Laboratory Safety

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Safety Data Sheets (SDS, formerly Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), are the main source of information about a chemical. The SDS contains the physical and chemical characteristics of the chemical, health effects, exposure limits, precautionary measures, and first aid information. Manufacturers are required to develop an SDS for the hazardous chemicals they produce and provide the SDS to the user. SDSs must be readily available to workers. Departments are encouraged to maintain a file of SDSs for the chemicals they use. To obtain an SDS during normal hours call EHS at 540-831-7790. The university contracts with this company to supply SDSs by fax. When requesting an SDS have the name of the chemical (check spelling very carefully), and the name and address of the manufacturer ready. It is also helpful to have the CAS number or any other number that may identify the product.

Emergency Showers

Emergency showers are required in areas where concentrated acids or alkalis are used. They must be within 10 seconds of the hazard. Water flow should be 20 gpm. Emergency showers are inspected annually by EHS. Please ensure that the shower is not obstructed and that the pull chain is easily accessible. Call EHS if you need an emergency shower installed in your area.

Eye Wash Units

Eye wash units are required in areas where irritating chemicals may be splashed into the eyes. They must be located within 10 seconds of the hazard. Eye wash units should provide a gentle flow of water for 15 minutes. Eye wash units are inspected annually by EHS. It is recommended that the eye wash unit be flushed for a minute every week to ensure that the lines remain free of microorganisms. Please ensure that access to the unit is not obstructed. Small squeeze bottles of water are not acceptable as an eyewash unit. Call EHS if you need a proper eye wash unit installed.

Fume Hoods

Operations that give off flammable gases, toxic vapors, or noxious odors should be done in a chemical fume hood. Please notify EHS before purchasing a fume hood to ensure that the proper hood has been ordered and that it will be installed correctly. Fume hoods are inspected annually by EHS. When in use, match the arrows to ensure adequate air flow into the hood. The sash should be closed when the hood is not in use to conserve energy. To reduce turbulence in the hood, storage should be kept to a minimum.

Spill Response

Consult the Emergency Response Plan for the proper procedures for handling chemical spills. Major spills must be cleaned up by EHS personnel. Major spills are typically greater than one quart of a flammable or highly toxic material or one gallon of any other chemical. Evacuate the area and call the Campus Police and EHS. Small spills can be cleaned up by properly trained individuals on the spot. Prevent the spill from spreading, entering drains or leaking onto the ground. EHS has the proper training and equipment to handle most chemical spills on campus. If EHS cannot handle the spill, they will call the proper emergency responders and contractors. Please call EHS if you need assistance in cleaning up a spill or if you need a chemical spill response kit.


Laboratories are inspected twice a year by EHS to ensure compliance with the university’s Chemical Hygiene Plan. This plan is required by OSHA and describes how the university will handle chemicals safely in laboratories. Inspections may be announced or unannounced.