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Aspects of Chemical Laboratory Safety. Materials Engineering OHSE Induction to Chemical Use Doug Rash Convenor Zone 13 (School of Chemistry) Deputy Safety Officer and Environmental Officer. Some basic laboratory safety rules.

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Aspects of Chemical Laboratory Safety

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Aspects of chemical laboratory safety

Aspects of Chemical Laboratory Safety

Materials Engineering OHSE Induction to Chemical Use

Doug Rash


Zone 13 (School of Chemistry)

Deputy Safety Officer and Environmental Officer

Some basic laboratory safety rules

Some basic laboratory safety rules

  • Do NOT consume food or drink (includes water) in laboratories

  • Safety Glasses MUST be worn in laboratories where chemicals are stored or are in use

  • Wear closed in footwear

  • Do not run in laboratories or corridors

  • Tie back/contain long hair, loose clothing and accessories

Aspects of chemical laboratory safety1

Aspects of chemical laboratory safety

  • Understand the properties of materials

  • Ensure labelling is correct and adequate

  • Ensure correct storage, handling and use of chemicals

  • Make proper use of fume-cupboards

  • Ensure good housekeeping is maintained

  • Prepare for spill management

  • Conduct good chemical waste disposal practices

Properties of materials


  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s) give you lots of information about the materials (chemicals) you plan to use.

  • Make sure you understand the key features

Dangerous goods and hazardous substances

Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances

  • Chemicals are best classified by dangerous goods class.

  • Dangerous Goods are those reflecting the physico-chemical properties; acute and immediate effects mostly to property (e.g. explosion, fire, corrosion).

Dangerous goods

Dangerous Goods

  • The Physico-Chemical properties we use to DO chemistry are what makes something a Dangerous Good

  • The volatility and flammability of a low molecular weight hydrocarbon solvent

  • The corrosivity of Hydrochloric Acid

  • The toxicity of Mercury compounds

Example flammable liquid diethyl ether

Example - Flammable Liquid Diethyl Ether

  • Diethyl ether (C2H50C2H5) is a very flammable liquid (bp 34.6), a low flash point (-45) and a dense vapour (2.56).

    These characteristics are the main reason diethyl ether is a dangerous good

    It is in packaging group 1 i.e. a high level of danger

Acids and bases

Acids and Bases

  • Corrosivity; generally corrosion to metals and other materials.

  • Corrosion of the skin can also occur and these effects vary depending on the acid or base concerned.

  • Acids and bases are class 8 Dangerous Goods



Example nitric acid

Example Nitric acid

  • Nitric Acid (HNO3) is a corrosive liquid, an oxidising and nitrating agent.

  • It is a Dangerous Good class 8 (corrosive).

  • It has a subsidiary class of 5.1(oxidising agent)

Example ammonia

Example - Ammonia

  • Ammonia gas (NH3) anhydrous is a toxic gas that is a class 2.3 dangerous good. It also has a subsidiary risk for being corrosive and therefore can also be designated class 8

  • Ammonia solution is a class 8 dangerous good due to it’s corrosivity

Hazards posed by powders

Hazards posed by powders

  • Generally, the smaller the particle size of solids, the greater the hazard

  • Nano particles are under international review in relation to their hazardous nature

  • As mentioned with Dangerous Goods, a coarse material reduced to a powder can change it from being harmless to being a significant hazard e.g. Iron, Wheat, Sugar



The physico-chemical behaviour (reactivity) of dangerous goods causes some classes to be incompatible with others

It is this very reactivity which allows us to undertake chemical processes

Care must be taken to separate goods which may react with each other during storage and transport

Example class 5 1 and class3

Example - Class 5.1 and Class3

  • Class 5.1 materials are oxidizing agents and react with many class 3 materials, sometimes vigorously causing fires.(e.g. Potassium Nitrate)

  • Class 3 materials are flammable liquids and are often used as fuels. (e.g. Ethanol)

  • It is this reactivity ( the chemical properties of the materials) that allows us to do chemistry, however it is the reason (incompatibility) we do not store and transport such materials in close proximity

Hazardous substances

Hazardous Substances

  • Having the potential to harm human health

  • Hazardous Substances are subject to the controls of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 Part 4.1 Hazardous Substances

Example benzene

Example - Benzene

  • Benzene is a highly volatile solvent and chemical feedstock (reagent) for a number of polymers, especially styrene production

  • It is a class 3 dangerous good but is also a toxic material and a scheduled Carcinogen. It has a subsidiary class of 6.1



All containers of hazardous substances must be labelled with:

  • Product name

  • Name, address, phone no. of Australian manufacturer or importer

  • Ingredients, if applicable

  • HAZARDOUS or words that indicate the severity of the hazard, eg dangerous poison, warning, caution

Labelling of decanted substances

Labelling of decanted substances

  • A container into which a hazardous substance is decanted must be labelled unless:

    • the substance is used immediately,

    • the container is cleaned or the contents rendered non-hazardous

  • The unlabelled container must not be left unattended

Labelling guessing game 1

Labelling - guessing game 1

Labelling guessing game 2

Labelling - guessing game 2

Storage handling and use


  • See local OHSE requirements and AS/NZS 2243.10

  • Laboratories have load limits for Dangerous Goods set by Monash policy and these should be adhered to (e.g. 100L class 3 flammable liquid)

Shelf life of chemicals

Shelf life of Chemicals

  • Chemicals have differing shelf lives; mixtures such as etchants and standard solutions should be dated, clearly labelled and disposed of in accordance with local safety rules

Chemical containers

Chemical containers

  • The material the chemical is stored in can impact on it’s shelf life; plastic containers generally should be considered to have reduced integrity after say 3 years for solids

Chemical containers1

Chemical containers

Chemical storage in refrigerators

Chemical storage in refrigerators

Ventilated storage cabinet strong odours

Ventilated storage cabinet (strong odours)

The need for eye protection especially when handling chemicals

The need for eye protection(especially when handling chemicals)



  • A fume cupboard is a piece of laboratory equipment designed to protect the individual from exposure

  • It should be kept clean and well maintained and NOT used as a storage area

Fume cupboard

Fume cupboard

Temporary storage of chemicals

“Temporary storage of chemicals!”



  • Keep benches clean and tidy

  • Clean up after each stage of an operation and rinse apparatus containing harmful chemicals

  • Return all reagents, equipment and glassware not in use to their proper place in a clean condition

  • Clean up any spill immediately, using a suitable procedure for that substance

Cluttered bench

Cluttered bench

Uncluttered bench

Uncluttered bench

Spill management


  • Spill Response/Management depends on the material in question, it’s physical form and the relative amount

  • Again, the Risk Assessment should have considered this

  • Monash OHSE have provided all areas using chemicals with spill kits

Spill kit and self contained breathing apparatus

Spill kit and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus

Eye wash

Eye Wash

Chemical waste disposal


  • Ensure all waste is placed in properlylabelled containers and that incompatible materials are not placed in these – there have been unfortunate incidents resulting from this!

  • Have waste removed from site regularly and count it as a Dangerous Good

Waste in correctly labelled container

Waste in correctly labelled container

Badly labelled waste

Badly labelled waste

Environmental issues

Environmental Issues

  • Discharges to drain

  • Discharges to air

  • General waste

  • Reduce

  • Reuse

  • Recycle

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