The University of Iowa

Laboratory Chemical Safety

  • For Assistance with:
  • Exposure monitoring
  • UI Generic Chemical Hygiene Plan
  • Laboratory Standard consultation
  • Material Safety Data Sheets


The Laboratory Chemical Safety Standard applies to all University employees who are engaged in laboratory use of hazardous chemicals. Laboratory use is defined as: work easily accomplished by one person, with multiple chemicals, that is not part of or a simulation of a production process, and which uses protective equipment and practices. Most medical and dental offices are not considered laboratories. 

A "hazardous chemical" includes substances and mixtures (natural or synthetic) and any chemical classified as a physical or health hazard, a simple asphyxiant, a combustible dust, or a pyrophoric gas.

1. Physical Hazard Examples

  • flammable/combustible/explosive
  • compressed gas
  • organic peroxide
  • oxidizer/pyrophoric
  • reactive
  • corrosive to metals

2. Health Hazard Examples

  • carcinogen
  • irritant
  • corrosive to skin or eyes (acid/base)
  • skin or respiratory sensitizer
  • toxic, acutely toxic
  • reproductive hazard

3. A consumer product used in the same manner that a consumer would is not considered a hazardous chemical but if used differently for the workplace (such as with higher frequency or increased quantity), may be considered a hazardous chemical.

Program Elements 

Written Program

Prepare a written Chemical Hygiene Plan that includes:

  • standard operating procedures to be followed when work involves hazardous chemicals;
  • criteria the employer will use to determine and implement control measures to reduce exposure;
  • a requirement that fume hoods and other protective equipment function properly and measures taken to ensure it;
  • provisions for employee training and medical consultations/examinations;
  • circumstances under which a laboratory procedure requires prior  approval; designation of person responsible for implementation of Chemical  Hygiene Plan (Chemical Hygiene Officer);
  • consideration of additional employee protection (designated area) for work with carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and highly toxic substances; and provision for annual evaluation of program's effectiveness. 

EHS has developed a model written Chemical Hygiene Plan as part of the Compliance guide for OSHA's Laboratory Standard. Site-specific details or procedures should be added to the Chemical Hygiene Plan and made available to employees. 

Medical Surveillance

Provide for medical exams/consultations:

  • if an employee develops a sign or symptom of exposure;
  • when routine exposure level monitoring (for a substance covered by  an OSHA substance specific standard) indicates the action level or  permissible exposure limit has been exceeded; or
  • in the event of a spill or an exposure.


Employer must monitor exposure levels for any substance suspected to routinely exceed the action level or permissible exposure limit. Employees are to be informed of the exposure monitoring results.

(Material) Safety Data Sheets

MSDSs/SDSs for all chemicals must be available for employee review.


Employee training must include:

  • elements of the Chemical Hygiene Plan and material safety data  sheets; 
  • hazards of the chemicals used;
  • methods/observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area; and
  • information on proper work practices, use of personal protective equipment, and emergency spill procedures.


Accurate records must be maintained of: 

  • training syllabus and attendance;
  • material safety data sheets;
  • exposure monitoring;
  • medical examinations, consultations, tests;
  • written Chemical Hygiene Plan; and
  • site-specific information provided to the employee.
    •  location and access to the Chemical Plan, MSDS/SDS, procedure equipment, spill kits;
    • emergency spill plan; and 
    • any other site specific information.