The Laboratory Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.1450 ), more commonly known as the Laboratory Standard, is designed to ensure that laboratory personnel are properly informed about hazardous chemicals in their workplace and are protected from chemical exposures above allowable levels.

The key elements of the Laboratory Standard are as follows:

  1. The laboratory must maintain a written Chemical Hygiene Plan that provides detailed procedures and policies to protect laboratory workers.
  2. Hazardous chemicals must be properly identified.
    • Manufacturer labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals must not be removed or defaced.
    • Containers used to store hazardous chemicals that are not labeled by the manufacturer should be labeled by the lab with: name, address, telephone number of the chemical manufacturer or responsible party; chemical identification and identity of hazardous components; and appropriate hazard warning.
    • Secondary containers for periodic use of hazardous chemicals, such as squeeze bottles and safety cans, should be labeled with chemical identification, precautions, and first aid information.
    • Containers in immediate use, such as beakers and flasks, should be labeled with the name of the chemical contents, at a minimum. Chemical abbreviations should be avoided and concentrations provided where applicable.
    • Every external entryway into a laboratory storing hazardous materials must be posted with a Hazard Identification Program (HIP) sign. These signs provide emergency responders and others with a summary of the hazards in the lab associated with hazardous materials. The lab must provide OCRS with an inventory of the hazardous chemicals in the lab and emergency contact information so that the appropriate sign can be created.
    • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) require that hazardous wastes containers be properly labeled at all times.
  3. Information that must be provided to laboratory workers by Principal Investigators/Lab Directors includes:
    • The contents of the OSHA Lab Standard (Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, 29 CFR 1910.1450).
    • The Chemical Hygiene Plan for the laboratory.
    • Permissible exposure limits and signs and symptoms associated with exposure for hazardous chemicals in the lab. This information is available on Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
    • Location and availability of known reference material on the hazards, safe handling, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals in the lab including, but not limited to, SDS.  SDS must be maintained for all hazardous chemicals in the lab and must be readily accessible to lab workers.
  4. Employee exposures to hazardous chemicals must be minimized and cannot exceed permissible limits.
    • Principal Investigators/Lab Directors must assure that laboratory workers’ exposures to hazardous chemicals do not exceed permissible exposure limits. This may include providing respiratory protection under a written Respiratory Protection Program.   NOTE: Contact OCRS before wearing any respirators.
    • Measurement of workers’ exposures is conducted by OCRS if there is reason to believe exposure levels  may be too high for hazardous chemicals requiring monitoring. Chemical exposure monitoring will be conducted in accordance with applicable standards and results reported to affected workers.
  5. Medical consultation and examinations related to employee exposure to chemicals must be provided.
    • Medical attention will be provided to lab workers whenever: 
      • the worker develops signs or symptoms of exposure possibly related to exposure to a hazardous chemical used in the lab; 
      • the worker has been exposed to hazardous chemicals above the permissible exposure limit as indicated by monitoring; 
      • and/or an exposure to a hazardous chemical has taken place due to a spill, leak, or other event in the lab.
    • All medical consultation/evaluations and follow ups will be conducted in accordance with the Lab Standard.
  6. Training must be provided to laboratory workers by the Principal Investigator/Lab Director and must include:
    • Applicable details of the laboratory’s Chemical Hygiene Plan.
    • Physical and health hazards of the chemicals used in the laboratory.
    • How to detect the release of a hazardous chemical in the lab including explanation of any monitoring devices or alarms and a description of visual appearance or odor of the chemicals when released.
    • Measures workers can take to protect themselves from exposures to hazardous chemicals in the lab including specific lab work practices, personal protective equipment, and emergency procedures.
    • NOTE: Principal Investigators/Lab Directors must ensure their lab workers are trained on hazards and procedures that are specific to their labs. OCRS provides general lab safety training that can supplement the lab-specific training.
  7. Laboratory-specific chemical inventories must be maintained.
    • Principal Investigators/Lab Directors are required to have information on the hazardous chemicals in their labs and provide that information to lab workers. An accurate inventory of hazardous chemicals in the lab is part of this information. The hazardous chemical inventory is also necessary to create the appropriate Hazard Identification Program (HIP) sign for the lab. This is one of many regulatory standards that implicitly or directly require that laboratories maintain an accurate inventory of their hazardous chemicals.  
    • OCRS provides Vanderbilt employees and students free access to the Chemical Inventory Management System to assist chemical users at Vanderbilt in meeting this requirement.
  8. Periodic inspections must be performed to evaluate compliance with the OSHA Laboratory Standard and Chemical Hygiene Plan.
    • OCRS conducts periodic inspections of labs to assist Principal Investigators/Lab Directors with ensuring that they are maintaining compliance with the OSHA Lab Standard and the lab-specific Chemical Hygiene Plan. 

      If you have any questions about the lab standard or lab safety in general, please contact your Lab Safety Coordinator.