The University of Iowa

Laboratory Close-out Procedure

Contact for Questions:

Evgenia Borisenko, Chemical Safety Coordinator, currently serves as the Lab Close-out Coordinator and can be reached at 319-467-1007.


All laboratory rooms, chemical storage areas, and areas where hazardous equipment or materials are used or stored need to be cleared by staff from the Environmental Health & Safety Office (EHS) before being vacated, whether due to a PI leaving the institution, relocating or terminating laboratory research activities, or a renovation project. The Principal Investigator (PI) and the PI’s department are responsible for ensuring that the space, including shared space, is cleared of all hazards belonging to the PI prior to the transfer to the next occupant, and that all biological, chemical and radiological materials are removed prior to vacating the space. All remaining equipment, including biosafety cabinets and storage cabinets, must be properly decontaminated, as well as all surfaces, such as counters, drawers, floors, fume hoods, etc. In addition, all unwanted lab equipment, supplies, electronics, and furniture are also to be removed following proper cleaning or decontamination.

EHS should be notified of pending moves/closures in advance, preferably at least one month. Once notified, EHS will provide additional guidance and assistance during a pre-close-out inspection that is intended to identify any safety issues that may need to be addressed.

Principal Investigator (PI) Responsibilities

As the PI, you are responsible for the safe operation of your laboratory. This includes transfer/removal of hazardous material from the laboratory and leaving these facilities in a safe condition when you vacate the premises. This guideline outlines your responsibilities in the Laboratory Close-Out Process and provides suggestions for handling/disposal of hazardous materials.

Laboratory Close-out Procedure

As soon as possible (at least 30 days in advance), notify the EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator of the pending move/closure by completing the Lab Close-out Notification form. 

  1. Upon receipt of your notice, the EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator will contact you and your department/lab representative, or other responsible party, to schedule an initial walkthrough of your laboratory to identify areas of potential concern.
  2. The EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator will help you address any safety issues identified during the lab walkthrough. As a team, we will jointly develop a close-out plan that is customized to your lab and will agree upon target dates for critical process steps.  Steps can include:
    • Transfer/disposal of all chemicals, biological material and radioactive material, including research samples.
    • Disposal of all hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
    • Removal/transfer of equipment.
    • Review of the chemical inventory to flag items of concern, i.e., peroxide formers, controlled substances, gas cylinders, etc.
  3. The end goal is to ensure no materials remain in the space after the Principal Investigator has left the University.  Any hazardous materials that remain behind must be assigned to a responsible party designated by the department.
  4. After all work in the lab is completed, a final walkthrough of the space will be conducted by EHS and the lab representative, see Final Inspection, below.

General Guidelines

Review the following close-out items. General points are covered to help you safely and efficiently vacate your lab spaces. Where needed, more consultation will be provided by EHS.

  1. Review your lab space to ensure all hazardous and unknown materials and research samples have been identified and no new ones have been created while preparing to vacate the space. It is productive to repeat this step of the process because identifying and disposing of “unknowns” is a major cost in laboratory close-outs.
  2. Seek assistance from the EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator in planning the safe transfer and disposal of any high hazard materials (violently reactive chemicals, toxic gases, etc.).
  3. Follow-up on the status of time-critical close-out steps such as radioactive and chemical waste collection, moving of special equipment, etc.
  4. If you are moving to new UI lab space, visit that space to ensure that no equipment or materials remain from prior occupants, as necessary.
  • Verify that all modifications in your new space will be completed before your move.
  • Ensure your new laboratory space has been posted for biological or radioactive materials, as needed.
  1. No equipment used with radioactive materials should be moved if external removable contamination is present. You and your radiation workers can perform wipe and meter surveys to assure this for smaller items. EHS Radiation Safety staff will provide this service for major pieces of equipment, including freezers and refrigerators; service will be arranged through the EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator.

At Moving time

  1. Although staff that works with hazardous materials should know how to clean up small hazardous materials spills, move items during normal business hours so that others are available to assist in the event of a spill or accident.
  2. Provide secondary containment for biohazardous materials, chemicals, and radioactive materials during transport (even when moving only a short distance).
  3. Do not transport hazardous materials without someone present who is capable in providing assistance.
  4. Never transport hazardous materials on public roads, unless the materials are packaged in compliance with DOT regulations, e.g., packaged by a person trained for this purpose, in proper containers that are correctly labeled, etc.
  5. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment for the materials being handled (e.g., safety glasses or goggles, lab coat, gloves, closed-toe shoes, etc.).
  6. Have boxes, plastic bags and containers for broken glass, etc., ready and available before you begin.
  7. Ensure any required warning signs (radioactive materials, biohazard signs, etc.) have been posted in your new lab location.
  8. Review the location of safety showers, eyewashes, fire extinguishers, and all available means of exit from the laboratories and the building.
  9. Review your old lab space. Do any materials remain in the space that need to be removed?
  1. Notify the EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator that the lab space is ready for a close-out.
  2. The EHS Lab Close-out Coordinator will meet and review the Certification form with the PI (or representative). If the form has been satisfactorily completed, EHS staff will also sign the form and provide a copy to the lab and department, if requested.
  3. After all forms have been completed, the laboratory space will be considered clear of hazardous materials.

Please refer to the EHS Chemical Waste Disposal Guide for questions on disposal practices. Contact EHS Environmental Program for waste labels and requests for chemical/radioactive waste pick-up.

  • Assess any biological materials you have (e.g., recombinant DNA materials, microorganisms, cells and cell lines, tissues, organs, body fluids, biologically-derived or –contaminated media) and determine which materials will be transferred to your new laboratory or to another UI investigator. Dispose of the remaining materials, per UI disposal guidelines, e.g., autoclaving and disposing in biohazardous waste containers.
    • Select Agents: Certain biological material and toxins considered Select Agents (see 42 CRF 73.4 and 73.5) cannot be transferred to other university personnel or transported off campus without prior approval from the Biological Safety Officer, the department of Health and Human Services, and/or the United States Department of Agriculture. Contact the Biosafety Officer at 353-5679.
    • Infectious Waste: All waste material meeting the definition of biohazard waste must be managed following the University’s Biohazard Waste Guidelines. Unless in their original packaging, place all sharps into a sharps container, which then needs to be placed inside a biohazard waste tub.
    • Animal and Human Tissues: Generally, due to potential risks and numerous extenuating circumstances, please contact Environmental Safety staff for guidance prior to the disposal of any animal or human tissue. Contact the Biosafety Officer.
    • Toxins: Toxins must be handled on a case by case basis. Contact the Biosafety Officer.
  • Chemicals can be transferred to other laboratories within the department, or other university departments, with the acknowledgement of EHS and updating the laboratory chemical inventory of the recipient’s location. Contact the Sr. Chemical Safety Specialist at 353-4692.
  • Chemicals to be disposed of through EHS must be properly containerized and labeled. Proper labeling requires the chemical name of each chemical to be listed on the container. If a container has a mixture of chemicals, each chemical must be listed with its relative percentage. Chemical formulas, abbreviations, or trade names are not acceptable. For any commercial chemical product that is not labeled with its chemical name, a Safety Data Sheet must be requested from the company and supplied to EHS with the chemical. When you have chemical waste ready for pickup, complete an online request.
  • If you have unknown chemicals or high hazard materials, such as peroxidized ethers or violently reactive chemicals, special handling may be required. There may be a fee charged for identification, stabilization and disposal of such substances. Contact the Environmental Safety Program Manager at 335-4625.
  • Transporting hazardous chemicals, biohazardous substances or radioactive material
    • If transporting containers of biological materials, chemicals, or radioactive materials to another location on campus, place the container in a secondary container that is capable of holding the contents if the original container breaks.
      • Containers must be in good condition, tightly sealed and labeled. An unlabeled container is considered an unknown and cannot be transported.
      • Liquids should be packed in vermiculite or other absorbents such as spill pads, and placed in containers that will not leak if tipped over.
      • Beakers, flasks, etc., must be empty.
      • If transporting materials off campus, you must comply with applicable U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. This may require obtaining the services of a specialized contract hazardous materials transportation service.
      • Staff must not transport hazardous materials in personal vehicles; use a University vehicle, when necessary.
      • Gas cylinders may be moved using a handcart equipped with a strap. Cylinders must be securely strapped for transport, regulators removed and cylinder caps replaced.
  • Gas cylinders with a Praxair label attached must be returned to Praxair; call 1-800-283-8348. If a Praxair label is not affixed to the cylinder, please contact the Supply Chain Coordinator at 384-4045.
  • Tubing and regulators that are connected to corrosive or hazardous compressed gas cylinders should be detached using safe procedures such as purging and venting to a hood or ventilated area. Contact the Lab Close-out Coordinator for assistance or directions on this process.
  • EHS will pick up lecture bottles; use the online chemical waste pickup request form.
  • If you have a DEA controlled substance, it must be managed under the requirements of your registration. If you no longer wish to keep the controlled substances in your possession, contact the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners to ensure the substances are properly managed. The IBPE number is 319-929-6067.
  • If you are an authorized user on a radiation protocol, inform the Health Physicist at 353-5389, who will assist in the following:
    • Terminating your radioactive materials protocols.
    • Ensuring laboratory facilities and equipment are free of contamination.
    • Ensuring all radioactive materials, radioactive waste, and potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces are properly labeled.
    • Disposing of radioactive waste by completing an online request.
    • If the authorized user is leaving the university, returning dosimeters, and any borrowed equipment, such as survey meters, radiation protection equipment, and shielding devices to the Radiation Safety Office.
  • Informing the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) if any radioactive material or survey meter will be transferred to another Authorized User, another location on campus, or to another licensed institution.
  • Scheduling a final laboratory radiation survey (and bioassay, if appropriate) with the Radiation Safety Office.
  • Turn off and disconnect all equipment from power supplies.
  • Empty everything from laboratory storage areas, e.g., refrigerators, freezers, cupboards, etc.
  • Clean and decontaminate all spaces that are being vacated, including removing all bench paper and contents of cabinets and any equipment that will be left behind, including shared equipment.
  • Laboratory equipment or laboratory surfaces that are potentially contaminated with a hazardous material must be decontaminated before that equipment can be removed from the lab. Proper decontamination requires the wipe down of all contaminated surfaces with a cleaning agent capable of removing the contaminant. If equipment contains a hazardous material integral to the operation of that piece of equipment (i.e., oil, mercury and asbestos), the hazardous material must be removed prior to disposal. Some examples of internal parts that may contain hazardous materials are mercury switches, mercury thermometers, transformers, oil pumps, and compressors.
    • Biological Agents: A solution of 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) diluted between 1:10 and 1:100 with water is effective at decontaminating most surfaces which have come in contact with infectious material. Allow contact for at least 20-30 minutes and follow-up with water to remove any bleach residue. 
      • If other disinfectants are used, be sure to read the label to ensure the chemical is effective against the biological agent and the appropriate contact time is used.
      • Ethanol should not be used as a disinfectant against non-enveloped viruses (ex. Adenovirus).
    • Chemicals: For assistance in what type of cleaner or cleaning material to use and how to dispose of materials used to clean contaminated surfaces, contact the Chemical Hygiene Officer at 335-9379.
    • Radioactive Material: A special decontaminating solution (e.g. Radiacwash, Count-off, Liftaway) is recommended. Wipe the surface with a paper towel to remove the contamination, changing paper towels often. If special solutions are not available, the use of sprays such as Fantastik or Windex may be used. After the equipment has been cleaned, it must be dried before a subsequent survey can be performed. EHS staff must perform the final survey prior to disposal; contact the Lab Close-out Coordinator to schedule.
  • Notify EHS of any equipment or procedures that may have contributed to hazardous chemical residues remaining on surfaces (e.g., perchloric acid).
  • Notify EHS of any equipment or areas that cannot be fully decontaminated (e.g., material potentially containing asbestos).
  • The University of Iowa’s Surplus Stores manages all equipment for disposal or resale. It is the responsibility of the equipment’s owner (the PI) to ensure all hazardous materials have been removed prior to it being released to Surplus Stores. This includes X-ray machines and lasers; contact the Lab Close-out Coordinator for guidance on disposal of these specific items.
  • If you have laboratory equipment that will be picked up by Surplus Stores, any equipment used with biological, chemical or radioactive materials must first be decontaminated. The person submitting the pick-up request must certify that the item(s) was appropriately decontaminated and is safe for Surplus to collect. Any questions/concerns can be discussed with the Lab Close-out Coordinator.