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Faculty Laboratory Safety Procedures

Access to Laboratories

Laboratories are considered to be high risk environments when compared to other areas in the University (e.g. offices, tutorial rooms, lecture theatres etc). As a result, entry to any laboratory is to be restricted to individuals who are authorised by the laboratory supervisor or laboratory manager, to enter. The Supervisor shall ensure that any person given authority to enter receives appropriate:

  • information regarding hazards and related risks that are present;
  • safety measures to be adopted (eg local rules, SWPs, suitable protective clothing and equipment etc), and
  • supervision.

As a condition of entry to a laboratory, all individuals must complete a laboratory safety induction and receive specific training in faculty safety rules and laboratory procedures relating to their work (including relevant SWPs). The supervisor or lab manager will approve lab access by sending the Building Access Authorisation Form to after training and induction has completed.

Children are not permitted in laboratories, workshops or associated areas (refer to Children in University Workplaces and Premises Policy).

Personal Safety Rules

1. Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn in laboratories.

  • Safety glasses or goggles must be worn in all areas where chemicals are used, handled or stored, or in any situation where there is a risk of exposure via the eye or where particular eye hazards exists e.g. UV or laser light, particulate matter or systems under pressure.
  • A safety goggle is required to be worn over the prescription glasses and contact lenses.
  • Gloves and protective clothing should be worn when handling chemicals or biological agents.

  • It should be noted, that latex gloves are permeable to organic (or organic-soluble) substances and therefore offer only limited protection; they should be used as a line of last defense only and must be replaced immediately if contamination by an organic substance occurs.

  • Gloves must be removed before touching objects such as door handles and should never be worn whilst using telephones, computers, photocopiers etc.

  • Enclosed shoes must be worn at all times. Thongs and high-heeled shoes are not acceptable footwear in any laboratory.
  • Long hair and loose clothing must be confined; shorts, cutoffs or miniskirts are not recommended.
  • Laboratory coats must be worn at all times in laboratories. Laboratory coats (and gloves) must not be worn outside laboratories except for trips between laboratories.

  • Lab coats should be laundered by contractors on weekly basis, it is researcher’s responsibility to a clean lab coat on level 4 outside N409 and set a dirty lab coat for washing as exchange.
  • If lab coats are contaminated by chemical or biological or radiation materials in the incident of spills, the lab coats are required to dispose as contaminated materials as instructed in Spill Management procedure.
  • If a supervisor feels that the wearing of lab coats should not be mandatory in certain rooms, a risk assessment must be carried out and documented in support of the decision.

2. PPE can only be worn outside the laboratory when you contact any hazardous substance transportation.

3. No mouth pipetting allowed for any substance in the laboratory

4. No eating, drinking, smoking or applying cosmetics is permitted in any laboratory or in any other lab associated area eg chemical storage area.

5. When you use hand-free hand wash, hands should not touch the handle, use elbow instead

Cleanliness and Housekeeping

Cleanliness is essential to protect you and others from exposure to hazardous substances and to ensure an optimal operation of equipment.

  • Work areas (benches, fume cupboards etc) should be cleaned as soon as work is finished; and disposal of used cleaning cloths as contaminated waste.
  • Thoroughly wash and rinse all glassware as soon as you have finished with it - do not let it accumulate on the sink.
  • Keep lab doors closed at all times, don’t keep it open for any reason even you just step out shortly.
  • Keep dangerous good cabinet doors closed at all times, even you only have samples in and out very shortly.
  • Tubes, flasks and any containers should be properly labelled according to the standards.
  • Any unattended experiments and equipment should be labelled properly with contact card in case of emergency.
  • Dirty glassware should not be kept on the benches.
  • All workers are required to know the location and proper use of emergency equipment (safety showers, eyebaths, fire blankets, extinguishers, first aid kits etc.) and be familiar with emergency procedures (spill kits, exits, alarm stations, evacuation etc.).
  • Electrical cables must not be run across the floor. The use of double adaptors is prohibited; only powerboards with overload (RCD) protection should be used to minimize electrical hazards.
Chemical registers

The chemical register is a tool for the management of the chemicals used and stored by a workgroup. It includes a list of chemicals, their classification, storage locations and typical volumes. The register also provides information about how each chemical is used with links to the SDS, risk assessments and standard operating procedures. All staff must have access to the chemical register for their workgroup.

Download the University Chemical Register template.

  • The local chemical register must be maintained with available SDS for every chemical used and stored in the laboratories in the Faculty. The chemical register needs to be renewed annually.
  • It is acceptable to keep printed SDS together with the chemical register or to store the SDS electronically, as long as they are readily accessible.
  • All workers are required to be familiar with the hazards associated with the use of common reagents and of the specific chemicals used in their work. Many of the compounds used daily in the laboratory may be hazardous or dangerous, for example corrosive, toxic, inflammable or carcinogenic.
  • All containers for hazardous substances in an appropriate manner. Access to the ChemAlert database where SDSs and the production of labels are provided.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

An SDS is a document prepared by the manufacturer and provided to you by the supplier. It will state whether the chemical is classified as hazardous and/or a dangerous good and provide details about the physical and chemical properties of the substance and precautions for safe use. Manufacturers/suppliers are required to review and update SDS every 5 years. Ensure you have the current SDS. Safety Data sheets must be readily available to all staff and students who may be exposed to that chemical.

The ChemAlert database provides access to a large range of supplier SDS, which can be viewed and printed in a standard format. ChemAlert is also a useful tool for printing labels. The WorkCover Guide to Reading Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets and the the WorkCover Code of Practice Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals provide further information on SDS.


All chemicals, chemical mixtures and hazardous substances must be labelled to identify their contents and provide basic health and safety information. All of this information can be found on the manufacturer’s original label and the MSDS. ChemAlert can be used to print labels, which meet compliance requirements.

  • The label for a decanted substance, or a mixture, or a research chemical, must have the following information at a minimum

  • name of the substance / chemical identifier (e.g. actual name, recognized abbreviation or acronym, or the chemical formula or structure)
  • name of the person who decanted the substance or prepared the solution
  • date that the substance was decanted or prepared
  • name of the supervisor, if the decanting is conducted by a student
  • the list ingredients including concentrations if it is a mixture

  • If the chemical is an unknown, for example the label has fallen off and the chemical cannot be identified or the label is unreadable then:

  • Label with “Caution – Do Not Use – Unknown Substance”,
  • Isolate the item until it is identified and then relabel OR
  • Dispose of through the University of Sydney Hazardous Waste Disposal.
  • If it is suspected that the chemical is dangerous (for example exhibits crystals around the cap), do not open or move, immediately contact the Faculty Safety Officer.

  • For nanomaterials whose hazards may not fully be characterised, the following hazards statements are recommended as an interim measure:

  • Contains engineered nanomaterials
  • Caution Hazards unknown

  • Hazardous waste labels are provided by the faculty as a part of hazardous waste disposal procedure. Contact if you require those labels.
Transportation of Hazardous Materials

Materials of all kinds, particularly hazardous materials, must be transported in the appropriate sealed containers.

  • Winchesters must not be carried by the neck of the bottle. Solvent Bottle Carriers MUST be used for the transport of winchesters between laboratories or between the solvent store and laboratories. The Solvent Bottle Carriers are stored in administration office.
  • Immediate spill management procedure will be required if any spills occur in the carriers.
  • The Faculty Building Attendant provides services to transport gas cylinders in practice. Gas cylinders must be secured at all times. Use a cylinder trolley when moving cylinders. At least 2 people should be involved in the transport of cylinders up and down stairs.
Instrument Rooms
  • Specific safety rules are in place for a number of instrument rooms. All persons must attend induction before access to those rooms, all authorised users need to be familiar with and follow these specific requirements.
  • Contact the local supervisors who are maintaining the instrument for induction and training.
  • Instruments can only be operated by authorised persons who have been trained by local supervisors who are in charge of those instruments.
  • Do not interfere with or attempt to repair the mechanism of any instrument. Report suspected faults to the appropriate member of academic staff who are in charge of those instruments.
  • The handling of solvents and especially corrosive substances such as acids, must be kept to a minimum in instrument rooms.
  • Special care is required when using hydrogenation equipment. High pressure equipment can only be assembled and dismantled by suitably trained personnel.
  • Instrument rooms should be maintained by users and no dirty lab coats, gloves and wastes should be kept in the rooms. Users need to clean up the instruments and area they used including transporting waste to their laboratories.
Working with Gases

The University of Sydney is committed to improving the safety and efficiency of its compressed gas storage, handling and use. The University aims to comply with legislative requirements and Australian Standards pertaining to compressed gases in cylinders. Ultimately, this will mean compressed gases will be stored and mainly used from outside buildings, with minimum quantities possible being kept inside laboratories. Achieving these aims requires the co-operation of staff and students. Details are published on the University WHS website and the Faculty has SWP for researchers to follow.

  • Contact the Faculty Safety Officer if you have any issues related to this procedure.
  • The numbers of gas cylinders used and stored in the laboratory need to be minimised;
  • Gas Cylinders include ‘empty’ ones must be secured and need to be restrained around the main cylinder body at a height that will prevent them from falling over. Use of racks and chains/straps, trolley stands with chains/straps or proprietary products designed for the purpose (eg "Bottlechock") are allowed to use in the Faculty.
  • Contact Building Attendant 24 hrs in advance (between 8.00 – 4pm) to arrange gas cylinder orders and deliveries.
  • Keep all cylinders away from heat sources, combustible materials or flammable liquids
  • Keep flammable (Acetylene, LPG in S226) gases away from any source of ignition (NB: any electrical switch or device is an ignition source).
  • Different types of gas must be stored separately in accordance with regulations
  • Cylinders must be stored upright on a level floor.
  • Cylinders should not be stored in heavy traffic areas.
  • Never obscure cylinder labels.
  • Check regularly for leaks and faults.
  • Cylinders must never be rolled along the ground.
  • Never open the cylinder valve unless the cylinder is connected to a regulator or to equipment.
  • In the event of a fire emergency evaluation, close the valve and leave the room.
Response to alarms
  • Alarms to detect oxygen depletion alarms, flammable and toxic gases leak are installed in S245 (Helium), S238A (Helium), S226 (Acetylene), N257A (Carbon dioxide), N423 (Carbon dioxide) and S208 (Carbon dioxide), S265 (Helium).
  • Immediately leave the room if the alarm sets off in the area or do not enter the room.
  • Notify the lab managers of the incidence and notify other members not to enter the room. Contact Security x13333 if it happens after hours.
Spill Management

SWPs for Biohazards spills clean-up and Chemical spills clean-up are published on the Faculty WHS website.

All laboratory members working with hazardous substances and or dangerous goods must:

  • be trained and competent in the clean up/decontamination of work surfaces and spills involving these hazards.
  • understand the “specific” risks associated with the organisms they work on –ask your supervisor if unsure.
  • know the location of spill kits, eyewashes, safety showers, fire extinguishers and fire blankets before starting work.
Spill Kits

Biohazard spill kit, chemical spill kit, radiation spill kit and mercury spill kit for small spills are allocated in each lab where relevant materials are being used. It is users’ responsibility to contact the Faculty Safety Officer if the contents of spill kits need to be refilled or any attention is required for the spill kits, the conducts regular inspection on the spill kits. In addition,

  • HAZCHEM is located in N207/208 (Solvent store), N214, N355, N431, S211, corridor on level 2 next to S221 and S236.
  • A P2 type respirator can be found in the main administration office on level 3.
  • Spills Response Procedures are available in all spill kits,
  • For large spills, contact your supervisor, the Faculty WHS officer and the University WHS officers if it is required.
General principle

In the event of a spill, people working in the area should be warned about the spill immediately, and all spillages must be cleaned up immediately, except some special procedures that involve potentially infectious agents (eg. human clinical specimens or risk group 2 microbes).

In general, the following principles should be applied to managing spills:

  • Contain the spill, if necessary evacuate the area and seek assistance.
  • If the spill is too large or hazardous to manage internally, contact NSW Fire Brigade for assistance (0-000). And also, contact the University Security so that they are able to assist/coordinate with Emergency Services.
If the spill can be managed internally, follow the relevant SWPs and the response procedures in the spill kits:
  • Arrange for an assistant / observer.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Treat or absorb the spill with an appropriate absorbent material.
  • Collect, package and label the absorbed material and used PPE as waste.
  • Decontaminate the area of the spill and ventilate the area.
    Dispose of waste as hazardous material.
  • Ensure to report incident on RiskWare as soon as possible.


  • Apply liberal amounts of nutralisers first for acid spills and alkali spills; do not use water as this only spreads the acid or alkali further.
  • The bleach-containing waste should be labelled as “Bleach-containing spill cleanup” and the name / type of the biohazard, then disposed of in the large yellow wheelie bin in N207 (solvent store) – do not autoclave bleach-containing materials.
  • In the event of a spillage of mercury, every effort must be made to recover every trace of the mercury since mercury is a highly toxic cumulative poison. Inform the Safety Officer Immediately and refer to the University’s Guidelines for the clean-up of spills of inorganic mercury
  • If the spill involves potentially infectious agents (eg. human clinical specimens or risk group 2 microbes), vacate the area for at least 30 minutes to allow aerosol particles to settle before commencing clean up
Planning for Emergencies

Each workgroup that uses chemicals or hazardous substances must be prepared to:

  • quickly shut-down equipment or processes so that they can be safely left unattended in the event of a building evacuation.
  • provide appropriate first aid treatment in response to chemical exposures. Refer to the SDS for guidance.
  • respond to spills and other dangerous events including fire.
  • In the event of evaluation, press ‘Emergency’ button to cut off the electricity and gas supply.

Key laboratory and workshop staff from each area are encouraged to attend first attack fire fighting training. Supervisors are responsible for logging the incident into RiskWare within 24 hours.