Chemical Safety

Chemical safety focuses on reducing health and safety risks, lowering environmental impact, adherence to all appropriate policies and procedures, and reducing operation costs.  If chemicals are not used, stored and handled properly, they can cause injury, illness, fire, explosions, or property damage.

EHS provides information and guidelines to address proper use, handling and storage of chemicals. This information supplements the Lab Safety Manual (PDF) for laboratories and the Hazard Communication Program for labs and non-lab settings. EHS provides resources, training, and consultation to departments using chemicals.

All personnel that are responsible for an area where chemicals are stored or used must maintain a complete inventory of all hazardous chemicals and report to EHS on the types, quantities, and storage locations. Chemical inventories can be accessed through the web-based portal, EHS Assistant.

Laboratories using hazardous chemicals must:

  • Follow the Laboratory Safety Manual
  • Develop, as appropriate, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for hazardous materials
  • Maintain an accurate chemical inventory
  • Keep all chemical containers properly labeled
  • Reduce the chemical inventory to only those chemicals necessary for operations
  • Store chemicals in appropriate cabinets, shelving units, refrigerators, etc. according to hazard class
  • Inspect chemical containers and storage units regularly to identify any unsafe conditions, including, a corroded metal shelf, a leaking chemical container, or a flammable cabinet door that no longer closes properly

Hazard Communication and Chemical Container Labeling

Hazard Communication is a system that provides chemical users with information about the physical and health hazards of chemicals. This system includes training, chemical container labeling, and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

For more information, visit the Hazard Communication page.

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is an international system that the United Nations created for the unified classification and labeling of chemicals. It was officially adopted in the United States March, 2012 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

All chemical containers must be labeled. Chemical container labels should be reviewed to help you understand how to work with the chemicals safely and how they may impact your health.

Chemical labeling is the cornerstone of GHS compliance and chemical safety. With an emphasis on consistency and comprehension of chemical labels, it is important to know what goes on a GHS label for primary chemical containers. There are six key elements to a GHS label.

  • Signal Word: the signal word indicates hazard level. "Danger" is used for the most severe instances, while "Warning" is less severe. 
  • GHS Symbol: these pictograms are used to identify hazardous products and are commonly grouped by chemical/physical risk, health risk, and environmental risk.
  • Manufacturer Information: this identifies the manufacturer's company name, address, and telephone number.
  • Precautionary Statements/First Aid: these are phrases that are tied to each hazard statement. They describe general preventive, response, storage or disposal precautions. These statements are found on the chemical's Safety Data Sheet. Similar to Hazard Statements, Precautionary Statements can be identified by a P-Code (like P100).
  • Hazard Statement(s): these are phrases that describe the nature of hazardous products and the degree of hazard. Hazard statements are on the chemical's Safety Data Sheet and identified by an H-Code (like H100).
  • Product Name or Identifiers: this identifies the product or chemical name. Additional identifiers can be noted to the right of the Manufacturer's information.

GHS symbols or Pictograms (PDF) are used to quickly convey hazards on chemical labels and are commonly grouped by chemical/physical risks, health risks, and environmental risks.

Secondary Container Labeling

A “secondary container” is any container used when a chemical is transferred from its original container into another container for other than immediate use.

All secondary containers must be labeled with at least the name of the chemical as it appears on the Safety Data Sheet.