Office of Research

Standard Operating Procedures

The following standard operating procedures must be followed by all laboratory workers where laboratory work involves the use of hazardous chemicals in all Clemson University Buildings/Locations. This Program is managed by the Office of Research Safety (RS).

A.    General Requirements

1.    Safe Work Practices With Chemicals

a.     Follow the University Chemical Hygiene Plan/Program: This program should be followed by all laboratory personnel including employees, guest researchers, students, and visitors. The Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) can be found at:

b.     Minimize all chemical exposures:  Because few laboratory chemicals are without hazards, general precautions for handling all laboratory chemicals should be adopted, along with specific guidelines for particular chemicals as needed. Skin contact with chemicals and inhalation of vapors should be avoided as a cardinal rule.

c.     Avoid underestimation of risk:  Even for substances of no known significant hazard, exposure should be minimized. For work with substances which present special hazards, special precautions should be taken. One should assume that any mixture will be more toxic than its most toxic component and that all substances of unknown toxicity are toxic. Refer to the Safety Data Sheet for specific information about a chemical or product containing hazardous chemicals.  (See Appendix A, Obtaining a Safety Data Sheet)

d.     Provide adequate ventilation:  The best way to prevent exposure to airborne substances is to prevent their escape into the working atmosphere by use of chemical hoods or biosafety cabinets other ventilation devices. Use chemical hoods whenever possible regardless of the toxicity of the chemical. However, chemical hoods must be used for working with highly toxic chemicals or any chemical where use of a hood is listed on the SDS or product label. Everyone working in labs should be familiar with the proper operation and use of chemical hoods and other appropriate types of ventilation devices (See Section IV -Ventilation)

e.     Safety Data Sheets: Safety Data Sheets (SDS) must be available for all hazardous chemicals. SDSs must be readily accessible to all employees who are working with or who might be exposed to hazardous chemicals. Those employees must be informed of the location of SDSs; understand how to use information on the SDSs; and must be able to comply with the information on the appropriate SDS. (See Appendix A)

f.      Observation of PELS, TLVs, or RELS:  Permissible Exposure Limits (PELS) of OSHA are exposure limits set by OSHA, and must not be exceeded. Threshold Limit Values (TLVS) of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, or Recommended Exposure Limits (RELS) of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) may also be used as guidelines in determining exposure levels. Even chemicals with high TLVs, PELs, or RELs should be used under chemical hoods whenever possible. PELs, TLVs and other exposure limits can be found on Safety Data Sheets.

g.     Accidents and spills:  (The following information applies to most chemical spills on a person. Some chemicals may have special first aid requirements. Consult the SDS and other sources of information. For hydrofluoric acid, see Appendix F.  For additional information on spills, see Appendix C).

      • Eye Contact: Promptly flush eyes with water for a prolonged period (at least 15 minutes) and seek medical attention.
      • Ingestion:  Call 911 and report the nature of the chemical uptake. When reporting any accident or spill to the dispatcher please give the following information: your name, the location of the incident, and the nature and extent injury or symptoms. For a chemical spill, provide information on specific chemicals involved to the responding personnel and also to doctor or hospital staff if transport to a medical facility is necessary.
      • Skin Contact: Promptly flush the affected area with copious amounts of water and seek medical attention.  Remove any clothing that may have chemical contamination to prevent further exposure.
      • Clean-up: Promptly clean up spills when appropriate or Call 911 for assistance from the HazMat Team; notify others in the building and evacuate. (See Appendix C).
      • Employees involved in an accident or spill incident should immediately report the incident to their supervisor. If there is reason to believe that exposure has occurred during a chemical spill or release, the worker should promptly report to Redfern Health Center for medical consultation and possible evaluation based on the physician’s assessment. For injuries or exposures occurring after 4:30pm, employees should be taken to the Clemson Health Center on Highway 123 in Clemson or the emergency room at Oconee Memorial Hospital or Anderson Memorial Hospital.
      • If you are injured on the job:
        • Notify your supervisor at once.
        • If medical treatment is needed - Supervisio or designated person call Compendium (877)709-2667 for authorization
        • If medical emergency call 911

h.    Avoidance of "routine" Exposure

      • Develop and encourage safe habits
      • Avoid unnecessary exposure to chemicals by any route.
      • Do not smell or taste chemicals.
      • Ensure that any apparatus which may discharge toxic chemicals is properly ventilated
      • Chemicals must be properly stored and used in a safe manner to prevent exposure.
      • Do not allow release of toxic substances in cold rooms and warm rooms, since these have contained re-circulated atmospheres.
      • Use a chemical hood whenever possible when working with any hazardous chemical

i.      Choice of Chemicals:  Use only those chemicals for which the quality of the available ventilation system is appropriate. Also, consideration should be given to selection of chemicals used. Where choices and chemical substitutes can be made, always choose chemicals having the lowest level of toxicity. Replace mercury containing devices with non-mercury equipment whenever possible.

j.      Eating, Smoking, Etc.

       Because of the potential increase in the risk of infection and exposure to personnel, it is necessary to prohibit smoking, eating, drinking, and storage of food in laboratories which handle infectious or toxic materials or radioisotopes. An area or areas that provides complete physical separation from these laboratories should be established for the storage and consumption of food and beverage. These areas should be prominently posted (e.g., AREA FOR STORAGE AND CONSUMPTION OF FOOD, NO CHEMICALS). No chemical or chemical equipment should be allowed in such areas. Laboratory refrigerators, ice chests, cold rooms, and such should be properly labeled (e.g., NO FOOD OR BEVERAGE STORED IN THIS…). Laboratory doors should be posted (DO NOT EAT, DRINK, OR SMOKE IN THIS AREA).

      • Do not eat, drink, chew gum, or apply cosmetics in areas where laboratory chemicals are present. 
      • Always wash hands before conducting these activities.
      • Do not store or consume food or beverages in areas where chemicals are stored, handled, or used. 
      • Glassware or utensils which are also used for laboratory operations must never be used with food or beverages.

k.    Equipment and Glassware:  Handle and store laboratory glassware with care to avoid damage; do not use damaged glassware. Use extra care with Dewar flasks and other evacuated or pressurized glass apparatus; shield or wrap them to contain chemicals and fragments should implosion occur. Use equipment only for its designed purpose.

l.      Personal Hygiene:  Thoroughly wash hands immediately after working with chemicals.

m.   Children:  No children under 16 years of age are allowed into any laboratory or animal holding area except with the special permission of the Office of Research Safety and Risk Management. Whenever visitors are allowed into a laboratory, it is the responsibility of the laboratory supervisor to ensure that they are supervised at all times, and that they follow the same rules as laboratory employees.

n.    Animals:  Animals, except those approved for research purposes, may not be brought into University labs without permission from the Office of Research Safety and the Office of Risk Management.

o.     Earbuds or other devices that affect the ability to hear should not be worn in laboratories.

p.     Mouth pipetting:  Do not use mouth suction for pipetting or starting a siphon.

q.     Syringes and Scalpel Blades

Syringes used with hazardous agents shall have needle-locking or equivalent tips to assure that the needles cannot separate during use. All needles, syringes, scalpels, and other sharps should be placed into puncture-proof sharps disposal containers and disposed of as biohazardous waste through RS.

Contact the Hazardous Materials Specialist at 656-1770 to obtain sharps containers.

         Do not recap needles after use.

r.     Housekeeping: Good housekeeping is essential in laboratories.  Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Properly label and store chemicals and equipment; clean up the work area on completion of an operation or at the end of each day.

s.     Planning: Seek information and advice about hazards, plan appropriate protective procedures, and plan positioning of equipment before beginning any new operation.

t.      Unattended operations: It is recommended to leave no process/experiment unattended. If experiments must run while a researcher is not present, a sign containing information about the experiment (to include hazardous materials, quantities, etc. involved) and the name and contact information of the person(s) responsible for the process should be posted on the laboratory door. Lights should be left on and containment for toxic substances should be provided. In the event of a failure of a utility service such as cooling water or electricity to an unattended operation, provisions should be made in advance if a utility failure could result in a hazardous condition. Equipment such as power stirrers, hot plates, heating mantles, and water condensers should be equipped with fail-safe provisions such as flow monitors that will shut down equipment in case of water supply failure or fluctuation in water pressure, temperature monitors interlocked into the system, or fail-safe hose connectors.

        Remember that at night, emergency personnel rely on accurate written instructions and information available at the site.

u.    Planning: Seek information and advice about hazards, plan appropriate protective procedures, and plan positioning of equipment before beginning any new operation.

v.     Vigilance: Be alert of unsafe conditions and see that they are corrected when detected.

x.     Working alone:  Avoid working alone in a building; do not work alone in a laboratory if the procedures being conducted involve hazardous materials. Always let someone know that you are working in the lab when working outside of normal CU working hours.

y.      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Minimal PPE for laboratories is ANSI approved safety glasses with sideshields (this applies to visitors or anyone entering the lab). A proper lab coat must also be worn when working in the lab or handling any chemicals or other hazardous materials. Additional PPE must be selected based on the chemicals/materials being used See Appendix G, Personal Protective Equipment, for additional information.

z.   Personal apparel

      • Confine long hair and loose clothing.
      • Suitable clothing: long pants (ankle length) shall be worn in the laboratory; Also shirts that cover arms to wrists and also cover torso unless lab coat is worn at all times while in the lab.
      • Shorts, short skirts (skirts must be ankle length) and sandals/open shoes (i.e., open toed, open backs, etc. are not allowed.
      • Wear substantial leather shoes that cover the entire foot in the laboratory to protect against chemical splashes or broken glass.
      • Synthetic fabrics may increase the severity of injury in case of fire. Cotton is less prone to static electricity buildup than nylon or other synthetics.