Solid Science Practical Solutions


What is a Lab Safety Program?

Hazardous chemicals present potential physical and/or health threats to teachers, students and other district staff. While school laboratories typically use small quantities of hazardous chemicals, the wide range of chemicals includes acutely toxic, carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and reproductive hazards, as well as chemicals that are reactive, corrosive, flammable or have other hazardous properties.


Maintaining a robust Chemical Hygiene Program is a team effort.  It requires the cooperation of the Board of Education, administrators, facility managers, teachers and even parents.  Since many regulations are highly technical, Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Consultants often play an important role.


You may be thinking, I’m not an OSHA expert.  You’re not alone.  In recent months, GSE has been asked by an increasing number of Districts to evaluate and assist in their Laboratory Safety Programs. So what exactly is the OSHA Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.145)?


This OSHA regulation has been adopted for application to NJ public employees by the NJ Public Employees Safety and Health (NJ-PEOSH) program of the NJ Department of Health.


Overall GOALS of a Laboratory Safety Program


  • Minimize potential exposures to hazardous chemicals
  • Establish a system for handling hazardous chemicals and waste safely
  • Train all employees to recognize and control hazardous exposures
  • Provide an administrative system to ensure proper implementation and oversight
  • Provide accurate and complete recordkeeping


Key Components of a Laboratory Safety Program: 


  • Develop a comprehensive written Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) that includes: 
    • Standard operating procedures for each potentially hazardous laboratory activity
    • Criteria for determining and implementing control measures to reduce exposures
    • Programs to monitor proper functioning of fume hoods and other protective equipment
    • Training of lab personnel regarding the regulation, risks of chemical used, signs and symptoms of chemical exposures, and safety related operating procedures
    • Designation of a Chemical Hygiene Officer (CHO) and a Chemical Hygiene Committee (CHC)
    • Provision of medical evaluations as needed regarding possible chemical exposures
    • Emergency response responsibilities and procedures
    • Provision of appropriate personal protective equipment and supplies
    • The types and locations of each of the laboratories
    • Faculty and support staff for each laboratory
    • Types and quantities of hazardous substances used in the laboratories, with an emphasis on storage, use and disposal practices
    • Engineering controls (i.e. laboratory fumes hoods, fans, gas shut off valves, etc.)
    • Safety and personal protective equipment (i.e. emergency eye washes and showers, etc.)
    • Air and medical monitoring data
    • Records related to laboratory operations and handling of hazardous materials  
  • Establish an administrative system including ongoing (at least semi-annual) CHC meetings to implement, oversee and document the CHP. 
  • Annually review the CHP for updates and modifications based on changes in the regulations, program, curricula, and/or staff.


How Do We get Started in Evaluating or Updating Our Lab Safety Program?


An important first step is a comprehensive review of laboratory operations.  Many Districts hire outside EHS consultants/experts to conduct an internal compliance survey.  Such a survey would review all laboratory operations and related records.  This would involve site visits to the each laboratory and interviews with selected science teachers to fully understand how the laboratories operate.


Upon completion of the laboratory site visits, the consultant would provide a report that identifies any deficiencies and makes recommendations for corrective actions.


Examples of common recommendations include:


  • Updating the CHP
  • Training of laboratory faculty and staff
  • Establishment of a CHP and regular CHC meetings
  • Changes in how chemicals are used, stored and disposed
  • Adjustments in how experiments are done to reduce risk of exposures
  • Improved recordkeeping
  • Testing of fume hoods and other safety equipment to document effective functioning


GSE is qualified and experienced in laboratory safety and would be pleased to assist in this important process.  Please contact us for more information at 201-652-1119.


Additional Sources of Information:


Email Jane Boogaert for more information.

NJPEOSH - Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories.

CDC-NIOSH School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide.

Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Acedemic Institutions.