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Laboratory Safety at UW Oshkosh

This page contains information on laboratory safety topics that pertain to a broad spectrum of programs across UW Oshkosh.  The Lab Safety section in the Document Library contains resources–from lab manuals, to incident reporting, and guides to signage–that are integral to maintaining a safe lab on campus.  You may also contact us if you would like more information on these topics.

Biological Safety

The University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh is committed to protecting the health and safety of its faculty, staff, students, visitors and the environment by adequately identifying and managing biohazardous materials. The campus Laboratory, Shop, Studio Safety Team provides support, review and oversight of campus activities involving biohazardous materials.

General Standard Operating Procedures
Aerosol GenerationAny procedures that could potentially generate aerosols or other inhalation hazards must be performed in a manner that will minimize airborne pathogen transmission. Safety equipment such as safety centrifuge cups and safety blenders are enclosed containers designed to prevent aerosols from being released during centrifugation or homogenization of infectious material. Containment controls such as biological safety cabinets, safety centrifuge cups and blenders must be used transmitted through the aerosol route of exposure.
Autoclave SafetyAlways wear heat resistant gloves, goggles or safety glasses, and a laboratory coat when opening an autoclave. Be sure to allow the superheated steam to exit before attempting to remove the contents.
Biological Safety Cabinets (BSCs)BSCs are designed to contain aerosols generated during work with infectious material through the use of laminar airflow and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. Consult the CDC's Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) for a discussion of the types and uses of BSCs.
Bloodborne PathogensThose using human or non-human primate blood or blood products, unfixed tissue, body fluids or organ or cell cultures of human or non-human primate origin, must follow the procedures outlined in the UW Oshkosh Blood borne Pathogen Plan.
Clean AreasEating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses in the laboratory are prohibited in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure.
Human Organ and Cell CultureAll PI’s using human organ or cell cultures (primary cultures, cell strains, cell lines), must handle all such cultures under BL2 conditions and in accordance with the Blood borne Pathogen Standard, unless a lower standard of containment has been accepted in the scientific literature and amongst the scientific community.
Decontamination ProceduresA disinfectant such as 0.5 percent sodium hypochlorite (a freshly prepared 1:10 dilution of household bleach), Lysol, or other appropriate substance must be used to decontaminate equipment and work surfaces.
HandwashingHands must be washed immediately or as soon as feasible after removing gloves or other personal protective clothing.
InjuriesAll injuries and accidental autoinoculation, ingestion or inhalations of infectious agents must be reported immediately to the lab director or supervisor.

Affected employees should be sent to their primary care physician for evaluation, possible treatment and/or possible referral. Dial 911 immediately for any medical emergency. See the Incident section of the Document Library on how to report an incident.
LabelingPlace a color-coded label incorporating the universal biohazard label on the work surface of any potentially contaminated equipment or work surface to warn others of biohazard contamination that may not be easily visible. This includes freezers, refrigerators, and incubators.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)PPE such as gloves, coats, gowns, shoe covers, boots, respirators, face shields, safety glasses or goggles must be worn whenever biological work is conducted in the laboratory. PPE is often used in combination with biological safety cabinets and other devices which contain the biohazardous agents, animals or materials. When it is impractical to work in biological safety cabinets, personal protective equipment may form the primary barrier between personnel and infectious include certain animal studies, animal necropsy, agent production activities and activities relating to maintenance, service or support of the laboratory facility.
Mouth PipettingMouth pipetting may lead to accidental ingestion of biological specimens and is strictly prohibited.
SharpsMinimize the use and exposure to sharps in the workplace. Never recap, bend, or shear needles. When possible, replace glassware with less damaging materials such as plastic. Keep sharps containers readily available in all locations where sharps waste may be generated.
Biohazardous SpillsFor spills that staff are able to clean up safely, a person wearing protective equipment (gloves, goggles, long sleeved lab coat) must first disinfect the area before wiping up the spill with disposable paper towels (from from the periphery of the spill towards the center) and disposing of all spill materials properly. Broken glass should be handled only by remote means such as tongs or forceps.

For spills that staff may not be able to clean up safely, the room must be evacuated and personnel must be prevented from entering the area. The lab director or supervisor and University Police at 424-1212 must be contacted immediately. After 5 p.m., dial 911.
ShipmentsAll domestic and international shipments of biological agents, infectious substances and diagnostic specimens must follow all applicable Federal and International regulations. Proper permits/licenses must be obtained as required before importing or exporting biological material.
Local Transport of Infectious MaterialsAll infectious materials transported to and from the laboratory must be enclosed in a primary container with sealed lid or top, which must then be enclosed in a secondary leak proof, non breakable container (e.g., Coleman cooler) appropriately labeled with the biohazard symbol. Any specimens transported to and from off campus satellite facilities must be handled by a trained laboratory worker.
StorageAll infectious materials to be stored must be clearly labeled with the universal biohazard symbol. The storage space (e.g., freezer, refrigerator) must also be similarly labeled.
Waste DisposalAll biologically infectious waste must be autoclaved or otherwise treated before disposal.
Lab Biosafety Level Classification

Laboratories using microorganisms for teaching or research purposes are assigned a Biosafety Level (1–4), dependent on the potential for risks to human health of those working in the lab space.  At UW Oshkosh, there are no laboratories with a Biosafety Level over a 2.

Risk Group 1 - Biosafety Level 1 (BL1)

Agents at this level are those which are well characterized and which are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults humans or animals.
E. coli K-12 (non-pathogenic lab strain)
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Bacillus subtillis
Candida albicans
RG1 agents


RG1 agents are so numerous they are not specifically listed in Appendix B of the NIH Guidelines.

Recombinant RG1 agents can be modified so that they can infect humans and can be used to introduce foreign genes. Increased precautions may be appropriate for some recombinant RG1 experiments.

Risk Group 2 - Biosafety Level 2 (BL2)

Agents assigned to this containment level include a broad spectrum of indigenous moderate risk agents for which vaccinations or therapies are generally available. They are transmissible to humans through accidental ingestion or entry through broken skin or contact with the mucous membranes.
Hepatitis A, B, C, D
Salmonella spp.
Staphylococcus aureus

BL2 is required at a minimum for manipulating viable human derived materials and is recommended level for animal diagnostic laboratory operations


Biosafety Level 1 (BL1) Practices

Most campus laboratories are BL1. See the Lab Biosafety Level Classification section to determine which category a lab would be classified under.

Facilities features are minimal at this level but do include:

  • Doors for access control
  • A sink for hand washing
  • Bench tops that are impervious so they can be disinfected
  • Sturdy lab furniture
  • Spaces accessible for cleaning
  • Fly screens if the lab has window that open


Biosafety Level 1: Standard Microbiological Practices

  • Access to the lab is limited or restricted at the discretion of the lab director when experiments to work with cultures and specimens are in progress. This practice can ensure that distractions are kept to a minimum.
  • Persons wash their hands after handling viable materials, after removing gloves, and before leaving the lab. This practice is not only necessary for good hygiene; it will also minimize any potential for contamination to remove from one lab to another.
  • Eating, drinking, smoking, handling or applying cosmetics, and storing food for human use are not permitted in the work area. Food is stored outside of the work area in an area designated for that purpose. All hand creams, lip balms and other lotions should not be stored or applied in the open lab environment where container surfaces can become contaminated by activities in the lab.
  • Mouth pipetting is prohibited. Use mechanical pipetting devices. Mouth pipetting presents an opportunity for accidental ingestions and should not be performed.
  • Policies for safe handling of sharps are implemented. Safe sharps procedures are discussed later in this module.
  • All procedures are performed carefully to minimize the creation of aerosols or splashes. Perform your procedures in the safest, cleanest manner you can. Use only the quantity of material you need and do dry runs of new procedures to refine and learn the process before you begin work with viable materials, etc.
  • Work surfaces are decontaminated at least once a day and after any spill of viable material. The basic procedures for proper cleaning and disinfection are also presented later in this module.
  • All cultures, stocks and other regulated wastes are decontaminated by an approved decontamination method. Biohazardous waste classification, segregation, storage, treatment and disposal will be discussed later in this module.


Biosafety Level 1: Primary Barriers

There are no special containment devices or equipment like biosafety cabinets required at this level.

The following recommendations are made regarding personnel protective equipment:

  • Lab coats are recommended to prevent contamination of street clothes.
  • Fluid-resistant gloves are recommended, especially if you have broken skin or rashes on your hands. Nitrile and/or vinyl gloves should be available for use in the lab.
  • Protective eyewear should be worn when conducting procedures that involve manipulation of viable biological materials or other hazardous materials. Minimally, safety glasses should be worn. Where procedures are likely to generate a splash, splash goggles should be worn.
Biosafety Level 2 (BL2) Lab Practices

Most campus laboratories are BL1.  See the Lab Biosafety Level Classification section to determine which category a lab would be classified under.

Biosafety level 2 work requires attention to aerosol minimization, limiting handling of viable biological materials, and safe sharps procedures. Therefore, facilities where BL2 work is to be carried out must meet the following requirements (in addition to the BL1 Facility requirements):

  • Doors are lockable
  • Lab is easily cleaned and no carpets are rugs are permitted
  • Chairs and other lab furniture used in lab are covered with non-fabric materials that can be easily decontaminated.
  • Biosafety cabinets are properly installed and located.
  • An eyewash station is readily available
  • Lab illumination is adequate for all activities, avoiding reflections and glare that could impede vision.
  • While there are no specific ventilation requirements, new facilities should be designed so that the ventilation systems provide an inward flow of air without recirculation to spaces outside the lab.

As previously mentioned, the standard microbiological practices are the basis of biosafety containment practices at all levels.


Biosafety Level 2: Standard Microbiological Practices

  • Cultures, tissues, specimens of body fluids, or potentially infectious wastes are placed in a container with a cover that prevents leakage during collection, handling, processing, storage transport or shipping.

  • Lab equipment and work surfaces should be decontaminated with an effective disinfectant on a routine basis, at the conclusion of procedures with potentially infectious materials, and whenever a spill or splash occurs. Contaminated equipment must be decontaminated before it is sent for repair or maintenance.

  • Spills and accidents that result in exposure to potentially infectious materials (including viable clinical specimens or cell materials) must be immediately reported to the primary investigator. Proper incident response and reporting is critical to ensure that you receive the best possible care in the event that the exposure results in infection.
    Animals not involved in the work being performed are not permitted in the lab. The lab is no place for pets.

  • Avoid aerosols.  Doing aerosol-generating activities with biohazardous materials is a major concern. It is important to note that pathogens not normally transmitted by the aerosol route can be an aerosol hazard when you perform procedures that generate aerosols.  If possible, do aerosol-generating activities in containment such as a Biosafety Cabinet (BSC). When aerosol-generating activities need to be done outside containment, use appropriate safety practices.

    Some common activities that generate aerosols include:

    • Vortexing
    • Popping tube caps
    • Pipetting, pouring
    • Homogenization
    • Loading and injecting syringes
    • Centrifugation
    • Changing bedding of infected animals
    • Blending


Biosafety Level 2: Required Additional Special Practices

  • Regarding restricted access, persons who are at increased risk for acquiring infection or for whom infection may have serious consequences are not permitted in the lab.
  • Policies and procedures are in place to ensure that only personnel who have been advised of the biohazard present and meet the vaccination requirements (if applicable) are permitted in the lab.
  • A biohazard sign must be posted on the entrance to the lab when etiologic agents are in use. The sign must include the biosafety level, the agents in use, the primary investigator’s name and contact numbers, required PPE and exit procedures.
  • The Biosafety program will provide signs for BL2 labs to ensure compliance with current requirements.\
  • When appropriate, considering the agents handled, baseline serum samples for lab or other at-risk personnel are collected and stored. Serum banking is not generally practiced at UWO.
  • Biosafety procedures are incorporated into standard operating procedures or in a biosafety manual adopted or prepared specifically for the lab. Personnel are advised or special hazards and are required to read and follow instructions on practices and procedures.


Biosafety Level 2: Use of Sharps

Adequate precautions must be always taken with any contaminated sharp items, but at BL2 some specific practices are emphasized and should be followed. These include:

  • Sharps use restricted in the lab and used only when there is no alternative.
  • Glassware should be replaced with plastic-ware whenever possible.
  • Needle-locking or disposable syringe-needle units are used for injection or aspiration of infectious materials.
  • Non-disposable sharps are placed in hard-walled containers for reprocessing.
  • Broken glassware is not handled directly by hand. Use a broom and dustpan to pick up broken pieces.
  • Use sharp devices with safety features.
“Safer Sharps”

A “safer sharp” is one that has a safety mechanism built into the design that allows the use to enclose or retract the sharp end without recapping or otherwise manipulating the device.  History shows that the bulk of sharps accidents occur from recapping or other actions involved with the disposal process. The design of a safer sharp is to minimize that exposure risk. OSHA regulations now require that “safer sharps” be used in human health care and clinical lab settings.

Examples include:

  • Disposable scalpels with shields
  • Needles that are equipped with a shield
  • Blood collection systems that retract the needle with a spring


Biosafety Level 2: Primary Barriers

Using a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) to Minimize Your Exposure Risk

A biological safety cabinet should be used whenever:

  • Conducting procedures with a potential for creating aerosols or splashes
  • Using high concentrations of infectious agents
  • Using large volumes of infectious agents

A biosafety cabinet is equipped with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that are capable of capturing particulates. This feature protects not only the user but the materials inside the cabinet as well. However, this is only possible when the cabinet is used properly.

Proper Use of A Biological Safety Cabinet
  1. Turn it on – check the gauge
  2. Maintain a constant air curtain
  3. Establish a “Clean to Dirty” work pattern
  4. Avoid clutter; keep grille area clear
  5. Disinfect working surface and interior
  6. Ensure that BSC is certified annually
Biosafety Cabinets – No Substitute for a Chemical Fume Hood

Biosafety cabinets are designed to capture particulates ONLY. They do not capture vapors. Additionally, whether a BSC is exhausted to the outdoors or to the room, most BSCs will recirculate the air within the cabinet.

Hazardous chemicals, especially volatiles, should not be used in a BSC. The cabinet will simply recirculate and concentrate these vapors and increase your chemical exposure and the risk for an explosion.

Flames in the BSC: Not Recommended

When used in conjunction with flammables (i.e., ethanol) in the BSC, flames are a significant fire hazard and must not be used. Flames are also disruptive to the airflow, which is critical for the proper function of the BSC, and they can damage the HEPA filters.

Alternatives to flame sterilization would include the use of pre-sterilized equipment and materials or flameless incinerating equipment.

Ultraviolet (UV) Lights: A Possible Burn Hazard

Some biosafety cabinets are equipped with UV lights. These lights (usually tubes that are purplish-black in color) are intended to be germicical but cannot be used as a stand-alone means of disinfection under most circumstances. They are a much greater burn/exposure hazard to personnel working in the immediate environment than an effective means of disinfection.

If your BSC is equipped with a UV light, know where the “ON/OFF” switch is and how it functions. Do not work in the BSC with the UV light on and do not work in close proximity (in the same culture room) to a BSC where the light is on.


Biosafety Level 2: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Remember that at biosafety level 2, the biological materials that you work with are assumed to be a biological exposure risk through:

  • Accidental ingestion
  • Contact with the mucous membranes (primarily through splashes to the eyes nose, or mouth)
  • Entry through broken skin (either through cuts with contaminated objects, contact with broken skin and possibly through prolonged contact with skin that appears to be undamaged)

Therefore, you must use PPE that is designed to effectively block the route of exposure that your procedures are likely to create.  PPE selection will vary depending on the nature of the work that you will be doing and the materials encountered. 

PPE: Body Protection at BL-2

In lab applications and animal applications where anticipated contamination is minimal (i.e. work with diagnostic specimens, small rodents or birds), a lab coat is the minimum body protection that must be worn. In some research applications, disposable fluid-resistant coveralls may be warranted based on the risk assessment.

PPE: Eye & Face Protection at BL-2

Eye protection requirements at BL2 are essentially the same as discussed for BL1. Safety glasses are required at a minimum for all lab applications where work with chemical or biological materials is underway. Where procedures are likely to create a splash or spray of biological materials, goggles must be worn unless this will hinder your ability to safely execute the procedure.

Face shields should be considered to further protect against contamination of your face that can lead to accidental ingestion or mucous membrane exposure. However, a face shield is not a substitute for eye protection and must be worn in conjunction with eye protection.

PPE: Gloves at BL2

Glove use at BL2 is required whenever work with viable biological material is underway. Gloves must be changed when overtly contaminated or when the integrity of the glove is compromised. Dispose of gloves at BL2 as biohazardous waste.

Disposable gloves can degrade quickly. If your gloves are “sticky” or are discolored in the cuffs or fingertips, degradation has probably already started. Always inspect your gloves thoroughly before you begin working to minimize your exposure risk.

Detailed Recommended Lab Practices

1. Pipettes and Pipetting Aids

Pipettes are used for volumetric measurements and transfer of fluids that may contain infectious, toxic, corrosive, or radioactive agents. Laboratory-associated infections have occurred from oral aspiration of infectious materials, mouth transfer via a contaminated finger and inhalation of aerosols. Exposures to aerosols may occur when liquid from a pipette is dropped onto the work surface, when cultures are mixed by pipetting or when the last drop of an inoculum is blown out. A pipette may become a hazardous piece of equipment if improperly used. The safe pipetting techniques outlined below are required to minimize the potential for exposure to hazardous materials.

  • Never mouth pipette. Always use a pipetting aid.
  • If working with biohazardous or toxic fluid, confine pipetting operations to a biosafety cabinet.
  • Always use cotton-plugged pipettes when pipetting biohazards or toxic materials, even when safety pipetting aids are used.
  • Do not prepare biohazardous materials by bubbling expiratory air through a liquid with a pipette.
  • Do not forcibly expel biohazardous material out of a pipette.
  • Never mix biohazardous or toxic material by suction and expulsion through a pipette.
  • When pipetting, avoid accidental release of infectious droplets. Place a disinfectant-soaked towel on the work surface and autoclave the towel after use.
  • Use “to deliver” pipettes rather than those requiring “blowout.”
  • Do not discharge material from a pipette at a height. Whenever possible allow the discharge to run down the container wall.
  • Place contaminated, reusable pipettes horizontally in a pan containing enough liquid disinfectant to completely cover them. Do not place pipettes vertically into a cylinder.
  • Discard contaminated disposable pipettes in an appropriate sharps container. Contact the campus Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Materials Officer for more information on the disposal of pipettes or sharps.
  • Pans or sharps containers for contaminated pipettes should be placed inside the biosafety cabinet, if possible.

2. Syringes and Needles

Syringes and Needles Syringes and hypodermic needles are dangerous instruments. The use of needles and syringes should be restricted to procedures for which there is no alternative. Blunt cannulas should be used as alternatives to needles wherever possible (i.e., procedures such as oral or intranasal animal inoculations). Needles and syringes should never be used as a substitute for pipettes. When needles and syringes must be used, the following procedures are recommended:

  • Use disposable needle-locking syringe units whenever possible.
  • When using syringes and needles with biohazardous or potentially infectious agents:
    • Work in a biosafety cabinet whenever possible.
    • Wear gloves, a lab coat, and eye protection.
    • Fill the syringe carefully to minimize air bubbles.
    • Expel air, liquid, and bubbles from the syringe vertically into a cotton pledget moistened with disinfectant.
    • Do not use a syringe to mix infectious fluid forcefully.
    • Do not contaminate the needle hub when filling the syringe to avoid transfer of infectious material to fingers.
    • Wrap the needle and stopper in a cotton pledget moistened with disinfectant when removing a needle from a rubber-stoppered bottle.
    • Bending, recapping, clipping, or removal of needles from syringes is prohibited. If a contaminated needle must be recapped or removed from a syringe, use of a mechanical device or the one-handed scoop method must be used. The use of needle nipping devices is prohibited.
    • Use a separate pan of disinfectant for reusable syringes and needles. Do not place them in pans containing pipettes or other glassware to eliminate sorting later.
    • Used disposable needles and syringes must be placed in appropriate sharps disposal containers and discarded as medical waste. Contact the Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Materials Officer for more information on the disposal of sharps.

3. Safe and Effective Use of Biosafety Cabinets

In general:
  • It is recommended that your biological safety cabinet is certified when it is installed or after it is moved, and annually thereafter. Check the Magnehelic gauge regularly for an indication of a problem.
  • Understand how your cabinet works.
  • Do not disrupt the protective airflow pattern of the biological safety cabinet. Such things as rapidly moving your arms in and out of the cabinet, people walking rapidly behind you, and opening lab doors may disrupt the airflow pattern and reduce the effectiveness of the biological safety cabinet. Cabinets should be placed in room, such that workflow in area is minimal.
  • Plan your work.
  • Minimize the storage of materials in and around the biological safety cabinet.
Operational directions:
  • Before using, wipe work surface with 70% alcohol. Wipe off each item you need for your procedures and place in cabinet.
    DO NOT place objects over the front air intake grille. DO NOT block the rear exhaust grille.
  • Segregate contaminated and clean items. Work from “clean to dirty.”
  • Place a pan with disinfectant and/or a sharps container inside the biological safety cabinet for pipette discard. DO NOT use vertical pipette discard canisters on the floor outside cabinet.
  • It is not necessary to flame items. This creates turbulence in airflow and will compromise sterility; heat buildup may damage the filters.
  • Move arms slowly when removing or introducing new items into the biological safety cabinet.
  • If you use a piece of equipment that creates air turbulence in the biological safety cabinet (such as a centrifuge, blender) place equipment in the back 1/3 of the cabinet; stop other work while equipment is operating.
  • Protect the building vacuum system from biohazards by placing a HEPA cartridge filter or its equivalent between the vacuum trap and the source valve in the cabinet.
  • Clean up all spills in the cabinet immediately. Wait 10 minutes before resuming work.
  • When work is finished, remove all materials and wipe all interior surfaces with 70% alcohol and allow hood to run for 5-10 minutes after cleaning.
  • Remove lab coat and wash hands thoroughly before leaving laboratory.

4. Centrifuge Equipment

Hazards associated with centrifuging include mechanical failure and the creation of aerosols.

To minimize the risk of mechanical failure, centrifuges must be maintained and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Users should be properly trained and operating instructions that include safety precautions should be prominently posted on the unit.

Aerosols are created by practices such as filling centrifuge tubes, removing plugs or caps from tubes after centrifugation, removing supernatant, and re-suspending sedimented pellets. The greatest aerosol hazard is created if a tube breaks during centrifugation. To minimize the generation of aerosols when centrifuging biohazardous material, the following procedures should be followed:

  • Avoid overfilling of centrifuge tubes so that closures do not become wet.
  • Add disinfectant to the space between the tube and the bucket to disinfect material in the event of breakage during centrifugation.
  • Always balance buckets, tubes and rotors properly before centrifugation.


High-speed/ultra centrifuges pose additional hazards. Precautions should be taken to filter the exhaust air from vacuum lines to avoid metal fatigue disintegrating rotors and to use proper cleaning techniques and centrifuge components.

Manufacturers’ recommendations must be meticulously followed to avoid metal fatigue, distortion, and corrosion.  Avoid the use of celluloid (cellulose nitrate) tubes with biohazardous materials. Celluloid centrifuge tubes are highly flammable and prone to shrinkage with age. They distort on boiling and can be highly explosive in an autoclave. If celluloid tubes must be used, an appropriate chemical disinfectant must be used to disinfect them.

6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect personnel from contact with hazardous materials and infectious agents. Appropriate clothing may also protect the experiment from contamination. PPE must be provided without cost to personnel.

The following personal protective equipment is recommended for regular use:

Face Protection Goggles

Face protection goggles in combination with masks, chin-length face shields, or other splatter guards are required whenever there is the possibility of splashes, sprays, or splatters of infectious or other hazardous materials to the face.

Laboratory clothing

This category includes: laboratory coats, smocks, scrub suits, and gowns.  Clean, long-sleeved garments should be used to minimize the contamination of skin or street clothes and to reduce shedding of microorganisms from the arms. In circumstances where it is anticipated that splashes may occur, the garment must be resistant to liquid penetration (to protect clothing from contamination).  If the garment is not disposable, it must be capable of withstanding sterilization in the event it becomes contaminated. Additional criteria for selecting clothing are: comfort, appearance, closure types and location, anti-static properties, and durability. Protective clothing must be removed in non-laboratory areas. Disposables should be available for visitors, maintenance and service workers in the event it is required. All protective clothing should be either discarded in the laboratory or laundered by the facility. Personnel must not launder laboratory clothing at home.


Gloves must be selected based on the hazards involved and the activity to be conducted. Gloves must be worn when working with biohazards, toxic substances, and other physically hazardous agents. Temperature resistant gloves must be worn when handling hot material or dry ice. Delicate work requiring a high degree of precision dictates the use of thin-walled gloves. Protection from contact with toxic or corrosive chemicals may also be required. When working with hazardous materials, the lower sleeve and the cuff of the laboratory garment should be overlapped by the glove. A long-sleeved glove or disposable arm shield may be worn for further protection of the garment. In some instances “double gloving” may be appropriate. If a spill occurs, hands will be protected after the contaminated outer gloves are removed. Gloves must be disposed of when contaminated, removed when work with infectious material is completed and not worn outside the laboratory. Disposable gloves must not be washed or reused.


In certain instances, additional personal protective equipment may be required. Respirator selection is based on the hazard and the protection factor required. Personnel who require respiratory protection must contact us for information on use of respirators at UW Oshkosh. Use of respirators requires: a medical examination to ensure no health conditions exist that would be exacerbated by respirator usage; annual fit testing to ensure proper respirator size and type; training to ensure proper respirator use and maintenance. Under no circumstances shall anyone wear a respirator unless he/she is a participant in the program. Contact us for assistance in selection of other personal protective equipment.

7. Blenders, Ultrasonic Disrupters, Grinders and Lyophilizers

The use of any of these devices results in considerable aerosol production. Blenders, grinders, and cell disruption equipment should be used in a biological safety cabinet when working with biohazardous materials.

Safety blenders, although expensive, are designed to prevent leakage from the bottom of the blender jar, provide a cooling jacket to avoid biological inactivation, and withstand sterilization by autoclaving. If blender rotors are not leak-proof, they should be tested with sterile saline or dye solution before use with biohazardous material. The use of glass blender jars is not recommended because of the breakage potential. If they must be used, glass jars should be covered with a polypropylene jar to prevent spraying of glass and contents in the event the blender jar breaks.

A towel moistened with disinfectant should be placed over the top of the blender during use. Before opening the blender jar allow the unit to rest for at least one minute to allow the aerosol to settle. The device should be decontaminated promptly after use.
Depending on the lyophilizer design, aerosol production may occur when material is loaded or removed from the lyophilizer unit. If possible, sample material should be loaded in a biological safety cabinet.

The vacuum pump exhaust should be filtered to remove any hazardous agents or the pump can be vented into a biological safety cabinet. After lyophilization is completed, all surfaces of the unit that have been exposed to the agent should be disinfected. If the lyophilizer is equipped with a removable chamber, it should be closed off and moved to a BSC for unloading and decontamination.

Handling of cultures should be minimized and vapor traps should be used wherever possible.
 Opening an ampoule containing liquid or lyophilized culture material should be performed in a biological safety cabinet to control the aerosol produced. Gloves must be worn. To open, nick the neck of the ampoule with a file, wrap it in disinfectant-soaked towel, hold the ampoule upright and snap it open at the nick. Reconstitute the contents of the ampoule by slowly adding liquid to avoid aerosolization of the dried material.

Mix the contents without bubbling and withdraw them into a fresh container. Discard the towel and ampoule top and bottom as infectious waste.
Ampoules used to store biohazardous material in liquid nitrogen have exploded causing eye injuries. The use of polypropylene tubes eliminates this hazard. These tubes are available dust free or pre-sterilized and are fitted with polyethylene caps with silicone washers. Heat sealable polypropylene tubes are also available.

8. Loop Sterilizers and Bunsen Burners

Sterilization of inoculation loops or needles in an open flame generates small particle aerosols which may contain viable microorganisms. The use of a shielded electric incinerator minimizes aerosol production during loop sterilization.

Alternatively, disposable plastic loops and needles may be used for culture work where electric incinerators or gas flames are not available. The loops are semi-quantitative and can be used for counting bacteria.
Continuous flame gas burners should not be used in biological safety cabinets.

These burners can produce turbulence that disturbs the protective airflow patterns of the cabinet. Additionally, the heat produced by the continuous flame may damage the HEPA filter. If a gas burner must be used, one with a pilot light should be selected.

9. Housekeeping

Good housekeeping in laboratories is essential to reduce risks and protect the integrity of biological experiments. Routine housekeeping must be relied upon to provide work areas free of significant sources of contamination. Housekeeping procedures should be based on the highest degree of risk to which personnel and experimental integrity may be subjected.

Laboratory personnel are responsible for cleaning laboratory benches, equipment, and areas that require specialized technical knowledge.

Additional laboratory housekeeping concerns include:

  • Keeping the laboratory neat and free of clutter; surfaces should be clean and free of infrequently used chemicals, glassware, and equipment.
  • Access to sinks, eyewashes, emergency showers, and fire extinguishers must not be blocked.
  • Proper disposal of chemicals and waste old and unused chemicals should be disposed of promptly and properly. Contact the Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Materials Officer for details.
  • Providing a workplace that is free of physical hazards; aisles and corridors should be free of tripping hazards.
  • Attention should be paid to electrical safety, especially as it relates to the use of extension cords, proper grounding of equipment, avoidance of overloaded electrical circuits, and avoidance of the creation of electrical hazards in wet areas.
  • Removing unnecessary items on floors, under benches, or in corners.
  • Properly securing all compressed gas cylinders.
  • Never use fume hoods for storage of chemicals or other materials.

Practical custodial concerns include:

  • Dry sweeping and dusting which may lead to the formation of aerosols is not permitted.
  • The usual wet or dry industrial type vacuum cleaner is a potent aerosol generator and, unless equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, must not be used in the biological research laboratory.
General Information

Decontamination is a term used to describe a process or treatment that renders a medical device, instrument, or environmental surface safe to handle.  A decontamination procedure can range from sterilization to simple cleaning with soap and water.

Types of Decontamination

Sterilization, disinfection, and antisepsis are all forms of decontamination.

Sterilization is the use of a physical or chemical procedure to destroy all microbial life, including highly resistant bacterial endospores.

Disinfection eliminates virtually all pathogenic non-spore-forming microorganisms but not necessarily all microbial forms on inanimate objects (work surfaces, equipment, etc.).  Effectiveness is influenced by the kinds and numbers of organisms, the amount of organic matter, the object to be disinfected and chemical exposure time, temperature and concentration.

Antisepsis is the application of a liquid antimicrobial chemical to skin or living tissue to inhibit or destroy microorganisms. It includes swabbing an injection site on a person or animal and hand washing with germicidal solutions.

Although some chemicals may be utilized as either a disinfectant or an antiseptic, adequacy for one application does not guarantee adequacy for the other. Manufacturers’ recommendations for appropriate use of germicides should always be followed.

General Procedures

  • All infectious materials and all contaminated equipment or apparatus should be decontaminated before being washed, stored, or discarded. Autoclaving is the preferred method. Each individual working with biohazardous material should be responsible for its proper handling.
  • Biohazardous materials should not be placed in autoclave overnight in anticipation of autoclaving the next day.
  • Autoclaves should not be operated unattended or by untrained personnel.
  • Special precautions should be taken to prevent accidental removal of material from an autoclave before it has been sterilized or simultaneous opening of both doors on a double door autoclave.
  • Dry hypochlorites, or any other strong oxidizing material, must not be autoclaved with organic materials such as paper, cloth, or oil.


Methods of Decontamination

There are four main categories of physical and chemical means of decontamination. They are heat, liquid disinfection, vapors and gases, and radiation.

Autoclaves (Heat)

Wet heat is the most dependable method of sterilization. Autoclaving (saturated steam under pressure of approximately 15 psi to achieve a chamber temperature of at least 250° F /121o° C for a prescribed time) is the most convenient method of rapidly achieving destruction of all forms of microbial life. In addition to proper temperature and time, prevention of entrapment of air is critical to achieving sterility. Material to be sterilized must come in contact with steam and heat. Chemical indicators, e.g. autoclave tape, must be used with each load placed in the autoclave. The use of autoclave tape alone is not an adequate monitor of efficacy. Autoclave sterility monitoring should be conducted regularly using appropriate biological indicators (B. stearothermophilus spore strips) placed at locations throughout the autoclave. The spores, which can survive 250° F /121o° C for 5 minutes but are killed in 13 minutes, are more resistant to heat than most, thereby providing an adequate safety margin when validating decontamination procedures. Each type of container employed should be individually tested with these spores because efficacy varies with the load, fluid volume, etc.

Dry Heat is less efficient than wet heat and requires longer times and/or higher temperatures to achieve sterilization. It is suitable for the destruction of viable organisms on impermeable non-organic surfaces such as glass, but it is not reliable in the presence of shallow layers of organic or inorganic materials which may act as insulation. Sterilization of glassware by dry heat can usually be accomplished at 160 – 170° C for periods of 2 to 4 hours. Dry heat sterilizers should be monitored regularly using appropriate biological indicators [Bacillus subtilis (globigii) spore strips].

Incineration is another effective means of decontamination by heat. As a disposal method incineration has the advantage of reducing the volume of the material before its final disposal.

Chemicals (Liquid Disinfection)

The most practical use of liquid disinfectants is for surface decontamination and, when used in sufficient concentration, as a decontaminate for liquid wastes before final disposal in the sanitary sewer.

If liquid disinfectants are used, they must show to be effective against the organism(s) present. Liquid disinfectants are available under a wide variety of trade names. In general, these can be classified as halogens, acids, alkalis, heavy metal salts, quaternary ammonium compounds, phenolic compounds, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, and amines.

The more active a compound is, the more likely it is to have undesirable characteristics such as corrosivity. No liquid disinfectant is equally useful or effective under all conditions and for all viable agents.


Although ionizing radiation will destroy microorganisms, it is not a practical tool for laboratory use.

Non-ionizing radiation in the form of ultraviolet radiation (UV) is used for inactivating viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It will destroy airborne microorganisms and inactivate microorganisms on exposed surfaces or in the presence of products of unstable composition that cannot be treated by conventional means.

UV lamps are not recommended for decontamination unless they are properly maintained.

Because UV lamp intensity or destructive power decreases with time, it should be checked with a UV meter yearly. Frequent lamp cleaning (at least every few weeks) is necessary to prevent accumulation of dust and dirt which drastically reduces its effectiveness.

If UV must be used, it should be used when areas are not occupied.

Infectious Waste Management

All disposal of infectious waste, autoclave bags, pipettes, sharps, and biological waste must be performed in accordance with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) medical waste regulations. UW Oshkosh has developed procedures for the proper disposal of biological waste materials.

Please consult the Hazardous Waste Disposal page for specific information on the treatment, handling, and disposal of biological materials.

Infectious Waste Management Information:

Mixed Waste

Mixed wastes are potentially infectious waste contaminated with other types of waste, e.g., radioisotopes or toxic/carcinogenic compounds.

Because of the difficulty in disposal of wastes regulated by more than one set of requirements and regulatory agencies, provisions must be made for proper management before the initiation of any research that might result in mixed waste.

Mixed wastes may require special containers, labeling, storage, etc.

Contact Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Waste Coordinator Greg Potratz before initiation of any research that might result in potentially infectious waste with multiple hazards.


All methods of disposal for research animals and animal parts that are considered to be infectious waste must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Contact the committee at

Microorganism Cultures

All cultures of microorganisms should be inactivated, using appropriate procedures, before disposal. This includes cultures of Risk Group 1 organisms. This is considered good laboratory practice.

Chemical Safety

Hazard Communication

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was written and enacted in 1983 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and is enforced in the State of Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (WI Statues 101.055).

HCS is based on a simple concept, that employees have both a need and a right to know and understand the hazards and identities of the chemicals that they are exposed to when working in non-laboratory work areas.

In March 2012, the Hazard Communication Standard was revised to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals also known as GHS and the changes will be fully implemented in 2016.

The revised standard requires the manufacturer or importer of chemicals to classify their chemicals according to their physical and health hazards, establish specific formatted shipping labels with the chemical identity, pictograms, signal works, precautionary statements, hazard statements, and the manufacturer name, address and phone number as well as create a 16 section Safety Data Sheet (SDS) formerly Material Safety Data Sheet (MDS) for each chemical.

There are three common labeling schemes used at UW Oshkosh:

1. Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

GHS labels are required on containers containing hazardous materials supplied by a manufacturer. The mandate to use these labels extends only to manufacturers, and shippers, not end users. UW Oshkosh employees are required to understand the hazards communicated by these labels. Existing chemical inventory does not need to be relabeled to comply with GHS. However, workplace containers must convey hazard information. While GHS labeling can be used on workplace containers, two other systems for labeling workplace containers are already in place and comply with OSHA HazCom requirements. Click here to learn more about GHS.

For information on the Hazard Codes and Precautionary Statements please click on the corresponding links.

2. Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS or HMIG)

HMIS or HMIG labels may be used on workplace containers.  Click here to learn more.

3. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA labels may be used on workplace containers. Click here to learn more.

Differences in Hazard Classification Systems

You should be aware that the three labeling systems used on campus have been designed for different audiences. As such, the way hazards are communicated differs slightly from system to system.

All three labeling systems, GHS, HMIS, and NFPA use a numerical hazard rating system, HOWEVER:
In the GHS system, LOWER number values indicate more severe hazards. These numbers do not appear on labels, but they do appear in SDS. In HMIS and NFPA classification, HIGHER numbers on labels indicate more severe hazards. Be aware of the difference.

They differ in layout — NFPA uses four diamonds, and HMIG uses vertically stacked bars. GHS uses red-bordered pictograms and signal words to convey hazards.  HMIS and NFPA differ in the interpretation of the fourth, white field (special handling in the NFPA system; protective equipment in the HMIS system).

Possibly the most significant difference, however, has to do with the intended audience for each of the systems.
The GHS system has been implemented to standardize the communication of hazard information internationally. Its implementation is driven by both commercial and safety considerations. As familiarity grows with this labeling system it may supplant the other systems of labeling for workplace labeling.

The HMIS (or HMIG) was devised as a tool to comply with the OHSA Hazard Communication Standard, and employees who must handle hazardous chemicals in the workplace are the intended audience. The format of the labels is intended to quickly convey the relevant hazards and necessary handling precautions.

The NFPA system was designed to alert firefighters arriving on the scene of a fire to the hazards associated with materials present at that location. Therefore, the numbers assigned in the NFPA system assume that a fire is present. No such assumption holds in the HMIG/HMIS system. For this reason, the numbers that are assigned to the flammability, health, and reactivity hazards may differ between the NFPA and HMIG systems, even for the same chemical. Still, labels are often used to convey the hazards of a material in an easily recognizable manner.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for providing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for their products. The same material may have different precautions depending on concentration or formula. Because of this, it is always best to consult the SDS for the exact product you are using.

Safety Data Sheets may be the most important tool in hazard communication. The Globally Harmonized System of hazard communication mandates that all SDS follow the same 16-section format as shown below:

  1. Product and Company Identification
  2. Hazard Identification
  3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
  4. First-Aid Measures
  5. Firefighting Measures
  6. Accidental Release Measures
  7. Handling and Storage
  8. Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties
  10. Stability and Reactivity
  11. Toxicological Information
  12. Ecological Information
  13. Disposal Considerations
  14. Transport Information
  15. Regulatory Information
  16. Other Information

SDSs of all hazardous materials must be available to all employees who may come in contact with those materials. Contact your supervisor if you would like to see a product’s SDS. UW Oshkosh subscribes to ChemWatch, a website-based SDS hosting service.  See the “Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Lookup in ChemWatch” document in the Lab Safety Guidance/Reference Documents section of our Document Library page for more information on how to log in to the system.

Please contact the Chemical Hygiene and Hazardous Materials Officer if you would like additional training on the ChemWatch system or additional access to manage Safety Data Sheets on campus.

Because an SDS must be provided in an emergency, you should have quick and easy access to your SDS library. It is recommended that in addition to having hard (paper) copies, you become familiar with the ChemWatch service. Please see the Chemical Exposure section below for instructions on what to do in the event of a chemical spill or release.

Chemical Exposure

Many chemicals and mixtures used in laboratories and other occupational settings present a significant risk if handled improperly. Being aware of the routes of exposure and how to detect when an exposure has occurred are of paramount importance. One can prevent exposures via administrative controls (rules, training, SOPs) and engineering controls such as fume hoods and personal protective equipment (PPE). Exposures may be acute (high concentration for a short duration ) or chronic (low concentration over a long period of time). OSHA has determined permissible exposure limits (PELs) and short-term exposure limits (STELs) for hazardous materials. you should be aware of the limits of the materials you work with. Consult the SDS or the OSHA webpage on Permissible Exposure Limits.


If a hazardous material is released in your area, immediate action should be taken to protect yourself and others. There are three methods used to detect a hazardous material release:

Sight – Relying on your vision is a safe and practical method of hazardous material release detection. Seeing a container spill, liquid pooled on the floor, or fumes or smoke coming from an area are clues that a material has spilled and your supervisor (and possibly Campus Police) should be notified.

Smell – Odor is another simple, yet dangerous, way to detect a release. It is dangerous because if you smell a hazardous material, it has already entered your body. Some solvents, acids, cleaners, and gases have a distinct odor that is noticeable when open to the air. Smelling chemical odors not usually present or that seem stronger than normal should result in notifying your supervisor and Campus Police immediately.

Process Monitoring – Using an air monitor is very useful for detecting odorless, invisible material, usually gases. If you have concerns that an area you are working in may experience a material release that requires monitoring you should contact

Routes of Exposure

Hazardous materials may enter the body through four different routes of exposure:

Inhalation – occurs when chemical fumes, mists, dust, or gases are breathed in through the nose or mouth. The inhaled chemical is then absorbed through the tissue and membranes in the nose, trachea, and lungs. Tissues in these areas are not very protective against chemical exposure, thus are at greater risk.

Absorption – occurs when a hazardous material enters the body through the skin or eyes. Skin tissue is more protective than lung tissue, but is not an impermeable barrier. Some materials may be absorbed more readily by the skin than others, and once the material is absorbed, it is carried throughout the body in the bloodstream.

Ingestion – occurs when chemical fumes, mists, and dust enters the body through the mouth and are swallowed. A hazardous material is commonly ingested when contaminated food or hands come in contact with the mouth.

Injection – occurs when contaminated sharp objects puncture the skin, introducing hazardous material to the bloodstream. Improperly stored or disposed of needles increase the exposure risk. Using a dustpan and broom to clean up broken glass, dropped needles or any other sharp object decreases the risk of injury. Never place any sharp object directly in the waste basket.

Health Effects

When exposed to hazardous material, there may be two kinds of health effects on the body:

Acute – Acute health effects are characterized by sudden and severe exposure and rapid absorption of a material. An example would be a chemical burn. If sulfuric acid is spilled on your arm, you will experience a burn within moments of exposure.

Chronic – Chronic health effects are characterized by prolonged and repeated exposure over a longer period of time. An example would be lead poisoning. If you are exposed to lead particles, you may not notice any health effects. However, repeated exposure may cause lead poisoning over time. Chronic health effects may affect specific organs or result in cancer.

Toxicity vs. Dose

Toxicity is the ability of a material to cause a harmful effect. Please understand that everything is toxic, even water. However, one must drink a lot of water for it to be harmful. The amount of material you are exposed to or come in contact with is called dose. The less toxic a substance is (e.g., water), the greater dose you can tolerate without ill effects. The more toxic a substance (e.g., cyanide) the less of a dose you can tolerate before you become ill.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn to reduce employee exposure to hazards when engineering and administrative controls are not possible or effective in doing so. The appropriate PPE to use when working with a hazardous material should be noted in the SDS or other resources (NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Prudent Practices in the Laboratory, etc.) Be sure to check the SDS and with your supervisor before you begin working with such material. If you use the wrong PPE, it will not affect reducing exposure and you may be at risk for injury or illness. The links below provide additional information.

Chemical Spill Response

Anyone working with hazardous materials should have a spill kit available. The spill kit should be customized to fit the hazards of your area.

There are two types of chemical spills:

Minor – Minor spills consist of a small amount of hazardous material that you are familiar with. This material, although hazardous, is not extremely dangerous and can be cleaned up if the proper clean-up material and personal protective equipment are available. You should only clean up a minor spill if you feel comfortable doing so. The clean-up material should be considered hazardous waste and be disposed of properly. Always let your supervisor know of a spill.

Major – Major spills consist of a large quantity of a hazardous material, a material that is extremely dangerous, a mixing of two chemicals that may cause a reaction or unknown chemicals. Do not attempt to clean up a major spill. You should clear the area (possibly the building) and call University Police at (920) 424-1212.

Detailed procedures for handling minor and major spills can be found at Chemical Spill Response. General Guidelines for routine spills are given below:

  • Be Prepared in Advance
  • Have a spill kit available to clean up minor spills. That kit should include:
    • Instructions and/or Material Safety Data Sheets for the chemical in use
    • Personal protective equipment including gloves, safety goggles, and other protective clothing
    • Spill pads or pillows sufficient to contain and absorb one liter of liquid
    • Plastic bags or containers to place spilled waste material

Do NOT attempt to clean up a spill if any of the following conditions apply:

  • More than one chemical has spilled;
  • The quantity spilled is greater than one liter;
  • The substance is unknown or you are uncertain of the hazards of the substance; or
  • You are uncomfortable in the situation.

Chemical Spill Kits are available in the Chemistry and Biology Stockrooms. If you would like assistance in creating a spill kit for your area, contact


In an emergency, call 911.  

If exposure occurs, the procedures that should be followed depend on the toxicity of the material, dose, and route of exposure. Everyone working with hazardous material should know the location of the nearest eyewash and safety shower station.

If a material contacts the eyes or face, immediately proceed to the eyewash station and call for help if working with others. REMOVE CONTACT LENSES. Rinse your eyes and face for 15 minutes. Although it may be uncomfortable, you should keep your eyes open (force them if necessary) so water can wash behind the eyelids. While you are rinsing, another person should be looking up the SDS to see if further steps or medical attention are needed.

If a material contacts the body, proceed immediately to a safety shower or drench hose if necessary. Remove affected clothing and rinse the area for 15 minutes. Again, another person should be consulting the SDS to see if further steps or medical attention need to be taken.

If a material is inhaled making breathing difficult, move to an open-air area. If you notice that someone has become unconscious, move that person to fresh air (ONLY IF SAFE TO DO SO) and call Campus Police at (920) 424-1212.

Chemical Storage

Universal Guidelines for Chemical Storage:

Store only what you will use within a reasonable time frame (the greater of a one-year supply or 250 grams).
Chemicals should never be stored above eye level (five feet). Shelving above five feet may be used for storage of other inert supplies or equipment where practical.
Chemicals stored even temporarily near a sink shall be placed in secondary containment.
Reactive substances should be placed on shelves as close to the floor as practicality allows.
Chemicals shall be separated based on their compatibility/reactivity to prevent incompatible materials from being stored near one another.

Chemical Compatibility Groups

Chemicals shall be separated based on compatibility/reactivity. Signage shall be used on storage cabinets to indicate compatibility of the materials stored. The signage can be fabricated by users or requested free of charge from EHS.

For departments that use CISPro, the storage classifications appear on the barcode label on each container. If a container does not have an inventory barcode, consult the safety data sheet for proper storage. If the barcode label is missing the storage classification, contact to have the information updated.

NOTE: Waste streams also follow this compatibility system. Care should be taken to prevent mixing waste streams from incompatible groups. Failure to do so could result in an adverse chemical reaction.

The following color-coded storage classifications have been established:

0: General Storage (low hazard materials like NaCl, sucrose, amino acids)

Materials in Category 0 may be kept in reasonable quantities on bench tops or open shelving units indefinitely, though storage in a cabinet or cupboards is recommended. Materials in Category 0 may also be stored with flammable materials if space permits.

1: Inorganic Acids (HF, HCl, H2SO4, etc.)
2: Organic Acids (HC2H3O2, citric acid, etc.)
3: Oxidizing Inorganic Acids (chloric, nitric, perchloric, etc.)

Materials in Category 1-3 should be kept in a cabinet designed for corrosive materials and ventilated cabinets are recommended. Each category should be kept separate from the other using secondary containment (plastic or fiberglass trays) within the cabinet. Solutions of these materials with concentrations below 0.1 molar may be considered as category 0.

4: Bases (aqueous hydroxides, aqueous ammonia)

Materials in Category 4 should be kept in a cabinet designed for corrosive materials and ventilated cabinets are recommended. These materials shall not be stored in the same cabinet as category 1-3 even with secondary containment. Solutions of these materials with concentrations below 1.0 molar may be considered category 0.

5: Oxidizers (salts containing bromate, chlorate, chromate, nitrate, and metal peroxides)

Materials in Category 5 should be stored in a dedicated cabinet (not on the open bench or shelving) and away from flammable or combustible materials. These materials pose a substantial fire or detonation hazard when mixed with other materials such as acetic acid and other organic acids, concentrated mineral acids, flammable and combustible chemicals or wastes, and active metals such as aluminum, beryllium, calcium, lithium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

6: Toxic substances (cyanide salts, etc) GHS Category 1 or 2 toxins

Materials in Category 6 should be stored in a secure location. These materials have acute toxicity LD50 ≤300 mg/kg oral OR LD50 ≤1000 mg/kg dermal classifying them as category 1, 2, or 3 toxins under the GHS system of hazard communication. It is strongly recommended that category 1 toxins be stored in locked cabinets even in secure areas with key card access.

7: Flammable (NFPA flammability >1)

Materials in Category 7 should be stored in a designated flammable cabinet whenever possible and ventilated cabinets are recommended. Class IIIB liquids (materials with a flash point ≥ 200 °F (93.4 °C) or NFPA flammability rating of 1 or less) are considered to be storage Category 0, General Storage. The flammability classification can be found on a safety data sheet.

8: Special Storage (pyrophoric, water reactive, or other imminent physical hazards)

Materials in Category 8 pose an imminent physical hazard when opened, for example, pyrophoric and water-reactive materials or substances that decompose to produce toxic or corrosive gases when exposed to air or moisture. Some toxic materials with very low inhalation, vapor, dust, or mist toxicity thresholds may also be placed in this category (see GHS category 1 toxins). Category 8 materials are to be stored in a designated cabinet, and ventilated cabinets are strongly recommended. Secondary containment shall be used when the hazards necessitate, for instance, storing white phosphorus in a cabinet with metal alkyls. Only very small quantities (<100g) of these materials should be on hand in a lab. Many of these materials also have a limited shelf life, especially once opened. Keeping these materials in a chemical refrigerator can increase their shelf life and decrease reactivity/volatility when the container is opened.

Refrigerators in Laboratories

All refrigerators for laboratory use must be labeled on the exterior:


The labels must be legible and securely affixed to the refrigerator.  Labels may be fabricated by users or can be obtained on the Document Library page in the Lab Safety section under Signs and Labels.

Ordinary Refrigerators

Ordinary refrigerators may be either residential or commercial grade. This type of refrigerator can only be used for materials in Category 0, General Storage for biological materials, perishable non-hazardous regents, grocery items intended for experiments, etc. A Biohazard label shall be posted on the refrigerator door if such materials may be present.

Chemical Refrigerators:

These refrigerators are designed to safely store flammable and corrosive materials. They have explosion-proof components and chemical-resistant liners. Signage shall be placed on the door of the refrigerator indicating the storage categories of the materials therein. Materials in different (incompatible) storage groups may be stored in the same refrigerator if secondary containment is used.

Refrigerators used for food storage in shops and labs must be labeled with words to the effect of: NOTICE – FOOD MAY BE STORED IN THIS REFRIGERATOR. DO NOT STORE CHEMICALS OR LAB SPECIMENS. Refrigerators used for food and beverage storage that are located in lunch rooms and office buildings, where there is no shop or laboratory type chemical use, do not require any postings. Best practice is not to store or consume food or beverages in a lab or shop space.

Gas Cylinders

The following guidelines for cylinder storage are adapted from the Compressed Gas Association, OSHA 1910.101(b), and other resources.

  • Store cylinders in an upright position, away from sources of heat.
  • Keep valve protective caps in place when the cylinder is not in use or when being transported.
  • Cylinders should be individually secured; using a single restraint strap around several cylinders is often NOT effective.
    Acceptable means of securing a cylinder are:
    • A bench clamp with a belt
    • A chain mounted to a wall or cabinet
    • The chain or belt should be located between half height and 3/4 of the height of the cylinder.
  • Cylinders must be kept away from electrical wiring where the cylinder could become part of the circuit.
  • Cylinders must be stored in areas designated and marked only for cylinders.
  • Store cylinders away from corrosive vapors or excessive moisture.
  • Where practical, cylinders should be stored in compatible groups:
    • Flammables separated from oxidizers (at least by 20′)
    • Corrosives separated from flammables (at least by 20′)
    • Full cylinders separated from empties.
  • Empty cylinders should be clearly marked and stored as carefully as those that are full because residual gas may be present.
    • Mark empty cylinders EMPTY or MT. The use of cylinder tags is highly recommended.
  • Keep valves closed on empty cylinders.
  • Do not refill cylinders.
  • Do not lift cylinders by their caps or with lifting magnets.

Other Lab, Shop, and Studio Safety Topics

Art, Lab and Studio Safety Policy

Art, lab and studio safety policy

It shall be the policy of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Department of Art that a safe, healthy environment shall be maintained at all times within Department of Art facilities. We recognize that some techniques, materials, and practices used within the Department of Art have inherent risks.

If those risks cannot be adequately minimized and controlled through proper training, equipment, and use of appropriate precautions, those techniques and materials may not be used within the department. Furthermore, ignoring proper procedures, precautions and restrictions is not acceptable and will not be allowed.

All faculty, staff, and students must be especially diligent in following safety rules that apply to the different areas within the Department of Art. The galleries and the different art studios have unique health and safety requirements.

Failure to follow the appropriate safety rules may result in injury. Therefore, failure to follow required safety rules may result in immediate temporary and possibly permanent removal from a given activity or class.

In addition to these general guidelines, the instructors of courses in Studio Foundations, 2D Studio, 3D Studio, Design, and Art Education will provide the appropriate media-specific training to students working in each discipline-specific area. The Gallery Director and/or faculty/staff supervising gallery-related activities are responsible for proper safety training related to those gallery activities.

Handling Safety Issues
It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Department of Art that no safety concern is unimportant. All personnel and students within the Department are encouraged to bring such concerns to the attention of the faculty and staff.

In no way will doing so reflect badly on or be held against the person making the report. Rather contributing to the health and safety of all personnel is everyone’s responsibility.

Any perceived safety concerns or hazards, large or small, should be reported to the faculty or staff in charge of the area or directly to the Department Chair.  Steps will be taken to correct the problem or to report the problem to the appropriate University authorities for action.

Access to Studios and Galleries
No one is allowed access to a studio area unless they have been properly trained to use the tools and materials in that area. No unauthorized personnel are allowed to work in the studio or gallery areas.

Access to some studios is restricted to times when lab assistants are available, staffing the studio during non-class times. No one shall be permitted to work in or operate any of the power tools in the Department Woodshop without successfully completing Woodshop training.

First Aid, Accidents and Reporting
A First Aid Kit is maintained in each studio area. The faculty/staff member(s) who teach in that studio are responsible for maintaining the kit and keeping it stocked. All kits are easily accessible; the location of the First Aid Kit within the studio is part of the general studio health and safety introduction of each class.

The First Aid Kit is intended for First Aid only. In the event of anything other than minor incidents, accidents are to be reported immediately to the faculty/staff in charge of the area, if they are not present, contact the Department Office at 424-2222, or after hours, contact University Police at 424-1212, who is authorized to contact the proper emergency services.

If the incident is serious or life-threatening, you should call 911 immediately. University Police should then be contacted as soon as practical. Render whatever first aid can be applied until emergency services arrive to relieve you. All incidents must also be reported to the Department of Art Chair, as soon as possible, after the incident.

General Department Studio Safety Rules

All required safety rules must be followed at all times.

The following should be considered as guidelines for working in the studio areas in the Department of Art. They have been written and are enforced for your safety, and as such should be followed at all times.

If you have any questions regarding the safe operation of any tool or use of any material, please feel free to ask the faculty/staff. You are responsible to know and understand the following:

1. All persons working in the studios shall be properly attired. The following studios need to wear closed-toe shoes: functional design, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, metals, 3D Design, and woodshop).  At no time will anyone wearing sandals be allowed to work in the studios as they do not give sufficient protection to the wearer. Also, long hair is to be tied back to avoid any chance of getting it caught in moving machinery.

2. Ear and eye protection (safety glasses and/or goggles) are required in several studios. In general, when operating any power tool, safety glasses are to be worn. Safety goggles are required when using certain chemicals and machines. Also when participating in any amount of abrasive sanding or spray painting, respirators are to be used in addition to safety glasses.

3. Gloves and other protective clothing such as aprons may be required when working with certain chemicals.

4. Every attempt should be made to keep your work area clean and organized. This means periodically sweeping up excessive waste and returning tools to their proper places. Consumption of food or drink in most studio areas should be avoided.

5. No person shall work in the studios while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prescribed drugs that cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, or disorientation should also not be used. Any student using such prescribed medications should notify the faculty/staff in charge.

6. Any time that you have a problem with any tool or machine, bring it to the attention of the faculty/staff in charge so they may assist you. Never attempt to repair or adjust any machines. If a machine or tool is accidentally damaged, bring it to the attention of the instructor. Please do not try to hide or cover up any damages.

7. At no time shall any student operate or attempt to operate any of the power equipment in the department without proper training and permission. This includes but is not limited to: the table, radial arm, circular, band and saber saws; the drill press and any pneumatic power tools. Before operating any power tools, make sure all hand tools, chuck keys, or other foreign materials are clear of the machine’s work area.

8. Dangling necklaces or large rings, long loose scarves, or loose sleeves should not be worn in some of the studios, as they may become entangled in moving machinery.

9. Always make sure that all power tools are turned off and the electrical power disconnected before leaving the machine. Never leave an unattended machine running, even for “one second”. Always unplug or disconnect from the power source of all power tools before changing blades, bits, or attachments.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for chemicals and other supplies/materials used in the studios are maintained and stored by the university in an electronic system. In addition, copies of SDS for each studio area can also be found in the studio.

If you have questions about anything in any SDS, or about any process, see the instructor for clarification.

Ventilation Systems
The studios in the Department of Art are equipped with media/technique-specific ventilation systems, which must be used at all appropriate times. The use of spray paint, varnishes, adhesives, and/or fixatives is permitted only in a properly working spray booth.

There is a general access spray booth located on the second floor of the AC. Training will include directions on the use of the spray booth ventilation system.

The dust collection system in the Woodshop must be operating when the table saw, band saw, or radial arm saw is in use. Welding/soldering shall be allowed only in the designated studio areas with the appropriate ventilation.

The use of solvents, acids, and some powders will also only be allowed in areas designated for their use and those with proper ventilation. Training in the proper use of these tools and materials will include training on the ventilation system.

General Lab Safety Guidelines

General Lab Safety Guidelines

  • Never bring food or drink into lab spaces. If a room serves multiple functions, clearly delineate lab areas from those used for other purposes. Do not cross-contaminate the areas.
  • Never smoke in lab spaces.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Loose clothing should be confined. Shorts and sandals should not be worn.
  • Keep hair restrained.
  • Keep lab areas clean and organized.
  • Properly label and store all materials, following the globally harmonized system of classification and labeling, where appropriate.
  • Know the MSDS information for the materials being used.
  • Follow all posted safety signs/instructions.
  • Read all labels carefully.
  • Properly store all materials.
  • Avoid working alone.
  • Utilize personal protective equipment (PPE) when appropriate.
  • Ensure machine safety features are properly utilized.
  • Ensure sharps and biohazard waste are properly disposed of.
  • Use correct lifting technique. Grab a partner if you are unable to lift a load safely.
  • Know where eyewash, safety shower stations, fire extinguishers, spill control kits, and other safety equipment are located.
  • Know evacuation procedures for the lab space.
  • Use GFCI outlets where appropriate.
  • Use fume hoods when appropriate.
Electrical Safety

Electrical Safety

All employees use electric powered equipment and systems throughout the campus. Whether in an office, lab or workshop, electricity is used continuously, usually without incident.

Electrical voltages as low as 12 volts, can be dangerous to people and cause injury. When working with or around electrical equipment, one may inadvertently become part of an electrical circuit. Only trained and authorized or qualified individuals should do any repair or work on electrical equipment.

General Precautions for All Staff

  • Never work on “hot” or energized equipment unless it is necessary to conduct equipment troubleshooting
  • Use extension cords only as temporary power sources.
  • Do not connect too many pieces of equipment to the same circuit or outlet as the circuit or outlet could become overloaded.
  • Be sure that ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are used in high-risk areas such as wet locations (GFCI’s are designed to shut off electrical power within as little as 1/40 of a second).
  • Plug strips, such as those used on computers, should be plugged directly into outlets and not into extension cords or other plug strips.
  • Inspect all equipment periodically for defects or damage.
  • All cords that are worn, frayed, abraded, corroded or otherwise damaged must be replaced.
  • Grasp the plug to remove it from a socket – never pull the cord.
  • Keep all cords away from heat, oil and sharp edges.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance of all electrical tools and appliances.
  • Keep equipment operating instructions on file.
  • Never touch an electrical appliance and plumbing at the same time.
  • Always unplug electrical appliances before attempting any repair or maintenance.
  • All electrical devices must be properly grounded with approved three wire plugs unless they are “double insulated”. Grounding provides a safe path for electricity to the ground, preventing leakage of current in circuits or equipment.
  • All electrical equipment used on campus should be UL or FM approved.
  • Keep cords out of the way of foot traffic so they don’t become tripping hazards or become damaged by traffic.
  • Never use electrical equipment in wet areas or run cords across wet floors.
  • Ensure energized parts of electrical equipment operating at 50 volts or more are guarded against accidental contact.
  • Only properly trained employees should work on electrical equipment.
  • Know how to respond to emergencies such as electric shock incidents or fires.

Localized Electrical Outage

  • All Staff should immediately report electric outages to Facilities Management.
  • If possible, identify the defective equipment or the cause of the failure and remove it from service.
  • Report this information to Facilities Management personnel upon their arrival.

Labs and Facilities Management

  • NEVER work with electricity greater than 600 volts without specific permission, training and written procedures. Notify your supervisor immediately if you have any questions.
  • Be able to recognize electrical safety hazards in your work area.
  • Ensure that all authorized or qualified persons have received appropriate training in order to operate or repair equipment.
  • Keep equipment in good working order to help prevent electrical accidents.
  • Maintain a three-foot clearance around electrical panels.
  • Electrically operated equipment must be deenergized before work may commence.
  • Always follow lockout/tag-out procedures when working on electrical equipment and wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as safety glasses, rated rubber gloves, rated rubber sleeves, insulated boots, or face shield.
  • Never override safety devices such as electrical interlocks.
  • Remove all rings, key chains or other metal objects when working around electricity.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as eye protection or insulated gloves, as needed.
  • Never use metal ladders when working near energized wiring.
  • Damp or wet environments may be dangerous when working with electricity.
  • Never plug in cords that are wet or touch electrical equipment with wet hands.
  • Employees working with lasers, performing hardware or software testing, or other activities that do not require direct contact with electrical components, should be aware of electrical safety issues and be alert to the possibility of other employees conducting energized work in the area.

Damaged or Defective Electrical Equipment
Report malfunctioning equipment or devices to your supervisor or Facilities Management at (920) 424-3466. Typical issues include:

  • Damaged cords, plugs or outlets;
  • Receiving a shock when touching the equipment; and
  • Arcing, sparking, smoking, or otherwise malfunctioning equipment.
  • Any electrical equipment not operating properly should be:
  • Taken out of service immediately.
  • Tagged or labeled as “Do Not Use”.
  • Reported to the appropriate department or individual for repair.
  • Do not attempt to repair any electrical equipment yourself unless you are properly trained and authorized to do so.
Fume Hood Safety



Laboratory fume hoods serve to control exposure to toxic, offensive, or flammable vapors, gases, and aerosols. Fume hoods are the primary method of exposure control in the laboratory.

Use the right hood for the job.

  • General purpose hoods:
  • Standard fume hood
  • Bypass hood, or constant volume hood
  • Variable air volume (VAV) hood
  • Auxiliary air-supplied hood
  • Radioisotope hood – used for volatile radioactive materials
  • Biosafety cabinet – specialized hoods to prevent or minimize the exposure of humans or the environment to biohazardous agents or materials
  • Perchloric acid hoods – MUST be used when working with PCA (e.g., acid digestion procedures). These hoods prevent the formation of perchlorates which could lead to explosions. They are constructed with special materials and have water-wash capability.

•    Place apparatus and equipment as far back as possible in the hood for safety and optimal performance. Equipment should be placed a minimum of 8 inches inside the hood. Keep electrical connections outside of the hood.
•    Ensure that equipment or materials do not block the baffle vents in the back of the hood.
•    When using a large apparatus inside the hood, place the equipment on blocks, when safe and practical, to allow airflow beneath it.
•    Do not place electrical apparatus or other ignition sources inside the hood when flammable liquids or gases are present. Keep in mind that liquids with low flash points may ignite if they are near heat sources such as hot plates or steam lines.

•    When using the fume hood, keep your face outside the plane of the hood sash and remain alert to changes in airflow.
•    Work at least 6 inches back from the face of the hood. A stripe on the bench surface is a good reminder.
•    Always use splash goggles, and wear a full face shield if there is the possibility of an explosion or eruption.
•    Wear gloves appropriate for the materials being used.
•    Do not use porous materials (paper, pencils, etc.).
•    Do not make quick motions into or out of the hood, use fans, or walk quickly by the hood opening. All will cause airflow disturbances which reduce the effectiveness of the hood.
•    Substitute less hazardous or less volatile chemicals where possible.
•    Look for process changes that improve safety and reduce losses to the environment (e.g., more accurate chemical delivery systems vs. pouring volatile chemicals from bottles).
•    Develop a process to evaluate research proposals ahead of time for potential emissions and look for opportunities to reduce them.

Do not use the hood as a waste disposal mechanism. Apparatus used in a hood should be fitted with condensers, traps, or scrubbers to contain and collect waste solvents, toxic vapors, or dust. Please contact Greg Potratz ( for additional information on waste disposal or refer to the following Hazardous Waste Disposal portion of this website.

•    Limit chemical storage in fume hoods. Keep the smallest amount of chemicals in the hood needed to conduct the procedure at hand.
•    Store hazardous chemicals such as flammable liquids in an approved safety cabinet.
•    Keep caps on chemical reagent bottles tight and check fitting on laboratory glassware to minimize vapor loss.
•    Keep the exhaust duct clear of debris.

Always use good housekeeping techniques to maintain the hood at optimal performance levels. Excessive storage of materials or equipment can cause eddy currents or reverse flow, resulting in contaminants escaping from the hood.

•    Do not remove sashes from sliding sash hoods. The hood should be kept closed, except when working within the hood is necessary.
•    Use a sliding sash for partial protection during hazardous work.
•    Do not remove the sash or panels except when necessary for apparatus set-up. Replace sash or panels before operating.
•    Keep the slots of the hood baffles free of obstruction by apparatus or containers.
•    Keep the hood sash closed as much as possible to maximize the hood’s performance. Keep the sash closed when not in use to maximize energy conservation.

Hoods should be evaluated by the user before each use to ensure adequate face velocities and the absence of excessive turbulence.

In case of an exhaust system failure while using a hood, shut off all services and accessories and lower the sash completely. Leave the area immediately.

The required face velocity is 100 feet per minute (0.5m/sec). This velocity is capable of controlling most low-velocity cross drafts and turbulence created by normal working practices at the face of the hood. All hoods should have a sticker designating the maximum safe sash height. Keep the sash at the appropriate level to ensure optimal face velocity.

Regular testing of the fume hood should be done by Facilities Management to ensure that it is operating properly. Hoods are labeled to indicate the last inspection date. If your hood has not been tested within the past year, please contact Facilities Management (-3466) or your department office.

State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services states:

SPS 332.24
1.    General.
1.    Except as provided in par. (b), laboratory fume hoods during use shall be operated with a minimum average of 100 feet per minute face velocity at full open sash or sash stop position. When determining the minimum flow rate through the fume hood, the sash stop position may not be lower than 18 inches above the work surface.

NOTE: When operating the fume hood, the sash should be positioned to maximize protection for the user.

2.    Vertical sash fume hoods operated at sash stop positions shall have an alarm that gives a warning when the sash is raised above the sash stop position. Combination vertical/horizontal sash fume hoods shall have an alarm that gives a warning when the sash is vertically raised from the fully lowered position.

2.     Alternate Operation.
1.     Fume hoods operating at minimum average face velocities less than 100 feet per minute shall achieve a spillage rate less than 0.1 ppm at 4.0 liters per minute gas release for an “as used” condition by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 110 – Method of Testing Laboratory Fume Hoods. The minimum allowable average face velocity for fume hoods achieving the ASHRAE 110 containment criteria shall be 40 feet per minute at the full open sash.

2.    Fume hoods operating at minimum average face velocities less than 100 feet per minute shall have a continuous flow meter with an alarm.

NOTE: For further information regarding fume hood operation, see ANSI/AIHA standard Z9.5 – Laboratory Ventilation.

3.    Testing.
Operable fume hoods shall be tested annually for minimum average face velocity.

History: Cr. Register, February, 1999, No. 518, eff. 3-1-99; am. (2) (a), (4) (c), (5) (a) and (c) 2., r. (2) (b) and Figure 32.24, renum. (2) (c) and (d) to be (2) (b) and (c) and am. (c), cr. (5) (d) and (6), Register, June, 2000, No. 534, eff. 7-1-00; CR 01-139: am. (5) (c) 1.
Register June 2002 No. 558, eff. 7-1-02.

The OSHA Laboratory Standard (link 29 CFR 1910.1450) does not specify safe hood operation, flows, or face velocities. However, it does mandate a chemical hygiene plan and lists requirements for the plan, including “a requirement that fume hoods and other protective equipment are functioning properly and specific measures that shall be taken to ensure the proper and adequate performance of such equipment.”

Laser Safety


Laser is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Radiation in this case occurs in the portions of the electromagnetic field with insufficient energy to induce ionization or breaking up of the atom (i.e., it is non-ionizing). Non-ionizing radiation occurs in the radio frequency, microwave, infrared visible, and ultraviolet ranges.

Lasers operate in two modes: pulsed (e.g. Q-switched lasers) and continuous wave (CW). Generally, pulsed lasers are more hazardous than CW lasers. Lasers using CO2 and certain other materials emit beams that are not visible, hence they are particularly hazardous.

Biological damage caused by lasers includes thermal burns, photochemical burns, and retinal injuries. Electrical safety and fire are also important concerns.

In the use of a laser, safety procedures must be established and followed so that protection is provided for students, teachers, workers, visitors, bystanders, and passersby.

Hazards may include:
•    Vaporized target material from high-energy laser cutting, drilling, and welding operations
•    Gases from lasers
•    Gases from cryogenic coolants
•    Ultraviolet infrared radiation
•    Electrical hazards – cables between the power supply and laser head must be properly selected and placed and the capacitor system safeguarded

All electrical equipment must be well-maintained to prevent shocks and burns. Energy sources for lasers are essentially high-voltage equipment. Capacitors must be de-energized before cleaning or repairing. All voltage on capacitors must be removed before leaving the equipment. Interlocks must be provided to prevent access to components of high-voltage currents. Fire buttons must be remote from the charge and hold buttons to prevent accidental discharge of a laser. All ultraviolet and infrared radiation must be shielded.

Hazard controls in the operation of lasers are:
•    Do not look into the primary beam or at reflections of the beam
•    Avoid aiming the laser with the eye to prevent looking along the axis because of the hazard of reflection
•    If possible, work with lasers should be done in areas of high general illumination to keep pupils constricted
•    Proper safety glasses should be worn to filter out specific injurious frequencies of the unit
•    Terminate the laser beam with material that is non-reflective and fire resistant
•    Provide adequate clear space around the laser path
•    Protect from electrical shock from the potentially dangerous electrical sources of high and low voltage
•    High-voltage rectifiers may generate x-rays and require protection

Many special precautions must be taken from the particular lasers as high-powered pulsing lasers and low-powered gas and semi-conducted systems. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen lasers are fire hazards.

Any room where a laser is located must be adequately marked on the entering door and in the room so that everyone (students, faculty, staff, and visitors) is aware of its presence.

Security of the equipment against inadvertent intrusion must always be considered when operating a laser.

At least two people should be present at all times when lasers are in operation. Under no circumstances should a room containing an active laser be left unattended or unlocked.

Ventilation of the room must be considered to remove any accumulation of hazardous gases or fumes that are generated in the operation of the laser.

All personnel in the laser area should be informed about the potential eye hazard of accidental exposure to the beam. It is the responsibility of the project supervisor to give each person concerned a copy of these rules and ensure that all safety precautions are observed.

More detailed information is given in the American National Standard for the safe use of lasers (ANSI Z136.1-1973) and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.32 for eye protection; 21 CFR 1040 (U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s control of commercial devices); and OSHA’s 29 CFR 1926.54 construction uses. These standards cover facilities, program requirements, and safety measures. It is strongly recommended these standards be reviewed as supplementary information to be followed.

UWM’s site has the following resources:
•    Draft Laser Audit Form
•    Laser Safety Training (PPT)
•    Laser Safety Exam

Links to other resources:


Radiation Safety

Radiation Safety

In the past, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has been licensed by the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use radioactive materials (radioisotopes) for research at Halsey Science Center.  However, we terminated our license in 2010 because no faculty members were using or had a need to use such materials.

Currently, we do not have a license and no radioactive materials are present or in use on campus. We do not foresee obtaining radioactive materials licenses again in the future, but it would be possible to do so if new faculty members or new research directions required it.

The DHS and NRC both require that the use of radiation and radionuclide be strictly controlled to ensure that both the people using the materials and members of the general population receive as little radiation exposure as possible.

At UW Oshkosh, we also have a diffractometer, housed in the Department of Geology, which is used by appropriately trained geologists, physicists, and chemists for X-ray diffraction studies of naturally occurring minerals as well as synthetic materials. The Radiation Safety Program oversees the safe use of this instrument and provides personal dosimetry for authorized users.

If you would like additional information on radiation safety or other radiation-related topics, please contact the Radiation Safety Officer (Dr. Nenad Stojilovic) at 920-424-4431 or email

Vacuum Safety


Many laboratory spaces require the use of vacuum systems. Several buildings have centralized vacuum systems. Vacuum may be used for:

  • Evacuating glass vessels, Dewar flasks, desiccators, cold traps, and other chambers
  • Separation procedures involving distillation and extraction

Your building’s central vacuum system is not intended and must not be used to eliminate chemical waste. Using the system for chemical waste disposal violates good environmental stewardship and applicable regulations. Improper use of the system will result in the reduced service life of the system and increased maintenance costs for your department.

Before set-up and operation, you need to perform a risk assessment regarding potential hazards.

Vacuum work can result in an implosion, creating the hazard of flying glass and spilled chemicals. Systems at reduced pressure, which are subject to rapid pressure changes, may result in the possibility of liquids being pushed into unwanted locations.

Water-sealed or carbon rotary vane pumps can generate significant heat and friction. Therefore, when pulling a vacuum on a system that generates flammable vapors, care must be taken to ensure hazardous concentrations are not generated in the system.

Please consult with the safety committee for additional safe lab practices involving vacuum systems. Please be sure to document these procedures in your chemical hygiene plan. You need to consider:

  • How will you prevent liquids and corrosive gases from being drawn into other laboratory components or the building’s central vacuum systems? Traps (Kjeldahl) and condensers should be used to insure these chemicals do not enter the vacuum system.
  • Are relief valves necessary for your vacuum work?
  • What methods are necessary to protect vacuum pumps?
  • What maintenance schedules are necessary, including changing the vacuum pump oil? Pump oil needs to be disposed of as chemical waste.
  • How to properly vent the vacuum pump exhaust in a safe and environmentally acceptable way? In most cases, vacuum procedures shall be performed in a fume hood.

Other laboratory safety considerations involving vacuum systems may include:

  • Glassware suitable for vacuum work
  • Inspect glassware before use – no cracked, etched, or scratched glassware
  • Methods used to protect from implosion
  • Wrap vessels and other glassware to reduce fragmentation upon implosion
  • Methods and safe work practices to perform distillations that involve flammable or toxic materials
  • Instructions and monitoring of lab personnel on safe and proper procedures for work involving vacuum systems