by dumping the stored energy into a dummy load. For continuous-wave lasers, the interlocks shall turn off the power supply or interrupt the beam by means of shutters.

      Manufacturer classifications are based on the level of laser radiation accessible during intended operation of the laser. The hazard may be greater, and therefore require additional controls, when maintenance or service is being performed.

      Laser Investigators

      Investigators using lasers are responsible for assuring their safe use in their area or lab. Specific responsibilities include:

      • Complying with and enforcing the safety requirements prescribed in this plan
      • Reporting all proposed purchases of Class 2, 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers to the Radiation Safety Committee in advance by submitting a Laser Registration Form 
      • Registering all existing Class 2, 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers by submitting a Laser Registration Form 
      • Providing a Laser Safe Operating Protocol to the Radiation Safety Committee for approval for all Class 3b and 4 lasers
      • Assuring that all users and other personnel are properly instructed in safe procedures for working with all lasers in their charge
      • Assuring that all required protective equipment is used during laser work
      • Reviewing in advance all lab procedures to be used by laser users in carrying out research work involving laser radiation for possibility of laser exposure and associated non-beam hazards
      • Assuring the integrity of associated equipment such as vacuum systems, cryogenic systems, pressure vessels or other similar equipment to be used in conjunction with a laser
      • Assure that all laser system safety interlocks, warning lights, etc. are functioning
      • Posting warning signs and otherwise controlling laser hazards for which the Investigator is responsible
      • Maintaining control of visitors

      Laser Users

      All laser users are responsible for:

      • Using only Investigator approved techniques and procedures in operations involving the use of lasers
      • Wearing prescribed protective glasses and any other required protective clothing or equipment as required by the Laser Investigator
      • Meeting all applicable requirements of this plan, including those of training and medical surveillance before operating any laser
      • Maintaining a current Authorized Laser User Certification - must be kept in the lab or with the Laser Investigator that supervises the user 

      Radiation Safety Officer (RSO)

      Mount Holyoke College contracts the services of a consultant that serves as Radiation Safety Officer (RSO).  The RSO is responsible for: 

      • Reviewing laser facility procedures to assure safe use
      • Maintaining a current laser inventory to comply with the DPH registration requirement
      • Performing laser safety surveys for Class 3b and 4 lasers at least annually
      • Maintaining all required records for DPH inspection
      • Investigating all accidents or incidents involving laser radiation to determine the cause(s) and to recommend corrective action to the Radiation Safety Committee
      • Providing the Radiation Safety Committee and Investigators with advice and assistance on matters pertaining to the safe use of lasers

      Radiation Safety Committee (RSC)

      The Radiation Safety Committee is responsible for:

      • Establishing policies and procedures on the safe use of lasers
      • Reviewing the laser safety aspects of the use of all lasers on campus
      • Review reports of accidents or incidents involving lasers and assure that appropriate corrective action is taken to prevent re-occurrence

      Laser Registration

      The Massachusetts Public Health Department Radiation Control Program requires that all lasers be registered with the department. The law further requires that all new purchases of lasers be registered prior to receipt. In order to comply with this law, the Radiation Safety Officer will maintain a laser inventory. Prior to purchase of a Class 2, 3a, 3b, or 4 laser, and for existing lasers, a Laser Registration Form must be submitted.

      Laser Safe Operating Protocol 

      A Radiation Safety Committee-approved Laser Safe Operating Protocol (LSOP) is required for all Class 3b and 4 lasers. The Radiation Safety Committee may recommend or require a LSOP for any laser or laser application where it is deemed necessary for ensuring adequate safety controls.

      LSOPs are prepared by the Investigator. The LSOP must include  information on location, hazards, controls, safe operation procedures, training and any other relevant information that the committee should consider.  LSOPs are reviewed by the Radiation Safety Committee.

      General Safety Requirements for Class 3a, 3b and 4 Lasers

      Each class 3a, 3b, and 4 laser shall receive a preliminary safety review and approval by the Radiation Safety Officer prior to acquisition or fabrication of the laser. 

      Once in place, Class 3a, 3b and 4 lasers must receive a final safety review and approval by the Radiation Safety Officer prior to initial use of the laser. The final review shall cover user qualifications, safe operations including electrical safety, area controls, and written procedures, if required.

      Each Class 3a, 3b, or 4 laser shall be used in a controlled area in order to restrict access of unauthorized personnel - the level of control depends on the laser class.

      Laser Safety Training

      Laser safety training must be provided by the Investigator to all users of Class 2, 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers.  All users of Classes 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers shall be recertified by the Investigator at intervals not to exceed two years. 

      Training must cover both laboratory and laser-specific training, as well as general laser safety concepts, including: laser classification, safety requirements and control measures, biological effects, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, medical surveillance information (if required), warning signs and labels, associated non-beam hazards.  The content of laboratory laser-specific training must be specified in the LSOP. Laser-specific safety training must include demonstration and observed practice of laser use, including: operation and control measures,  * special hazards and precautions, safe practices specific to the laser or system.    

      Upon completion of Laser Safety Training, the Investigator will authorize the user for laser use, with or without restrictions. The Investigator and User must complete an Authorized Laser User Certification form. 

      Laser Medical Surveillance

      All Investigators and Users who are routinely engaged in work where they may be exposed to laser radiation from a class 3b or 4 laser must participate in the laser medical surveillance program.

      Laser medical surveillance is intended to establish a baseline of ocular conditions before exposure to laser radiation, then detect and document, as early as possible, ocular damage in the event of a suspected exposure incident. Both aspects serve to assess the effectiveness of control measures and to promptly institute appropriate therapeutic measures.

      Laser medical surveillance includes a preliminary baseline eye exam. Additional eye exams are required immediately in the event of exposure or suspected exposure to laser radiation above the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) established in 105 CMR 121.600 (pulse and wavelength dependent). An eye exam may be required upon termination of laser work or upon termination of employment at the College.

      Investigators should contact the Environmental Health and Safety Office to schedule baseline eye exams, and report suspected exposures above the MPE. 

      Laser Warning Signs

      Class 1 lasers do not require a sign. The word CAUTION shall be used with all Class 2 and Class 3a lasers. The word DANGER shall be used with all Class 3b and Class 4 lasers. Signs, including the appropriate precautionary statements detailed must be described by the Investigator  in their LSOP.    

      All warning signs and labels shall be displayed conspicuously in locations where they best serve to warn individuals of potential safety hazards. Normally, warning signs are posted at entryways (e.g. on doors) to laser controlled areas.

      Warning labels are affixed to the lasers in a conspicuous location. Laser warning signs should be removed by the Laser Investigator if the laser has been removed from the room or area.

      Safe Laser Practices

      The following control measures are recommended as a guide to safe laser use. If any of these control measures cannot be accomplished, the LSOP must describe alternative controls to provide comparable protection. These practices are taken from ANSI Z136.1: Standard for Safe Use of Lasers.

      The purpose of controls is to reduce the possibility of eye and skin exposure to hazardous laser radiation and to control other hazards associated with operation and maintenance of laser devices.

      Engineering controls (physical features incorporated into the design or installation of the laser system) are the preferred method of control. If engineering controls are not feasible, then administrative and procedural controls and personal protective equipment should be used.

      Laser Engineering Controls

      1. Protective housings should be provided for all classes of lasers
      2. Protective housings that enclose Class 3b or 4 lasers should have an interlock system that is activated when the protective housing is opened
      3. Enclosure of the laser equipment or beam path is the preferred method of control
      4. Service access panels intended to be removed by service personnel only and which permit direct access to laser radiation associated with Class 3b or 4 lasers should either be interlocked or require a tool for removal and have an appropriate warning sign
      5. Class 3b lasers should be provided with a master switch. Class 4 lasers must have a master switch. The master switch should be operated with a key or coded access (e.g., computer authorization password)
      6. Lasers with viewing portals should have means, (e.g., interlock, filter, attenuators), to maintain laser radiation below the maximum permissible exposure (MPE).
      7. The laser should be set up so that the beam path is not at normal eye level, (i.e., so it is below 4.5 feet and above 6.5 feet).
      8. All collecting optics intended for viewing use should incorporate means to maintain laser radiation transmitted through the collecting options to levels below the MPE.
      9. Class 3b lasers should be provided with a remote interlock connector. Class 4 lasers must be provided with a remote interlock connector. The interlock connector provides electrical connection to an emergency master disconnect or to a room or area interlock
      10. Class 3b lasers should be provided with a permanently attached beam stop attenuator. A Class 4 laser must be provided with such an attenuator
      11. An alarm, warning light, or verbal countdown command should be used with a Class 3 laser and must be used with a Class 4 laser to signal activation. For Class 4 lasers, there must be an emission delay to allow action to be taken to avoid exposure
      12. When possible, Class 4 lasers should be fired and monitored from a remote position

      Laser Administrative and Procedural Controls

      1. In applications using Class 3b or 4 lasers with unenclosed beam paths, the Nominal Hazard Zone (NHZ: space within which the level of direct, reflected, or scattered radiation during operation exceeds the applicable MPE) must be established. A laser-controlled area must be established in this zone, and appropriate control measures established
      2. Class 3a, 3b and 4 lasers must only be operated and maintained by authorized Investigators and Users
      3. LSOPs are required for all Class 3b, and 4 lasers
      4. A RSO safety review is required for all Class 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers
      5. User Training is required for all Class 2, 3a, 3b, and 4 lasers

      Laser Work Area Controls

      Entry controls must prevent unauthorized people from being present when the laser is energized or about to be energized.

      1. The illumination in the area should be as bright as practicable in order to constrict the eye pupils of users
      2. The potential for specular reflections should be minimized by shields and by removal of all unnecessary shiny surfaces
      3. Windows to hallways or other outside areas should be provided with adequate shades or covers
      4. The main beams and reflected beams should be terminated by material that is non specular-reflective and fireproof. This is required for any accessible laser for which the MPE could be exceeded
      5. An active laser should never be left unattended unless it is part of a controlled environment
      6. Good housekeeping should be practiced to ensure that no device, tool, or other reflective material is left in the beam

      Recommended Laser Use Controls

      The manufacturer's recommendations for safe laser use must be followed unless alternative methods are described and approved in the LSOP.

      1. Avoid looking into the primary beam at all times
      2. Do not aim the laser with the eye - direct reflections can cause retinal damage
      3. Avoid looking at the pump source
      4. Clear all personnel from the anticipated path of the beam
      5. Before operating the laser, warn all personnel and visitors of the potential hazard and ensure all safety measures are in place
      6. Be especially cautious around lasers that operate at invisible light frequencies
      7. Do not wear bright, reflective jewelry or other objects

      Laser Protective Equipment

      All persons who work in areas where there is radiation from Class 3b or Class 4 lasers must wear approved laser eyewear if the potential exists for exposure in excess of the MPE. Exceptions may be approved if wearing protective eyewear produces a greater safety hazard than when it is not worn. Exceptions shall be described by the Investigator’s LSOP and approved by the Radiation Safety Committee.

      The Radiation Safety Officer shall review and approve protective eyewear to assure that it is appropriate for the use for which it is intended. The eyewear to be used will depend on the wavelength(s) and intensity of the accessible radiation. Important considerations:

      • No matter how good the glasses, no protection is provided unless worn   
      • All safety glass may shatter, and all plastic lenses may melt when maximum irradiance or radiant exposure for the particular lens is exceeded   
      • Laser safety glasses may not provide eye protection for hazards  other than the laser for which they are specified, unless the frequency produced is the same and power output is not greater        

      In some cases, other protective equipment, such as clothing to protect the skin, may be required. Such requirements must be addressed in LSOP.

      Associated (Non-Beam) Laser Hazards

      Depending on the type of laser used, associated hazards, other than those from beam radiation may be involved. Such hazards, if they exist, must be addressed in the LSOP.

      Atmospheric Contamination

      1. Vaporized target material: contaminants may include carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, mercury, and other metals
      2. Gases from flowing gas lasers or byproducts of laser reactions such as fluorine, hydrogen‑cyanide, and many others
      3. Gases or vapors from cryogenic coolants 


      Chemicals, including dyes and solvents, from certain dye lasers have been shown to be carcinogenic, toxic, or otherwise hazardous.

      Cryogenic Coolants

      Cryogenic liquids, such as liquid nitrogen or hydrogen, may cause burns.

      Electrical Hazards

      The potential for electrical shock is present in most laser systems. Pulsed lasers utilize capacitor banks for energy storage and cw lasers generally have high voltage DC or RF electrical power supplies.

      Explosive Hazards

      The potential exists for explosions at capacitor banks or optical pump systems during the operation of some high power lasers. Explosive reactions of chemical laser reactants or other gases used within the laser laboratory could cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel.


      The use of jewelry (watches, rings etc.) is often an overlooked source of exposure to a beam reflected by a mirror-like surface.

      Ultraviolet Radiation

      Either direct or reflected UV radiation from flash lamps and CW laser discharge tubes may cause eye injury. Usually, UV radiation is a problem only when quartz tubing or windows are used.

      Visible Radiation (non-laser)

      High luminance radiation emitted from unshielded pump lamps may cause eye injury. Potentially hazardous X-rays may be generated from high voltage (over 15kV) power supply tubes.

      Controlled Substances

      The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that “controlled substances are medications or illicit drugs primarily active in the central nervous system and can potentially cause a relative physical and mental dependence leading to addiction…these substances can have significant deleterious health consequences at high doses.” Controlled substances are regulated by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in regulation 21 CFR Part 1308.00: Schedules of Controlled Substances and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) in regulation 105 CMR 700.000: Implementation of Massachusetts General Law (MGL) chapter 94C: Controlled Substances Act. 

      The DEA classifies  drugs, substances and certain chemicals used to make drugs into 5 categories, depending on medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential.

      Drug Scheduling:  

      • Schedule 1: drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse - one example is heroin
      • Schedule 2: drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous - one example is cocaine
      • Schedule 3:  drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV - one example is Tylenol with codeine
      • Schedule 4: drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence - one example is Xanax
      • Schedule 5: drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes - one example is Robitussin AC

      Exclusions and Exemptions

      Both DEA and DPH regulations also list "excluded" nonnarcotic substances, which are exempt from regulation. The federal list is much more extensive than the state, with the result that certain substances are exempt from federal requirements but not from state. DEA lists "exempt chemical preparations" which are exempt when intended for laboratory, industrial, educational, or special research purposes and not for general administration to a human being or other animal. DPH regulations also include "excepted compounds" which are exempt from requirements of Schedule I through V but still subject to Schedule VI requirements. 

      Registration Requirements

      Each faculty/ staff member wishing to purchase or use any controlled substance must obtain registrations in their name from both DEA and DPH. Certain substances that are exempt from DEA requirements but not DPH will only require a DPH registration. You cannot purchase any controlled substance until you are issued registration numbers. A faculty/ staff member that is awaiting action on submitted registration applications may use controlled substances under the registration of a registered faculty/staff member if the registrant to supervise use and the Dean of Faculty and/ or Science Advisory Board approve the arrangement.  Registrants are responsible for all recordkeeping pertaining to their registration.  Copies of registrations and renewal applications, including appended research protocols, should be sent to the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

      Controlled Substance Security

      DEA regulation section 21 CFR 1301.71 and DPH regulation section 105 CMR 700.005 establish requirements for security of controlled substances. These regulations should be thoroughly reviewed by the registrant.  Following is a summary of the requirements.

      Physical Security from Theft

      Controlled substances must be stored in a securely locked, substantially constructed cabinet.  This cabinet must be located in a room that is locked when not occupied.  If  using a keyed lock, the key(s) must be under the direct control of the registrant.

      Personnel Security Requirements

      No person that has had an application denied or registration revoked may work with controlled substances. If a non registered faculty, staff, or student working under the supervision of the registrant will be provided controlled substances for use when the registrant is not present, they must first sign a statement provided by Human Resources. The statement asks questions regarding criminal and drug use history and allows the College to perform a criminal record check, as required by the DEA. The registrant must supply the name(s) of such individuals to the Director of Human Resources. Work with controlled substances cannot begin until the registrant is notified by Human Resources that the individual is approved for work. Human Resources will follow all requirements regarding privacy and protection of the personal information of all individuals.  

      Security Upon Receipt

      All shipments of controlled substances should be delivered directly to the registrant or to the department office and held in a secure location for pick up by the registrant.  Registrants must track their expected shipments and coordinate with the College’s Mail and Copy Center and the Science Center Stockroom.  Registrants must plan to be present to receive their shipments or retrieve them promptly upon delivery to the College.   

      Report of Theft or Loss

      Reports of loss or theft must be made by the registrant within 24 hours to both the DEA and DPH.  DPH requires submission of a Drug Incident Report (DIR).  DEA requires submission of Form DEA-106 via their Theft Loss Reporting (TLR) System.

      Records And Inventories

      The DEA and DPH require that certain records be kept by the registrant. Registrants must store these records separately from all other records (e.g., in a separate log or file). Records must be maintained for at least two years and include:

      • records of receipt, date and amount dispensed, consumptive use, and disposal
      • initial inventory of all controlled substances on-hand 
      • biennial inventories on the day of the year on which the initial inventory was completed, or on a fixed inventory date that does not vary by more than six months from the biennial date.

      Disposal Of Controlled Substances

      Controlled substances must be handled and disposed of in accordance with the requirements of DEA regulation 21 CFR 1317.05, which specifies procedures for obtaining approval from the DEA, via submission of DEA Form 41, for destruction of the controlled substance on site or transfer to an authorized person for destruction.  Please contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety for assistance with controlled substance disposal.  

      Institutional Oversight

      The Mount Holyoke College Alcohol and Drug-Free Environment Policy was developed in part as a requirement of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 and the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. The policy prohibits the unlawful distribution, possession or use of controlled substances and alcohol by any member of the College community on College property or at any College-sponsored function.  All registrants and researchers must comply fully with the letter and spirit of this policy.

      In support of the policy, the College has adopted procedures for the institutional oversight of the use of controlled substances in teaching and research. The procedures are designed to assure the safety and wellbeing of faculty, staff and students who may use controlled substances in laboratory courses or in research projects and afford additional legal protection to the College and the holders of licenses for the use of controlled substances in the unlikely event that substance abuse by faculty, staff, or students authorized by the licensee to use controlled substances should occur. 

      Registrants must conduct an annual audit of their use of controlled substances in teaching and research. The audit will consist of 1) an inspection of the safe or locked cabinet containing the controlled substances, 2) a review of the records pertaining to the acquisition, inventory, use, and disposal of controlled substances (including those obtained without cost from, for example, federal laboratories or other investigators) and 3) a review of the procedures for the oversight of non-licensed personnel (other faculty, staff, students) authorized by the licensee to use controlled substances in teaching or research. The Director Environmental Health and Safety will assist in the audit upon request by the registrant.

      A record of the audit, including description of corrective actions for any deficiencies found must be kept on file with the registrant and must be made available for review upon request from the Dean of the Faculty.

      In addition, the registrant must comply with all College requirements and procedures regarding welfare and protection of all animals and humans.  Refer to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and Research Involving Human Subjects policies for specific requirements.

      Machine Tools

      The use of stationary machine tools and powered hand tools is subject to the following requirements:

      1. Operate only those machines and power tools that you are authorized to use
      2. Machine tools in the Machine Shop may only be used under the instruction and direct supervision of the Shop Technician - the Shop should be locked when the Shop Technician is not present
      3. Student use of machine tools and power hand tools in other areas must be done under the instruction and direct supervision of lab faculty/ staff familiar with the hazards and appropriate safeguards for the tool being used
      4. Choose the right tool for the job - makeshift or undersized tools are always a hazard
      5. Eye protection must be worn at all times: safety glasses with side shields are the minimum level of protection and goggles may be advisable under certain situations - The Shop Technician or responsible lab faculty/ staff will provide direction
      6. Closed shoes (toe and heel) with no perforations must be worn at all times in the Machine Shop and whenever using tools or moving heavy objects
      7. Be sure all safeguards are in place and functioning properly before starting work. Guards as supplied by the manufacturer must be used when operating equipment. Fabricated tools guards must meet the requirements of OSHA 1910.212: Machinery and Machine Guarding
      8. Check portable power tools for poor wiring or loose switches - do not use a tool with a frayed cord or with the grounding prong removed
      9. Chuck keys, calipers, gauges, and other tools must be removed immediately after use - forgetting to do so may lead to the object becoming a projectile when the machine is started
      10. Never wear loose gloves, wristwatches, rings, bracelets, or other jewelry while operating machinery. Long hair and loose clothing must be controlled near operating machinery.
      11. Practice good housekeeping: rags, drawings, hand tools, lubricant containers and other loose objects should be kept away from moving machine parts and machine surfaces that may vibrate during machine operation
      12. Use a vise or clamps to secure the work whenever possible
      13. When using portable tools, do not overreach - keep good balance and proper footing at all times
      14. Be aware of potential hazards in your work area:  do not overlook the hazards and workspace requirements of others working nearby
      15. Prior to operating power tools, always check for flammable liquids, combustible materials and other fire hazards before beginning work
      16. Keep out of the way of things that may be thrown by machinery. Some machines produce large amounts of debris. Debris not caught by the machine's dust collection system may be propelled out of the machine in a particular direction and distract or obstruct the vision of the operator. Some machines may also eject stock material under some circumstances. Table saws and wood jointers, for example, will eject wood stock in the direction of the rotation of the blade if the material is improperly fed. These machines should be operated from one side, minimizing any possible hazards
      17. Chips and debris should be cleaned with a brush and not with compressed air or by hand
      18. The machining of pyrophoric metals (such as magnesium) or toxic metals (such as beryllium, cadmium, lead, osmium) requires special precautions - Any work on these types of materials should be discussed with the Shop Technician and Director of Environmental Health and Safety
      19. Do not remove stock or reach near any moving parts of a machine until those parts have come to a complete stop -turning the machine "off" does not immediately halt the hazardous motion of many machines
      20. Machine adjustments or lubricating may be done while the machine is operating only if no safeguards are removed or bypassed and only if the operator is not exposed to any hazardous energy
      21. Maintenance and repair of machine tools should be done by the Shop Technician or Facilities Management - Servicing must be done in accordance with the Mount Holyoke College Lockout/Tagout Program.

      Exposure Evaluation and Medical Consultation

      Chemical exposure monitoring is coordinated by the Chemical Hygiene Officer when there is reason to believe that exposure levels routinely exceed the OSHA established action level or permissible exposure limit for a specific chemical. Employees with concerns regarding their exposure should contact Environmental Health and Safety.  In the event of an exposure incident or when a student or employee experiences symptoms of exposure, the Chemical Hygiene Officer should be contacted immediately.

      Mount Holyoke College will provide medical consultations for employees under any of the following circumstances.

      1. An employee develops symptoms of exposure
      2. When chemical exposure monitoring reveals that routine exposures are above the OSHA established action levels or permissible exposure limit and medical surveillance requirements have been established by OSHA for the specific chemical
      3. When an event, such as a spill, results in the likelihood of hazardous exposure

      Medical consultation services will be provided by a physician chosen by Mount Holyoke College. Employees requesting medical consultation should contact Human Resources.

      Waste Disposal

      One goal of experimental design should be the minimization of waste produced.  Using the least amount of material required and limiting the use of disposable equipment are effective methods.

      Chemical Waste

      In order to determine proper handling procedures and disposal, a decision must first be made regarding whether the chemical waste is hazardous. The College must comply with federal and state hazardous waste regulations, including Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation 40 CFR 261 and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulation 310 CMR 30 which define various categories of hazardous chemical waste.  The College must also comply with the requirements of the Town of South Hadley for our pretreatment permit, which regulates discharge to the sewer system.

      EPA and MA DEP define hazardous waste in several ways:

      •  Listed wastes: these chemicals appear on one of 4 lists: F, K, P and U

        • F-listed wastes are known as wastes from nonspecific sources and are common in manufacturing and industrial processes.  They are divided into 7 groups and can include spent solvents, as one example
        • K-listed wastes are source-specific wastes from 13 sectors of industry and manufacturing.  Organic chemicals manufacturing is one example
        • P-listed wastes are pure and commercial grade formulations of certain unused chemicals.  They are considered to be acute hazardous wastes - arsenic oxide is one example
        • U-listed wastes are pure and commercial grade formulations of certain unused chemicals.  They are considered to be hazardous wastes - triethylamine is one example
      • Characteristic Wastes: properties that cause waste to be hazardous - EPA established 4 characteristics

        • Ignitability characteristic include liquids with flash points below 60°C, non-liquids that cause fire through specific conditions, ignitable compressed gases and oxidizers
        • Corrosivity characteristic include aqueous wastes with a pH of less than or equal to 2, a pH greater than or equal to 12.5 or based on the liquid’s ability to corrode steel
        • Reactivity characteristic may be unstable under normal conditions, may react with water, may give off toxic gases and may be capable of detonation or explosion under normal conditions or when heated
        • Toxicity characteristic are harmful when ingested or absorbed. Toxic wastes present a concern as they may be able to leach from waste and pollute groundwater
      • Mixed Radiological and Hazardous Waste: hazardous wastes that also contain radioactive material 

        • The hazardous component of the mixed waste is regulated by EPA under RCRA
        • The radiological component of the mixed waste is regulated by the Department of Energy (DOE) or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
      • Waste Oil and PCBs

      Faculty/staff are responsible for determining whether laboratory waste generated is a hazardous waste - the Hazardous Waste Determination checklist can be used as a guide. Lab personnel must review the determination when changes in the laboratory experiment could change the classification of the waste. 

      There are other chemicals that have not been defined as hazardous by EPA or the Massachusetts DEP that should be handled using the procedure for hazardous waste. These include particularly hazardous substances (PHS), detailed in a separate section of this plan:

      • Select Carcinogens
      • Reproductive Toxins
      • Acute Toxins 

      Faculty/staff may designate other chemical wastes to be handled as hazardous based on their knowledge of the hazards of the waste.

      Disposal Of Non-Hazardous Chemical Waste

      Once a waste determination concludes that waste is not a hazardous waste, it may be disposed of as a nonhazardous waste. Liquid wastes that are nonhazardous and water-soluble may be flushed to the sewer with copious amounts of water. Liquids that are not water-soluble, must be solidified (absorbed) and disposed of as a solid waste. Nonhazardous solid waste must be labeled with a permanent marker as "nonhazardous - trash disposal" and can then be put in the laboratory trash.

      Hazardous Waste Collection And Lab Accumulation

      All hazardous waste must be collected for disposal by an EPA-approved method at a licensed facility. Hazardous waste should be collected in each laboratory in screw top containers that are compatible with the waste. Each container should be labeled with a red and white "Hazardous Waste" label at the time waste is first put into the container. The label must contain:

      • waste components: each chemical present - completely written out (no chemical formulas, structures or abbreviations are allowed)
      • hazard(s):  each hazard present must be checked off - ignitable, oxidizer, corrosive, toxic, or reactive

      Additional space on the label may be used to list a generic waste name such as “chlorinated solvents”. The "Date Full or Moved to Storage" should be completed when the container is moved to the main storage area, either when full or when the waste is no longer being generated in the lab. Indelible markers should be used for labeling and abbreviations cannot be used. Containers must be closed except when waste is being added. 

      The ‘Science Center Hazardous Waste Collection’ poster describes the requirements and is posted in all labs that have hazardous waste satellite areas.  If you begin generating hazardous waste and there is not a hazardous waste collection poster in your lab, please contact Environmental Health and Safety:

      To minimize the hazard of incompatible chemical reactions, wastes should not be mixed in the laboratory. It is also important to separate chlorinated from non-chlorinated solvents whenever possible, as non-chlorinated solvents can be processed for reuse and chlorinated solvents must be incinerated. Waste containers must be kept near the point of generation and all liquid waste must be in secondary containment. The secondary containment must provide for separation of wastes that are incompatible. The amount of waste accumulated in the laboratory at any time should be minimized. Only one bottle of a particular type of waste is allowed in the laboratory - you cannot have multiple bottles of the same hazardous waste type in satellite areas.  

      Laboratory Waste Removal

      When a waste container is full, or that type of waste will no longer be generated in the laboratory, the container must be moved to the main storage area within 3 days. Check the containers to make sure they are properly closed and that the labels are complete and legible. Request a pick up by emailing or submitting a waste removal request through your MHC CEMS account.

      Waste Storage And Disposal

      Upon receipt at the waste storage room, all waste is separated and stored by hazard category. To minimize the potential for releases all waste containers are placed in trays or other secondary containers.

      Wastes are shipped off-site using a licensed hazardous waste transporter. All hazardous waste is taken to licensed facilities who treat, recycle, incinerate, or otherwise dispose of the materials using EPA- approved methods for the particular waste type.  

      Disposal Of Empty Containers 

      The hazardous waste regulations define an empty container as a container from which all hazardous chemical which can be poured has been removed and no more than one inch of chemical remains.

      Most empty containers can be safely and legally disposed of as laboratory trash with the exception of "Acutely Hazardous Waste" containers. Empty containers that contained P-listed acutely hazardous chemicals should be handled as hazardous waste. As an alternate, these containers can be triple rinsed with an appropriate solvent, with the solvent disposed of as hazardous waste, the label defaced, and the container discarded in the laboratory trash.  Glass bottles should be put in the ‘broken glass box’.  Alternatively, glass bottles can be placed in a cardboard box that is taped shut and marked “Glass Trash” - Lab faculty/ staff are responsible for packaging their unwanted glass bottles for disposal.  

      Broken Glass and Sharps Disposal

      Broken glass and other sharp waste, except needles, should be placed in the lab’s ‘broken glass box’ which is designated for that purpose. Glass, blades or any sharp object (except needles) that would puncture a trash bag or potentially cause injury to anyone handling the trash must be put into the broken glass box for disposal.  Never put any sharp object in the trash.  When the box is full, the responsible lab personnel must properly close the box and tape it shut, then they can request a pick up from the building Custodian who will discard these containers in such a manner as to avoid injury. If you need a new broken glass box, you can request one from the building Custodian, or contact the Facilities Management office: 413-538-2012.  

      All needles must be collected in plastic needle boxes and sent off site for incineration as biomedical waste.  Lab faculty/ staff must bring full needle boxes to the biomedical waste collection area in Carr 112.  

      Chemically-contaminated needles that are not biohazardous must be collected in a plastic needle box.  Place a hazardous waste label over the biohazard label.  For the generic waste name, list “NONBiohazardous - Chemically Contaminated Sharps”, then list the chemical components and hazards as you would with other hazardous waste containers.  These can remain in your hazardous waste satellite area until you request a pickup from EH&S.

      Disposal Of Unknowns

      As regular practice, you should be inspecting your inventory, eliminating expired, unusable or unwanted chemicals and securing loose labels or relabeling any items that are becoming faded or difficult to read. It is extremely difficult and costly to identify the content and hazards of unlabeled materials - characterization tests to determine appropriate handling, shipping, and treatment for disposal may be required. If you have or find unknowns in your lab or department, please contact Environmental Health and Safety. 

      Disposal Of Equipment

      All hazardous materials (e.g. mercury switches, PCB capacitors, oil) must be removed from equipment before it is recycled or discarded. The faculty/staff member or department is responsible for removal of these materials and management of them as hazardous waste. Contact Environmental Health and Safety for assistance.

      Waste Inspection

      The Chemical Hygiene Officer inspects the waste storage area and satellite accumulation areas in the labs weekly when waste is present. Deficiencies that could result in a release of waste are corrected immediately.  Other deficiencies are corrected or referred to the responsible faculty/ staff member for correction. 

      Working Containers

      DEP “working container” provisions allow more than one container of a particular waste in the laboratory for immediate use at the bench top. The “working container” must be:

      • emptied into the satellite container in the laboratory at the end of each laboratory period or day, or when full, whichever comes first
      • closed except during active use
      • located on an impervious surface and managed to prevent spills
      • labeled as "hazardous waste" with words describing the hazard
      • located at or near the point of generation
      • under the control of faculty or staff responsible for the laboratory

      Biological Waste

      The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) establishes requirements for the handling and disposal of biological waste in regulation 105 CMR 480.00: Storage and Disposal of Infectious or Physically Dangerous Medical or Biological Waste (State Sanitary Code Chapter VIII).  The following wastes are defined as infectious or physically dangerous medical or biological waste:

      Blood and Blood Products: discarded human bulk blood and blood products in free draining, liquid state; body fluids contaminated with visible blood; and materials saturated/dripping with blood (includes antibodies developed in primates).

      Pathological Waste: Human anatomical parts, organs, tissues and body fluids removed and discarded during surgery or autopsy, or other medical procedures and specimens of body fluids and their containers.

      Cultures and Stocks of Infections Agents and Associated Biologicals:

      • All discarded cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals (e.g., vaccines)
      • biotechnological by-product effluents
      • cultures of specimens from medical and pathological laboratories
      • cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research laboratories
      • wastes from the production of biologicals
      • discarded live and attenuated vaccines intended for human use

      Contaminated Animal Carcasses, Body Parts and Bedding: the contaminated carcasses, body parts and bedding of all research animals known to be exposed to pathogens

      Sharps: discarded medical articles that may cause puncture or cuts, including but not limited to all used and discarded hypodermic needles and syringes, pasteur pipettes, broken medical glassware, scalpel blades, disposable razors, and suture needles

      Biotechnology By-Product Effluents: any discarded preparations made from genetically altered living organisms and their products.

      Biological Waste Storage On-Site

      All biological wastes temporarily being stored on-site are held in leak proof, rodent proof and fly tight rigid plastic containers or 3-mil polyethylene “red bags”.  All waste is stored in a manner that ensures that no release of waste occurs or other nuisance is created. All bags and containers are marked with the international biohazard symbol.

      All sharps are segregated in puncture-resistant, rigid, shatterproof, leak-proof containers marked with the international biohazard symbol.

      The waste holding areas for biohazardous waste awaiting pick up by the medical waste contractor for off-site incineration are a labeled freezer in Clapp 6 and a collection box in Carr 112.

      Biological Waste Disposal Procedures

      Options for disposal of biological waste generated are listed below along with specific requirements for that option.

      Sewer Discharge: Free draining blood and blood products are disposed of down the sink into the sanitary sewer and the drain is flushed with water.

      Off-Site Incineration: All biological wastes that are not discharged to the sewer are collected for shipment to an off-site incinerator licensed for the thermal destruction of medical and biological waste.  In addition to waste defined as medical and biological waste by the Department of Public Health, all other animal carcasses and organs are sent for off-site incineration.

      Sharps boxes and all other medical waste must be brought to the collection box in Carr 112, with the exception of carcasses, tissues or any odor-producing biomedical waste.  Those items must be brought to the freezer in Clapp 6.  Lab faculty/ staff are responsible for properly containerizing and delivering the biomedical waste generated in their lab to the designated collection areas.  

      Off-Site Shipment Of Biomedical Waste

      A medical waste contractor picks up and transports biomedical waste from the College to a licensed off-site incinerator. All waste is packaged in two 3-mil bags and a box or drum provided by the contractor. The outer containers are labeled with the international biohazard symbol and identify Mount Holyoke College as the generator.  EH&S and Facilities Management oversee the medical waste contractor.  

      Radioactive Waste

      The College does not regularly generate radioactive waste.  In the event that radioactive waste is generated, all requirements of the MA DPH Radiation Control Program will be adhered to.  The RSO will advise on the specific protocols that will be required.  Following are general procedures in the event that an Investigator begins research that would generate radioactive waste.  

      Solid Radioactive Waste

      Solid disposable lab wear and materials will be segregated by radionuclide and either held for decay or placed in a 55 gallon drum for shipment to an approved burial site by a licensed broker.

      • Materials with half-lives less than or equal to 90 days will be held for decay
      • Materials with half-lives of greater than 90 days will be shipped out after a suitable number of drums are collected
      • All waste receptacles must be labeled with the radiation symbol and the words "Caution-Radioactive Material".

      Liquid Radioactive Waste

      Nonhazardous liquid radioactive waste or used nonhazardous liquid scintillation fluids are disposed into the sanitary sewer via the laboratory sinks.

      • Liquid Scintillation vials that contain less than or equal to 0.05µCi/gm of 3H or 14C will be disposed of via a licensed broker if they are of a hazardous chemical base
      • Liquid Scintillation vials that contain nonhazardous formulas (less than or equal to 0.05µCi/gm of 3H or 14C) will be disposed of in the laboratory trash
      • Liquid Scintillation vials containing other radionuclides with half-lives of less than or equal to 90 days will be segregated and held for decay, 10 half-lives, and then disposed as hazardous chemical waste, or in the normal trash if nonhazardous formulas are used

      Radioactive Animal Carcasses and Associated Waste

      Animal carcasses and associated wastes containing radioactive material with half-lives of less than or equal to 90 days will be stored frozen until 7-10 half-lives have passed and then disposed of as biomedical waste.

      Safety Culture

      PRACTICE SAFE SCIENCE!  We all have a responsibility to stay alert and focused in the lab and commit to keeping ourselves and others safe.  Always ask if you have questions about a procedure or any safety issue in the Science Center.  

      Suggestions to contribute to and improve the Science Center’s safety culture are welcome, encouraged and appreciated - please contact the Director of Environmental Health and Safety at  

      Lab Safety Program Responsibilities

      Science Advisory Board 

      Science Center oversight is provided by the Science Advisory Board. The Science Advisory Board is chaired by the Director of the Science Center.

      Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) 

      The EH&S office’s responsibilities include maintaining lab safety procedures, serving as the Chemical Hygiene Officer, maintaining the chemical hygiene plan, managing hazardous waste, administrator for the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) consultant and providing chemical safety training.    

      The Environmental Health and Safety Office will periodically conduct laboratory compliance reviews - reviews can be informal or formal.  Faculty/ staff members responsible for the laboratory will be invited to participate in formal reviews and are strongly encouraged to conduct frequent self-audits of their lab. 

      Science Faculty and Instructional Staff 

      All science faculty/ staff are responsible for: (1) following all MHC lab safety procedures and ensuring that all under their supervision follow the procedures, as well; (2) acquiring information needed to recognize and control hazards in the laboratory; (3) selecting laboratory practices that reduce the risk of injury or chemical, biological, or radiation exposures; (4) informing staff, students or visitors under their supervision of the specific hazards and required safety procedures associated with the work being performed; (5) arranging for immediate response to injuries or other emergencies in areas under their supervision; (6) reporting any unsafe conditions which cannot be immediately remedied; (7) providing work or space-specific training to individuals they supervise; (8) informing employees under their supervision who use hazardous chemicals or frequent areas where hazardous chemicals are used that they must complete chemical safety training course provided by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety; (9) providing lab specific safety training and safety training for all radiation users in their laboratory;  (10) providing required information to all staff and students under their supervision who are exposed to formaldehyde as previously described in the chemical safety section; (11) establishing guidelines for their laboratory which describe what laboratory procedures require their prior approval, and (12) providing any health and safety information requested by the Science Advisory Board, Radiation Safety Officer,  EH&S or Public Safety and Service.

      Science Staff and Student Workers 

      All staff and student employees are responsible for: (1) knowing and complying with MHC lab safety procedures and other health and safety policies or procedures established by the Department or supervising faculty/staff member; (2) reporting all accidents, chemical spills, and unsafe conditions to the supervising faculty member; and (3) attending health and safety training at the request of the supervising faculty member.


      All students are responsible for: (1) working in a safe and responsible manner in the laboratory; (2) performing all work in accordance with the procedures established by the Department and supervising faculty member (3) wearing required protective equipment (e.g., goggles); (4) following established emergency procedures in the event of an accident or chemical spill; and (5) reporting all accidents, chemical spills, and unsafe conditions to the supervising faculty member.