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Chemical Safety Program Summary

The Virginia Tech Environmental Health & Safety Chemical Safety Program provides information and guidelines to manage and reduce personnel exposure to hazardous substances in chemical laboratory settings.

This program and the associated tools are provided to support departmental efforts to manage personnel exposure to hazardous substances and to meet requirements established by regulatory and industry standards, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for “Hazard Communication” (29 CFR 1910.1200), “Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories” (29 CFR 1910.1450), the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Worker Protection Standard” for pesticides, and the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) standards for hazardous waste disposal. 

Chemical Safety applies to individuals that work with hazardous chemicals/products in laboratory and non-laboratory settings. Individuals are expected to use work practices developed in accordance with this program to prevent injuries and illnesses that could result from exposure to hazardous chemicals used in the workplace and follow manufacturer's recommendations for safe use, storage, and disposal of all hazardous products.

This program applies to chemicals/products/substances which pose a physical or health hazard to individuals in the workplace, such as:

Physical Hazards
Combustible liquids
Compressed gases
Organic peroxides
Unstable (reactive) chemicals
Water-reactive chemicals
Health Hazards
Highly toxic chemicals
Target organ effects
  • Hepatotoxins (liver) 
  • Nephrotoxins (kidney) 
  • Neurotoxins (nervous system) 
  • Hemato-poietic system (blood) 
  • Pulmonary (lungs) 
  • Reproductive (chromosomal damage or fetal effects) 
  • Cutaneous (dermal layer of the skin) 
  • Optical (eye or vision)

It is the manufacturer's or importer's responsibility to evaluate the product for hazardous properties and provide information to the distributors and end-users. Employers are responsible for communicating chemical/product hazards to personnel so that appropriate precautions may be taken to reduce or eliminate potential overexposure.

Each department using hazardous chemicals/products must designate a responsible person(s) to coordinate this program, which includes chemical/product review, maintaining appropriate documentation, conducting training, and ensuring proper use, storage, and disposal.

Departments in a non-laboratory setting must implement a Hazard Communication Plan

Chemical laboratories must implement a Chemical Hygiene Plan.

Chemical Hygiene Online Program


The intent of the Chemical Safety Program is to ensure that individuals at Virginia Tech are made aware of hazardous chemicals/products with which they work, and are informed of necessary precautions that must be taken to reduce or eliminate adverse effects.


The Chemical Safety Program is an ongoing program that requires responsible oversight and maintenance. This program is to be implemented on a departmental level by designated responsible persons, such as Laboratory Chemical Hygiene Officers (LCHO), Principle Investigators (PI), Laboratory Safety Committees, Supervisors, Safety Representatives, or other designated persons.


This program establishes expectations regarding the proper storage, handling, and use of hazardous chemicals/products. Hazardous chemicals/products can be found as liquids in containers, substances in pipes, and chemicals generated in work operations (ex. welding fumes or exhaust fumes), in either solid, gaseous, or vapor form. Potential exposures from foreseeable emergencies must also be included.

Employers must inform personnel of hazardous chemicals/products used in the workplace.

Environmental Health & Safety

Environmental Health & Safety will monitor the overall effectiveness of the program, provide coordinator training, conduct departmental evaluations and/or chemical laboratory inspections, assist with personnel training, and provide technical assistance. 


Departments must designate responsible persons to coordinate the requirements of this program with employees/students and ensure that all persons working with hazardous substances are trained and knowledgeable. Coordinators include supervisors, laboratory chemical hygiene officers (LCHO), principal investigators, laboratory safety committees, or other designated person(s).

Designated coordinator(s)/laboratory chemical hygiene officer

Designated departmental coordinators or laboratory chemical hygiene officers (LCHO) are responsible for implementing the aspects of this program on a local level, which may be for an entire department (common for non-laboratory units), or for the coordinator's unit of responsibility (i.e. each chemical laboratory). Coordinators shall:

  • Review requirements of this program.
  • Review all chemicals/products being used by departmental personnel and determine if they need to be included in the plan.
  • Compile a safety data sheet for each chemical/product in use (developing a chemical list or inventory is helpful in ensuring safety data sheet inventory is complete). Note that the use of chemicals in research labs must be reported by registering your chemicals annually in the Safety Management System.
  • Ensure appropriate means of communication are established for informing the chemical/product users of the associated hazards and precautionary measures.
  • Review the plan/documentation annually and update as necessary.


Employees/students must act responsibly when using, handling, or storing hazardous substances, and shall be informed of:

  • The location and relative contents of the written program; 
  • Any labeling system being used in the area (and how to understand it);
  • The location of safety data sheets (and how to use them); and 
  • Information relative to the hazards and/or work procedures (i.e. training).


Contractors must comply with all local, state, and federal safety requirements, and assure that all of their employees performing work on Virginia Tech properties have been suitably trained. Contractors must also comply with the requirements outlined in Virginia Tech's Contractor Safety Program.

Designated departmental coordinators must provide information and training to all personnel regarding the hazards of chemicals present in the work area, including: 

  • Information regarding the program must be provided at the time of initial assignment to a work area where hazardous chemicals/substances are present, and;
  • Information regarding specific chemicals/substances and associated hazards (including required personal protective equipment and safe work practices) must be provided prior to being assigned work involving new exposure situations.

Coordinator training

Enviromental Health & Safety will provide Hazard Communication Coordinator Training to those persons who have responsibility for implementing and maintaining the program for non-chemical laboratory departments or work areas. Training will include identifying products that should be included in the inventory, labeling requirements, understanding basic information on the safety data sheet, and what information needs to be communicated to personnel using the product. View upcoming classes.

Coordinator training is not required for designated responsible persons in chemical laboratories. If assistance is needed, contact the Environmental Health & Safety Laboratory Safety team at 540-231-3600.

Personnel training

In both laboratory and non-laboratory settings, coordinators/designated personnel must provide training to employees and students who will be using the hazardous product. When personnel training is conducted by the coordinator, it must be documented. Documentation requirements and forms can be found in the non-laboratory and laboratory sections. 

The following information on the specific chemical(s) should be conveyed to personnel prior to being assigned to work tasks involving the product: 

  • What are safety data sheets? What pertinent information do they contain? Where are they located? 
  • If the department/laboratory is using a labeling system, what is it? 
  • What should personnel do in the event of an emergency (i.e. the departmental Emergency Action Plan requirements)? 
  • What hazardous chemicals/substances are in the work area? (Review the safety data sheets for hazardous products with personnel);
  • Potential injuries or illnesses that the chemical/substance/product can cause;
  • Methods of protection; and 
  • Proper use, storage, and disposal.

The procurement of chemicals or chemical products is one of the first opportunities to facilitate chemical safety in the lab. The following considerations are recommended:

  • When purchasing new chemicals for use in the lab, always order the smallest amount needed to complete a project.
  • When possible, purchase the lowest concentration of a chemical.
  • Review the safety data sheet and identify whether a less hazardous substitute could be purchased. Consider ordering less hazardous materials if the same research objectives can be achieved.
  • Contact other laboratories through the LabConnect listserv and inquire whether another department may have excess amounts of the same chemical available for use.
  • Prior to ordering, determine its hazards and assure the space is approved for the chemical hazard and anticipated quantities.
  • Review the safety data sheet to become aware of any unique waste handling or disposal needs.

University personnel using hazardous materials in their research and/or teaching laboratories, including spaces where chemicals are used/stored, must generate an inventory listing and update it annually. This policy resulted both from negotiations with the State Fire Marshal related to chemical use and storage and concerns raised by accidents at other universities, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The registration process has been vetted through the University Environmental Health and Safety Committee, the Chemical Safety and Hazardous Materials Management Committee, and the Occupational Health and Safety Committee. Registration is completed through the Safety Management System. For additional information, please contact 540-231-3600. This requirement is relevant to all departments, colleges, laboratories, centers, and institutes where work is performed using hazardous materials or where conditions exist that could result in immediate or serious harm. The registration is required to be updated annually.

You can begin the registration of your chemicals and/or the creation of your lab or workgroup in the SMS by click here.

To download instructions on using the SMS, click here.

Three types of chemical containers used in the lab or work areas are subject to container labeling requirements:

  1. Primary or original manufacturer containers have labels that are prepared by the manufacturer. 
  2. Secondary containers have labels referred to as alternative workplace labels that are prepared by the user of the chemical container. Secondary containers are defined as containers into which chemicals are transferred from the original manufacturer container for use in a lab or work area.
  3. Transfer containers are used solely to transfer chemicals from a labeled container to a secondary container or for immediate use. Such containers may not require a label when immediately emptied.

The labeling requirements for each of these container types is described below and summarized in this Table. Lab personnel or other users must understand the information conveyed by the manufacturer on the primary container labels and must understand how to prepare and understand any alternate workplace container labels.

Primary or original manufacturer's labels

Chemical manufacturers, importers, or distributors are required by OSHA to label, tag, or mark each container of hazardous chemicals with the following label elements after they classify the hazards of the chemical in accordance with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200:

  • Name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible parties.
  • Product identifier is how the hazardous chemical is identified. This can be (but is not limited to) the chemical name, code number, or batch number. The manufacturer, importer, or distributor can decide the appropriate product identifier. The same product identifier must be used both on the label and in section 1 of the safety data sheet for any given chemical.
  • Signal words on the label alert the reader to the relative severity of the hazard posed by that chemical. There are only two words used as signal words, "Danger" and "Warning." Within a specific hazard class, "Danger" indicates a more severe level of hazard, and "Warning" indicates a less severe level of hazard. There will only be one signal word on the label no matter how many hazards a chemical may have. If a chemical has more than one hazard and one of the hazards warrants a "Danger" signal word, then "Danger" should appear on the label, even if its other hazards warrant the "Warning" signal word.
  • Pictograms are graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. OSHA requires chemical hazards to be conveyed via pictograms on primary labels. Each pictogram is determined by the specific OSHA hazard classification(s). See OSHA's nine pictograms and corresponding hazards below. 
  • Hazard statements describe the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard. For example: "Causes damage to kidneys through prolonged or repeated exposure when absorbed through the skin." The hazard statements are specific to the hazard classification categories, and chemical users should always see the same statement for the same hazards no matter what the chemical is or who produces it.
  • Precautionary statements describe recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to the hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling. There are four types of precautionary statements:
    • Prevention (to minimize exposure);
    • Response (in case of accidental spillage or exposure, emergency response, and first aid);
    • Storage; and
    • Disposal.

The following general label requirements apply to all primary containers:

  • Original manufacturer chemical containers must always be labeled.
  • Original containers without adequate identifying labels shall not be accepted by the supplier.
  • Labels must be legible and in English.
  • Chemical container labels cannot be defaced or in any way be made illegible (until the container is empty and ready for disposal or reuse). 
  • Labs should routinely inspect chemical inventories for fading, cracking, or loose labels on containers. 
  • Immediately replace primary labels that have (1) faded, (2) become damaged to the point of being illegible, (3) become brittle or (4) fallen off.
  • Primary labels of existing chemical inventory that are intact and legible do not need to be replaced with labels containing the new five element format of labeling. However, in the event a primary label has been removed, damaged, or defaced, lab personnel must re-label existing primary containers as follows:

When primary containers require relabeling, lab personnel may:

  1. Label the container in accordance with the alternate workplace labeling described in the section below (most simple method) or
  2. Obtain a new label containing the five label elements:
    • create one using information from the safety data sheet;
    • use a purchased labeling software; or 
    • photocopy an existing five element label. 

See also OSHA Brief on Labels and Pictograms

Secondary or alternate workplace labels

When a chemical is transferred from the primary (or original manufacturer's) container to a different container for use, lab personnel must label, tag, or mark such secondary workplace containers.

OSHA has not changed the general requirements for workplace labeling. Chemical labels must include both (1) product identifier and (2) hazard identification using words, pictures, symbols, or a combination of these. The goal is to provide at least general information on secondary containers about the identity and hazards of the chemicals which, in conjunction with other information immediately available, can inform users with specific information about physical and health hazards associated with the hazardous chemical. 

In order to be acceptable, a label must convey the required information clearly, legibly, and in English. Where other languages are spoken in the work area, information may be presented on labels in other languages in addition to the required English words. Virginia Tech does not mandate any single labeling system. Labs can continue to use their current labeling system (NPFA, HMIS, etc.) as long as all of the required information is immediately available to employees when they are in their work areas, and the information is consistent with the hazards conveyed on the new safety data sheets. 

Regardless of the system selected, lab or workplace management must train all lab personnel on the workplace labeling system the lab plans to use. Training content must include understanding the labeling system and accessing other information available in the workplace. Together this provides workers with all of the relevant hazard information needed to use a chemical safely.

There are currently many labeling systems in use. The best programs use a simple labeling system that is readily recognizable and easily understood. Any worker should be able to quickly identify the general hazard of the material and the severity of the hazard by glancing at the label. 

The following summarizes the secondary or alternate labeling options available:

  1. Create your own container labels. Labs may create their own labeling system using the following guidelines:
    • The full chemical name(s) (as it appears on the safety data sheet) and the primary or general hazard can be written directly on the container, or written/printed on a label to be affixed to the container.
    • For commonly recognized chemicals, the standard chemical formula (not structural formula) or an abbreviation or trade name for the chemical(s)/reagent and the primary or general hazard can be written directly on the container, or written/printed on a label to be affixed to the container. 
      • Examples: NaOH, EDTA, IPA, HCl, EtBr, PBS (and % or concentration). If workspaces are shared by individuals with different levels of knowledge of such, this is not recommended.
    • An identifying code from a lab notebook or reference sheet can be used to identify the chemical. This also must be used in conjunction with the primary or general hazard which can be written directly on the container, or written/printed on a label to be affixed to the container.
    • If a container is too small or the identity name is too large, a codified name may be used on the container when defined in a lab notebook or reference sheet that is accessible to all. When many chemical names are needed, readily accessible lab notebook references may be used and primary hazards must also be communicated in the notebook or in the general workspace using words, symbols, or pictograms.
    • The primary or general hazards can be conveyed on container labels using words, pictures, symbols, or a combination of these that provide at least general information about the hazards of the chemical.
  2. Use established workplace container labeling systems. Labs may use established secondary workplace container labeling systems that display ratings of several hazards and the name of the chemical. Commonly used systems include National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS). A new GHS HMIS system is also available.

    Labs may continue to use systems such as (NFPA) diamonds or HMIS requirements for workplace labels as long as the lab workers have immediate access to the specific hazard information (typically via safety data sheets or container labels). A lab using NFPA or HMIS labeling must, through lab-specific training, ensure that lab personnel are fully aware of:
    • The hazards of the chemicals used and
    • How to correctly interpret the hazard rating scheme used; i.e., some systems use numbering schemes in which hazard levels increase with increasing numerical order, whereas others use a decreasing number scheme to indicate increasing hazard levels.
  3. Use of the five element labels is not required for secondary labels but labs may choose to use them.

Transfer container labels

If a lab transfers hazardous chemicals from a labeled container to a portable container that is only intended for immediate use by the employee who performs the transfer, no labels are required for the portable container. However, it is best practice to always label secondary containers in the event the user is distracted or a spill occurs. Labeling will eliminate confusion where there are more than one (unlabeled) containers in use, and ensure that container content is known in the event of an emergency where outside personnel may be involved. Transfer container labeling must include the name of the substance and hazard warnings consistent with alternative workplace labeling described above.

See also: OSHA Brief - Hazard Communication: Standard Labels and Pictograms.

Work activities are often performed in areas where chemicals are transferred through pipes. These pipes are not required to be labeled; however, the employee needs to be aware of potential hazards. Prior to starting work in areas having unlabeled pipes, the employee should contact their supervisor to determine:

  • The identity of the chemical in the pipes;
  • The potential hazards of the chemical; and 
  • Necessary safety precautions to be taken to protect the employee.

Chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate their products to determine if they are hazardous. If they are considered to be hazardous, a safety data sheet (SDS) must be prepared and sent to end-users.

It is essential that the end-user has access to the information and become familiar with the hazards prior to working with the substance. Each department or work area must maintain a safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical (or product) they use.

  • Information must be stored in an area that is accessible to all personnel who will be working with the hazardous chemical/product.
  • The safety data sheets may be maintained in paper or electronic form, so long as they are readily available to all personnel during the work shift. If safety data sheets will be stored electronically or on the internet, personnel must have access to a computer with file or internet access. Even if safety data sheets are stored electronically, hard copies of safety data sheets must be filed if there is not an emergency backup system for power/equipment failures. 
  • Safety data sheets must be available upon request in a reasonable time period, generally within 1-2 hours.

Safety data sheets must contain the following sections:

  • Identification (includes product name, manufacturer or distributor and contact information, recommended use, and restrictions on use);
  • Hazard identification; 
  • Composition/information on ingredients;
  • First aid measures; 
  • Fire fighting measures;
  • Accidental release measures; 
  • Handling and storage; 
  • Exposure controls/personal protection; 
  • Physical and chemical properties; 
  • Stability and reactivity; and 
  • Toxicological information. 

Information is available on reading a safety data sheet.

If engineering controls are being used, such as working within a properly functioning fume hood or glove box, exposure is not expected. However, if engineering controls are not functioning properly or have not been employed, air monitoring may be warranted. Examples include fume hood failure, glove box failure, chemical spill, gas leak, explosion, or fire. Contact 540-231-3600 to arrange employee exposure monitoring.

For more information regarding Environmental Health & Safety services and requirements for substances with a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), click here.

Employers must review safety data sheets for chemicals/products used in the workplace to determine if they may be hazardous to personnel during work applications. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for assistance if the information provided is confusing or unclear. 

If a chemical/product presents either a physical or a health hazard, it is considered a hazardous product, and should therefore be included in the plan. 

Physical Hazards

Combustible liquids
Compressed gases
Organic peroxides
Unstable (reactive) chemicals
Water-reactive chemicals

Health Hazards

Highly toxic chemicals
Target organ effects
  • Hepatotoxins (liver)
  • Nephrotoxins (kidney)
  • Neurotoxins (nervous system)
  • Hemato-poietic system (blood)
  • Pulmonary (lungs)
  • Reproductive (chromosomal damage or fetal effects)
  • Cutaneous (dermal layer of the skin)
  • Optical (eye or vision)

In addition to hazardous products, the following are examples of items that should be evaluated by the designated responsible person to determine whether they should be included in the department's Hazard Communication Plan. 

  • Wood or wood products that have been treated with a hazardous chemical and wood that may be subsequently sawed or cut generating dust must be included. (Wood products not treated and not sawed/cut are exempt and do not need to be included.) For example, carpenters who cut/saw/sand wood should include wood in the plan because exposure to some wood dust may result in potentially adverse health effects. 
  • Articles, that under normal use conditions, have a potential for chemical release must be included (drill bits, for example). Articles that have no potential for chemical release are exempt and do not need to be included.
  • Consumer products (that pose a physical or health hazard) used for a duration and frequency greater than what regular consumers would experience must be included. Consumer "over-the-counter" products used for the same/less duration and frequency than a normal consumer would use are exempt and do not need to be included. For example, cleaning products used by a custodian or housekeeper should be included in the plan because exposure will be greater than what a regular consumer would experience. 
  • Nuisance particles that pose a physical or health hazard must be included. Nuisance dust and particles that do not pose a physical or health hazard do not need to be included. For example, grain dust. 

Because all substances are potentially hazardous - given the right dose and exposure - general precautions for handling chemicals should be adopted. Even for substances with no known significant hazard, exposure should be minimized. In general:

  • Avoid skin contact (absorption hazard). 
    • Use appropriate personal protective equipment and apparel. Refer to the Personal Protective Equipment Program for more information.
    • Inspect gloves, confinement boxes, hoods, aprons, etc. for contamination or holes which might compromise their protective qualities.
  • Avoid inhalation.
    • Do not purposely sniff chemicals.
    • When possible, work with hazardous chemicals/products inside a properly functioning fume hood (for laboratory applications) or in a well-ventilated area. 
    • Where engineering controls, such as the use of fume hoods, glove boxes, non-hazardous chemical substitution, or local exhaust ventilation systems are not possible, appropriate respiratory protection should be used. Refer to the Respiratory Protection Program for more information.
  • Avoid ingestion.
    • Never taste chemicals.
    • Never pipette laboratory chemicals by mouth suction.
    • Do not eat/drink in areas where chemicals are in use. Contamination of food/drink is possible.
    • Do not store food/drink near chemicals. Chemical vapors may be absorbed by food.
    • Chemicals and chemical equipment must not be allowed in areas designated for the consumption, storage, and handling of foodstuffs.
    • Never use laboratory glassware or other containers to store or serve food/beverages.
    • Food must never be stored in the same refrigerator or freezer as chemicals or biological samples. Refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, ovens, etc. designated for food storage and use must be labeled "FOOD ONLY." Refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, ovens, etc. designated for laboratory use must be labeled "FOOD OR BEVERAGE MUST NOT BE STORED IN THIS UNIT."
    • Thoroughly wash hands after handling or using chemicals.
    • Do not smoke in areas where chemicals are in use. Per university policy No. 1010, smoking is not permitted inside any Virginia Tech building.

In order to avoid accidental spills and/or contamination, proper storage, use, and handling procedures must be established and followed.

  • Only a quantity of hazardous chemicals that will be used during that shift are permitted out of approved storage locations.
  • Work areas must be kept clean and orderly.
  • Containers should be kept tightly sealed. Stoppers and other loosely fitting lids are not acceptable for permanent chemical storage.
  • Chemicals or products that are no longer needed should be disposed of properly. Do not simply pour liquids down the drain. If the container label does not specify the proper disposal method, contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2982 for guidance. Chemicals no longer needed or used are considered waste and should be disposed of through Environmental Health & Safety. Refer to the online program on waste removal
  • Chemical containers should be inspected regularly for signs of leaking, rust, or deterioration which may make them inherently dangerous (example: crystal formations).
  • When it is necessary to move chemical containers "in-house", additional precautions may be necessary. Flammable liquids or corrosives should be transported in an appropriate safety-carrying container. Compressed gas cylinders must be in an upright position, regulators removed, cylinder caps in place, and secured in a cart manufactured for such purposes.

Proper storage of hazardous products is an important part of a department's program. It minimizes the risk of fires, explosions, accidental spills or releases, and helps to maintain a safe path of egress for building occupants in the event of an emergency. 

Specific information regarding storage may be found on the product container label or the safety data sheet. Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, store chemicals in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location that is out of direct sunlight. General guidelines for each type of hazardous chemical are provided below.

Quantities permitted to be stored in one location are limited and must be confined to an approved storage cabinet/room. Flammable liquids stored outside of an approved cabinet in an emergency exit path are strictly prohibited. When selecting a flammable liquid storage cabinet, make sure it is both OSHA and NFPA compliant. All chemical storage rooms must be reviewed and approved by Environmental Health & Safety. 

Quantities of flammable and combustible chemicals located outside of storage cabinets/areas should be restricted to one day's supply or to what can be used during a single shift.

Flammable-storage-rated-refrigerators must be used when flammable liquids must be refrigerated. This rating will be shown plainly on the front of the refrigerator. Refrigerator temperatures are typically higher than the flashpoints of most flammable liquids. Powerful explosions can occur when an inappropriately rated refrigerator's open circuitry, typically located at the bottom of the unit, comes into contact with heavier-than-air fumes of flammable liquids. If there are non-flammable-rated refrigerators located in the laboratory, a highly visible, permanent label must be affixed that states: "Caution: Do Not Store Flammable Materials in this Refrigerator."

Safety cans are approved containers for secondary containment of flammable liquids. They prevent spillage and have spring-loaded safety caps that prevent vapors from escaping and act as a pressure vent if the can is engulfed in fire. They must be stored in approved flammable storage cabinets/rooms.

Compressed gas cylinders, if handled or stored improperly, can be dangerous. Learn more about the safe handling, use, storage, and transportation of compressed gas cylinders. 

Corrosive chemicals should be stored in safety-coated containers on shelves below eye level. This storage strategy helps prevent splashes of chemicals to the face and eyes in case a container is dropped and broken. Acids and bases must be stored in their proper chemical classes and segregated from other incompatible chemicals.

Separate storage areas must be provided for chemicals that may react with each other and create a hazardous condition. Detailed information is available in Appendix B for laboratory applications. Chemicals commonly used in housekeeping should be reviewed for product incompatibilities and storage recommendations. To help determine which chemical groups are incompatible with other chemical groups, review information in the Matrix.

Secondary containment and physical segregation of chemicals may be necessary. Rubber tubes are a convenient and economical solution for separating chemicals into compatible chemical groups. They should be clearly labeled for the chemical group. However, in the case of volatile, incompatible chemicals, there is no substitute for segregation in separate spaces. Chemicals, such as ether and glacial acetic acid, can react violently in the presence of nitric acid in an enclosed cabinet. Know your chemical inventory and store your chemicals properly and safely.

Stock quantities of carcinogens must be stored in a designated area that is posted with the appropriate warning sign - "DANGER - CANCER HAZARD - AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL USE ONLY."

Highly toxic chemicals (rating of 3 or 4 on the NFPA Health Scale - see below) must be stored away from fire hazards, heat, and moisture, and be isolated from corrosive and reactive chemicals. Special care should be taken to ensure that toxic chemicals are not released into the environment.

  • Access to the storage areas for highly toxic substances must be restricted.
  • Highly toxic chemicals should be stored in unbreakable containers, or in unbreakable secondary containers.
  • Cylinders of highly toxic gases should be stored in gas cabinets designed for that purpose, or in a functioning laboratory fume hood designed to contain the accidental release of the cylinder contents.

Highly toxic chemicals labeling

NFPA Labeling Diagram

The labeling system was developed by NFPA in the 1950s and the label is divided into sections (diamond or rectangle with bars), each color-coded and numbered 0-through-4 to have specific meanings.

  • Health (blue)
    • 0 - Non-toxic (although no chemical is without some toxicity)
    • 1 - Slightly toxic: may cause irritation, but only minor residual injury even without treatment. Recognized innocuous materials when used with responsible care.
    • 2 - Moderately toxic: intense or continued exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury unless prompt medical treatment is given.
    • 3 - Serious toxic: short-term exposure could cause serious temporary or residual injury even though prompt medical treatment is given. Includes known or suspect small animal carcinogens, mutagens, or teratogens.
    • 4 - Highly toxic: very limited exposure could cause death or major injury even though prompt medical treatment is given. Includes known or suspected human carcinogens, mutagens, or teratogens.
  • Fire (red)
    • 0 - Non-combustible: materials that will not burn.
    • 1 - Slightly combustible: materials that require considerable preheating before ignition can occur. This rating includes most ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, paper, plastic.
    • 2 - Combustible: materials that must be moderately heated before ignition can occur. Including liquids having a flashpoint above 100° F, and solids that readily give off flammable vapors.
    • 3 - Flammable: liquids and solids that can be ignited under almost all ambient temperature conditions. Including liquids with a flashpoint below 73° F and a boiling point above 100° F, solid materials which form coarse dust that burn rapidly without becoming explosive, materials that burn rapidly by reason of self-contained oxygen (i.e. organic peroxides), and materials that ignite spontaneously when exposed to air (pyrophorics).
    • 4 - Extremely flammable: materials that will rapidly vaporize at normal pressure and temperature, and will burn readily. Including gases, cryogenic materials, any liquid or gaseous material having a flashpoint below 73° F and a boiling point below 100° F, and materials that can form explosive mixtures with air.
  • Reactivity (yellow)
    • 0 - Stable: (even under fire conditions) and not reactive with water.
    • 1 - Normally stable: but which can become unstable at elevated temperature and pressures, or which may react with water with some release of energy, but not violently.
    • 2 - Normally unstable: readily undergo a violent chemical change but do not detonate. Including materials that may react violently with water or which may form potentially explosive mixtures with water.
    • 3 - Capable of detonation: but which require a strong initiating source, or which must be heated first. This rating includes materials which are shock-sensitive at elevated temperatures, and which react explosively with water without requiring heat.
    • 4 - Readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition at normal temperatures and pressures: Includes materials that are shock-sensitive at normal temperatures and pressures.
  • Special notice or protective equipment (white)
    • "OX" - Denotes material is considered an oxidizing agent. These compounds give up oxygen easily, remove hydrogen from other compounds, or attract negative electrons.
    • "W" - Denotes material is considered water-reactive. These compounds undergo rapid energy releases in contact with water. Use no water.
    • "ACID" - Denotes material is considered an acid.
    • "ALK" - Denotes material is considered an alkali
    • "COR" - Denotes material that is considered corrosive.
    • Radioactive symbols may also be found here. Denotes material is considered to be radioactive.
    • Protective equipment, such as safety glasses, goggles, gloves, etc. would be specified here.

While all chemicals are reactive to some degree, special attention must be given to some inherently unstable and potentially reactive/explosive chemicals which are susceptible to rapid decomposition or reaction. These chemicals can react alone, or with other substances in a violent manner, giving off heat and toxic gases or leading to an explosion. Reactions of these chemicals often accelerate out of control and may result in injuries or costly accidents. 

Air, light, heat, mechanical shock, even water can cause decomposition of some highly reactive chemicals and initiate an explosive reaction. Specialized procedures and control equipment are needed to work safely with most reactive chemicals. 

Two common types of reactive chemicals are water-reactive and pyrophoric chemicals. 

  • Water-reactive chemicals react violently with water. They may produce flammable hydrogen gas or give off large amounts of heat. 
  • Pyrophoric chemicals ignite spontaneously when exposed to the oxygen and or moisture in the air at or below 130 degrees Fahrenheit. They must be stored under water, mineral oil, or an inert dry atmosphere depending on the substance. 

In cases where you must work with reactive chemicals, always read and understand the protocols for manipulating the chemicals and managing any chemical wastes appropriately.

Explosive and shock-sensitive materials

  • Acetylides of heavy metals
  • Aluminum ophorite explosive
  • Amatol
  • Ammonal
  • Ammonium picrate
  • Ammonium salt lattice
  • Butyl tetryl
  • Calcium nitrate
  • Copper acetylide
  • Cyanuric triazide
  • Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine
  • Cyclotetramethylenetetranitramine
  • Dinitroethyleneurea
  • Dinitroglycerine
  • Dinitrophenol
  • Dinitrophenolates
  • Dinitrophenylhydrazine
  • Dinitoresorcinol
  • Dinitrotoluene
  • Dipicrylamine
  • Erythritol tetranitrate
  • Erythritol tetranitrate
  • Fulminate of mercury
  • Fulminate of silver
  • Fulminating gold
  • Fulminating mercury
  • Fulminating platinum
  • Fulminating silver
  • Gelatinized nitrocellulose
  • Guanyl nitrosamino guanyl tetrazene
  • Guanysnitrosaminic guanylidene hydrazine
  • Heavy metal azides
  • Hexanite
  • Hexanitrodiphenylamine
  • Hexanitrostilbene
  • Hexogen
  • Hydrazinium nitrate
  • Hydrazoic acid
  • Lead azide
  • Lead mannite
  • Lead mononitroresorcinate
  • Lead picrate
  • Lead salts
  • Lead styphnate
  • Magnesium ophorite
  • Mannitol hexanitrate
  • Mercury oxalate
  • Mercury tartrate
  • Mononitrotoluene
  • Nitrated carbohydrate
  • Nitrated glucoside
  • Nitrated polyhydric alcohol
  • Nitroglycerine
  • Nitroglycide
  • Nitroglycol
  • Nitroguanidine
  • Nitroparraffins
  • Nitronium perchlorate
  • Nitrourea
  • Organic amine nitrates
  • Organic nitramines
  • Organic peroxides
  • Pircramic acid
  • Picramide
  • Picratol
  • Picric acid
  • Picryl fluoride/chloride
  • Perchloric acid
  • Polynitro aliphatic
  • Potassium nitroaminotetrazole
  • Silver acetylide
  • Silver azide
  • Silver styphnate
  • Silver tetrazene
  • Sodatol
  • Sodium amatol
  • Sodium Dinitro-ortho-cresolate
  • Sodium nitrate-potassium nitrate explosive mixture
  • Sodium picramate
  • Syphnic acid
  • Tetrazene
  • Tetranitrocarbazole
  • Tetrytol
  • Trimethylolethane
  • Trimonite
  • Trinitroznisole
  • Trinitrobenzene
  • Trinitrobenzoic acid
  • Trinitrocresol
  • Trinitro-metal-cresol
  • Trinitronaphthalene
  • Trinitrohpenetol
  • Trinitrophloroglucinal
  • Trinitroresorcinol
  • Trinotrotoluene
  • Tritonal
  • Urea nitrate

All hazardous waste must be properly disposed of through Environmental Health & Safety. Waste that requires handling and disposal includes chemicals, radioactive materials, infectious materials, lead dust, and asbestos waste. For more information, refer to waste disposal.

The Virginia Tech chemical hygiene plan (CHP) is included as part of Environmental Health & Safety's Chemical Safety Program. The chemical hygiene plan is designed to be reviewed online, but a paper copy can be obtained using the printer-friendly link provided.

All faculty, staff, and students (both paid and work-study) who work in a lab are required to have access to a chemical hygiene plan. A laboratory is defined (by OSHA) as a facility where:

  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a "laboratory scale;"
  • Multiple chemical procedures are used;
  • Procedures are not part of a production process; and
  • Practices and equipment exist to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Laboratory scale means that work is conducted in containers that are designed to be manipulated by a single person. The majority of Virginia Tech's laboratories fit this OSHA definition, and must therefore maintain a chemical hygiene plan.

If you are unsure whether or not your facility meets this definition, please contact the University Chemical Hygiene Officer Autumn Timpano at or 540-231-3427.

The Laboratory Requirements section includes reference information and a link to the Laboratory-Specific document. Formerly known as Part B of the chemical hygiene plan this laboratory-specific documentation must be completed and maintained on file for all chemical/biological laboratories.

Storage of chemical hygiene plan

The chemical hygiene plan must be stored in a central location so all laboratory workers will have easy access to the information. Designating a shelf or filing cabinet drawer for safety manuals and training documentation is one way to accomplish this. During lab evaluations, Environmental Health & Safety personnel will often ask a lab worker where the chemical hygiene plan is located. If the employee doesn't know, this is noted and feedback is provided to the principal investigator.

The chemical hygiene plan summarizes policies and procedures to protect laboratory workers from, and inform them of, hazards inherent to their work with chemicals. 

The chemical hygiene plan applies to faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, work-study students, and volunteers who work in university chemical laboratories. There are two basic components of the chemical hygiene plan: 

  • General laboratory procedures are provided below, and 
  • Laboratory-specific documentation (docthat must be completed by the Principal Investigator and maintained onsite.

Personnel who work with chemicals in a non-laboratory setting are covered by a hazard communication plan.

Responsibility for laboratory safety is assigned to several parties at Virginia Tech. 

  • Chief executive officer (CEO) (i.e. the university president): This individual has ultimate legal responsibility for the university's compliance with this program.
  • Chemical hygiene officers (CHO): These individuals are designated by the department and are responsible for completing the Laboratory-Specific Documentation, overseeing the implementation of the plan, and reviewing/revising the plan at least annually
  • University chemical hygiene officer (UCHO): This individual works for Environmental Health & Safety. 
  • Laboratory chemical hygiene officers (LCHO): Each "laboratory unit" shall designate an individual to serve in this capacity. These individuals are responsible for developing and documenting the Laboratory-Specific Documentation for the unit and will ensure implementation, such as training and inspection coordination. A "summary of duties" for these individuals can be found in Laboratory-Specific Documentation. 
  • University Chemical Safety and Hazardous Materials Management Committee: This committee oversees compliance with the chemical hygiene plan and any additional relative information contained within this program. Responsibilities include an annual review of the plan and assignment of disciplinary actions necessary to deal with non-compliance. Membership will consist of research faculty and safety professionals. Appointments will be made by the Office of the Provost.
  • Department heads have the responsibility for safety compliance within the department, including but not limited to: ensuring that principal investigators are aware of the chemical hygiene plan requirements and mandating laboratory unit participation in the program. Departmental safety officers or committees may serve in the delegation of this responsibility.
  • Principal investigators: Research group leaders and instructional laboratory supervisors have the responsibility for appointing a laboratory chemical hygiene officers.
  • Laboratory workers: Responsible for planning and conducting each laboratory operation in accordance with the chemical hygiene plan's Laboratory-Specific Documentation, and for developing good personal chemical hygiene habits. Additional information is provided in the Summary of Duties.

The university chemical hygiene officer conducts or facilitates safety training seminars on a regular basis, and acts as a consultant to laboratory personnel for related issues.

The laboratory chemical hygiene officer is responsible for informing employees of the following:

  • The chemical hygiene plan location within the unit and general contents; 
  • The laboratory-specific documentation location within the unit and general contents;
  • The OSHA Lab Standard, available from;
  • The required reading list for the specific laboratory, including standard operating procedures (SOPs), and the Training Documentation Form, which must be signed and filed with the plan; and
  • The location of safety data sheets and how to obtain them.

Responsible persons for establishing new research protocols in a lab should carefully review all operations for potential risks or hazards. The materials and chemical by-products should be understood before starting the experimental process. Once information and advice about the hazards have been obtained, appropriate protective procedures should be developed and the positioning of equipment should be planned.

The storage, handling, and consumption of food and drink are prohibited in certain high-risk laboratories, such as carcinogenic research labs, biological labs, pesticide labs, and labs containing highly toxic compounds. Additionally, some departments have rules prohibiting food in any laboratory.

Work with chemical or physical hazards (e.g. high voltage, mechanical hazards not known to be intrinsically safe) or any other work that might prove immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) shall not be conducted alone in any Virginia Tech laboratory. It is recommended that all laboratory work be conducted with a partner or co-worker, or in proximity to others, in case of emergency.

Work with chemical or physical hazards (e.g. high voltage, mechanical hazards not known to be intrinsically safe) or any other work that might prove immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) shall not be conducted alone in any Virginia Tech laboratory. It is recommended that all laboratory work be conducted with a partner or co-worker, or in proximity to others, in case of emergency.

These materials are covered by Federal and State policies set forth by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Virginia Board of Pharmacy (VBP).

  • Controlled substances: Anyone who engages in activities with controlled substances (e.g drugs) included on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Schedules I - V must obtain DEA registration. Refer to the DEA website for a listing of substances in Schedules I-V. Use of these materials also requires registration with the State of Virginia. Virginia Tech also provides guidance on the use of controlled substances.
    • Schedule VI substances are regulated by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy (VBP) and may include prescription medications used in research, inhalation anesthetics (i.e. isoflurane), some analgesics, and other substances.
  • Listed chemicals: DEA requires vendors to identify each purchasing agent according to CFR 21, Part 1310.07, "Proof of Identity" before selling any of their designated Listed Chemicals. The actual procedure and required paperwork may vary between vendors. Please contact your department head or director for assistance in completing the proof of identity paperwork.
  • Ethanol: Purchase and shipment are also regulated by Federal and State agencies. In order to simplify this process, Virginia Tech's Chemistry Department is currently the authorized point of contact for the University (College of Veterinary Medicine excluded). If you wish to order ethanol, please contact the chemistry stockroom manager
  • Please refer to the guidelines on Controlled Substances in Research for more information.

Any material not used or no longer needed must be handled according to regulatory requirements. Individuals holding licenses to use Controlled Substances and/or Listed Chemicals in their research must meet the requirements set forth by DEA, VBP, and Virginia. To dispose of Controlled Substances/Listed Chemicals, please contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3427 in order to arrange a schedule. If you have any questions, contact your department head, director, or the university chemical hygiene officer.

Failure to follow proper waste storage requirements listed below may result in citations and/or fines by the EPA.

  • A laboratory may accumulate up to 55 gallons of hazardous waste or one quart of "P-listed waste". If a lab accumulates more than these limits, it has three days to have the excess removed from the lab to the Environmental Health & Safety Hazardous Waste Accumulation Area. Refer to the EPA P-list, to identify which materials are included. 
  • Hazardous waste may be accumulated in labs as long as they are collected in containers near the point of generation. This area must be under the control of the lab workers and laboratory chemical hygiene officer. Waste containers must then remain in the lab where they were filled until collected by Environmental Health & Safety authorized personnel.
  • Hazardous waste containers must be in good condition and must be made of a material that is compatible with the waste it contains. 
  • Containers must be closed except when adding waste. Failure to close the waste containers may constitute an effort to treat waste on-site - illegally
  • The list of contents on the label must be updated whenever waste is added.

Certain chemicals require special handling and disposal. The following are some examples of these chemicals, and special handling instructions for them.

  • Reactives: While all chemicals are reactive to some degree, special attention must be given to some inherently unstable and potentially reactive/explosive chemicals which are susceptible to rapid decomposition or reaction. These chemicals can react alone, or with other substances in a violent manner, giving off heat and toxic gases or leading to an explosion. Reactions of these chemicals often accelerate out of control and may result in injuries or costly accidents. 
  • Mercury: Elemental mercury should never be added to another chemical for disposal. Many of our waste disposal firms will not accept waste contaminated with mercury. Place mercury waste and debris (ex. broken thermometers or manometers) separately in a sealed container for collection by Environmental Health & Safety authorized personnel. Mercury spill clean-up may require special assistance. Contact Environmental Health & Safety.
  • Peroxide-formers: Some chemicals form explosive concentrations of peroxides with age (see list). When peroxides become concentrated by evaporation or distillation and are disturbed by heat, shock, or friction, they may explode with extreme violence. These substances must not be housed in labs for long periods of time. To minimize the hazard of peroxide formation, strictly observe the following safety guidelines.
  • Picric acid: When picric acid becomes desiccated (color changes, visible crystals, or crystalline matrix formation in the cap), it forms picrate salts, which are an explosion hazard. Dry picric acid is classified as a class "A" explosive! It is shock-sensitive and can explode when disturbed. If you suspect that you have desiccated picric acid:
    • Do not touch the container! The act of moving the container may be enough to detonate the material.
    • Prevent all personnel from entering the area, or disturbing the container.
    • Contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2509 or call 540-231-6411 and ask dispatch to notify Environmental Health & Safety immediately. 
  • Perchloric acid: To minimize hazards related to perchloric acid, follow these recommendations:
    • The building should be of masonry construction.
    • Floors should be concrete or tile. Handling acid on wooden floors is dangerous, especially after the acid has dried. The wooden floor will then become sensitive to ignition by friction.
    • Benches should be constructed or resistant materials (not wood) to prevent acid absorption, especially at the bottom surface, which rests on the floor and would be subject to the greatest exposure from acid spills. Benchtops of resistant and nonabsorbent materials, such as chemical stoneware, tile, epoxy composites, and polyethylene are recommended.
    • Shelves and cabinets made of epoxy-painted steel are highly recommended over wood.
    • Heating sources, such as electric hot plates, electrical or steam-heated sand baths, or a steam bath are recommended for heating perchloric acid. Direct flame heating or oil baths should not be used.
    • Glassware can crack or break due to thermal or mechanical shock. Quartz apparatus should be considered, especially since it is necessary for many experiments to chill rapidly from the boiling point. Rubber stoppers, tubes, or stopcocks should not be used with perchloric acid due to incompatibility.
  • Piranha solution: This solution is commonly used to remove organic residues from substrates; however, it can be dangerous.  
    • Typically, there are two different piranha solutions used in the laboratory.
    • Acid piranha is a 3:1 mixture of concentrated sulfuric acid (H2SO4) with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). It produces heat upon mixing and is self-starting, meaning it will react with organics without being heated.
    • Base piranha is a 3:1 mixture of ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH) with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). It is equally dangerous as acid piranha when hot, although the base piranha must be heated to 60°C before the reaction takes off.
    • It is possible for the piranha reaction to accelerate out of control. The results could be as small as an overflowing container and a benchtop to clean up, or as large as a major laboratory explosion. Most often, these out-of-control reactions are caused by the addition of organic compounds to piranha solutions. The rapid oxidation of these organic materials produces enormous quantities of heat and gas. In a closed container, this will lead to an explosion.
    • The handling of piranha solutions requires the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles AND a full face shield, heavy-duty rubber gloves (or equivalent), and a protective apron over a lab coat.
    • It is imperative that safety equipment contaminated with organic material not come into contact with piranha solution. Remember, the addition of organics to a fresh hot piranha solution produces an immediate and violent reaction.
    • It is imperative that the worker remembers that he or she IS organic. Piranha solution on a person will produce an immediate and violent reaction. Avoid all skin exposures in the presence of piranha solutions.
    • Piranha can melt or otherwise attack plastic containers. Use only glass containers for the piranha solution. All containers having piranha solution, including hazardous waste containers, must be clearly labeled as containing piranha solution. The label must also detail the hazards (corrosive, reactive) and be clearly visible to anyone working with or coming into contact with the material.
    • When preparing the piranha solution, always add the peroxide to the acid very slowly.  The peroxide is added immediately before the process because it immediately produces an energetic exothermic reaction with the gas release.  Remember, piranha solutions will heat up during the mixing process.  The solution is likely to become very hot, over 100°C – handle with care.
    • Substrates and glassware that is being cleaned should be rinsed and dried before placing them in a piranha bath.  Piranha solution is used to remove organic residues, not the organic compounds themselves.
    • Leave the hot piranha solution in an open container until cool. Don’t store hot piranha solutions because closed containers will likely explode.
    • Adding any acids or bases to piranha, or even adding water, will accelerate the reaction, producing more heat, gas, and potential for accidents.
    • Mixing piranha with organic compounds may cause an explosion.  This includes acetone, photoresist, isopropyl alcohol, and nylon.  It is imperative that organics are not stored or staged near the piranha solution mixing area or the bath.
    • Do not attempt to store hot piranha solution in an air-tight container – it will explode.  Leave the solution in an open container and allow it to cool down for several hours.  Make sure that the open container is clearly labeled and left in a safe area during this process.
    • Once cooled down, the solution can be transferred to a closed, glass container for waste storage. Clearly label the container with “Hazardous Waste – Piranha Solution.” No other materials must be mixed with this waste.
    • In case of exposure to piranha solution, such as skin or eyes, rinse the affected area thoroughly with large amounts of water (safety shower or eyewash station) for 15 minutes or more to reduce the likelihood of burns. Remove all contaminated clothing immediately with appropriate gloves and safely discard.
    • In case of exposure to piranha solution from inhalation, the person should be assisted to an area with fresh, uncontaminated air.  Seek medical attention in the event of respiratory irritation, cough, or tightness in the chest. Symptoms may be delayed.
  • Hydrofluoric acid: Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is an extremely corrosive acid used for many purposes, including mineral digestion, surface cleaning, etching, and biological staining. Its unique properties make it significantly more hazardous than many of the other acids used on campus. The following safety guidelines must be used when working with hydrofluoric acid. 
  • Acrylamide (gels, liquids, solids): Commonly used in industry and research, particularly in the electrophoresis of DNA in polyacrylamide gels at Virginia Tech. Acrylamide in nearly all of its forms is toxic and considered to be a potential human carcinogen.  It is also listed as a potential teratogen. Because of its toxic nature, every precaution must be taken to properly and safely handle it. 
    • Acrylamide is harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. It affects the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive system, as well as being an irritant to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. 
    • The following personal protective equipment is required: safety glasses or goggles, rubber gloves (or other gloves recommended for this chemical), and lab coats.
    • All work done with liquid and solid acrylamide should be performed in a properly functioning fume hood. This will eliminate nearly 100 percent of the hazards presented by airborne particles and vapors.
    • Do not store acrylamide in the presence of oxidizers, peroxides, acids, or bases to avoid potential violent polymerization.
    • Acrylamide may also polymerize violently in the presence of heat above the melting point of 85°C.
    • Acrylamide must be stored in appropriate containers for disposal, away from heat sources, out of direct sunlight, and away from the incompatible chemicals listed above.
    • All acrylamide is to be considered hazardous waste for disposal purposes.  Even when polymerized, there is a significant portion (greater than 1% of the total solution) that is in monomer formation.  This amount of monomer means that the entire solution is toxic hazardous waste.
    • Acrylamide gels should be place in the bags supplied by Environmental Health & Safety (not red or yellow bags, please). Pour off any liquid before placing the gels in the bags.
    • Acrylamide liquid waste should be poured into appropriate containers (i.e. carboys) for disposal through Environmental Health & Safety. Please do not put solids in with the liquid waste, including paper towels, fish heads, sheep eyes, or other solid materials.
    • In the event of a large spill of acrylamide, back away,  call 911, and secure the lab area. The irritant and toxic nature of the chemical warrants help from experts.
  • Radioactive material/waste: Radioactive material must be registered with the university radiation safety officer. Registration ensures that all individuals involved with radioactive material receive appropriate safety training and radiation monitoring badges if required.

Suitable eyewash facilities and deluge showers must be available to all chemical laboratories where there is a potential for human contact with hazardous/caustic materials and all pesticide mixing areas. Access must be within ten unobstructed seconds from the work area. These safety devices are necessary for halting the damage incurred from a chemical splash to the eyes, or spill on the body.

Laboratory fume hoods are ventilated enclosures designed to protect laboratory personnel from inhalation exposure to chemical vapors and dust. Prior to purchasing, installing, or moving a fume hood, the laboratory chemical hygiene officer must consult with Environmental Health & Safety for guidance. Fume hoods must be certified by Environmental Health & Safety. 

In order for a hood to be effective, it must be properly selected, installed, and utilized. Some variables that can impact the effectiveness of a hood are:

  • Sash opening height, ease of movement, and condition of glass;
  • The integrity of the cabinet (side panels in place, no modified openings added to walls, etc);
  • Amount of items (e.g., chemicals and equipment) stored within the hood;
  • Air velocity (i.e. "face velocity"); and
  • Hood location within the laboratory.

Environmental Health & Safety conducts fume hood certifications, which include a general inspection, measurement of air/face velocity, and determination of proper sash positioning. These certifications occur on a routine annual basis and following maintenance involving the fan motor or other corrections after a previous failure or extended non-use period. Certification will be expressed as "pass" or "fail." A hood that has passed certification will be indicated by a "hood certification" sticker, which will note the testing date, person's initials, and average face velocity or smoke test results. The hood may be marked with adhesive arrows to indicate sash position, or testing height may be noted on the label. Many manufacturers have sash stops in place which also indicate recommended operating position.

A hood that has failed certification will be indicated by a bright orange (or another bright color) tag that states "CAUTION! - THIS HOOD IS OUT OF ORDER." It is very important that a hood bearing this tag not be used. The laboratory chemical hygiene officer, principal user, or other designated representative is responsible for contactingthe Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities for necessary repairs.

If a hood has been tagged by Environmental Health & Safety as having failed certification, or if it is apparently malfunctioning, the following steps should be taken:

  • Tightly cap or remove chemical containers.
  • Tightly cap containers when the problem is with the roof exhaust fan.
  • Remove containers when the problem is within the hood, or when the source of the problem is unknown.
  • Call the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities at 540-231-4300 to report the problem/submit a work order.
  • Ensure that work is not conducted in the broken hood until repair and recertification have been successfully performed.

Please contact Environmental Health & Safety for further guidance and information as needed.

Each laboratory must have an appropriate, functional, unobstructed portable fire extinguisher mounted on the wall three to four feet from the floor. Portable fire extinguishers must be inspected by laboratory personnel monthly, with the inspection documented on the tag attached to the extinguisher. For more information, click here.

All departments are required to have an Emergency Action Plan specific to the building where employees are located. This plan provides detailed information regarding actions to be taken by personnel in the event of an emergency, such as fire, explosion, injury, medical emergencies, chemical exposures, chemical spills, acts of terrorism, acts of nature (severe weather), etc. For more information on emergency planning, click here

Minor spills of hazardous chemicals that pose little or no threat to the safety and health of personnel can be cleaned by competent departmental personnel by following the warning and cautions signs on the container's label or manufacturer's material safety data sheet or safety data sheet. A hazardous material emergency exists when cleanup of a spill of hazardous material is beyond the level of knowledge, training, or the ability of the staff in the immediate spill area or the spill creates a situation that is immediately dangerous to the life and health of persons in the spill area or facility. 

  • Alert personnel in the immediate area of the spill and evacuate the room.
  • Confine the hazard by closing doors as you leave the room.
  • Use eyewash or safety showers as needed to rinse spilled chemicals off of personnel.
  • Evacuate any nearby rooms that may be affected. If the hazard may affect the entire building, evacuate the entire building.
  • Notify university police by calling 911 and provide the chemical name, location of the spill, size of the spill, number of injured persons (if any), and any environmental concerns, such as the location of storm drains or streams. You will also need to provide your name and a telephone number. Always call from a safe location. Be prepared to spell chemical names. 

Procedures for laboratory personnel to handle chemical, biological, or radiological spills are provided in the laboratory-specific documentation. Trained laboratory personnel are authorized to determine appropriate emergency response measures for their areas.

Environmental Health & Safety is responsible for conducting safety inspections of all university chemical laboratories, research stations, and chemical storage areas. These inspections allow Environmental Health & Safety to monitor compliance with the program and identify any problems inherent to the plan itself. The inspection form used by Environmental Health & Safety is provided for your convenience. It may be used as a guideline for establishing unit chemical safety programs.

Refer to the Inspection Checklist (doc).

The Commonwealth of Virginia has developed and implemented a detailed program for applicator training, certification, and pesticide use in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations. Virginia Tech faculty and other personnel work closely with state representatives to ensure the programs are current, functional, and implemented properly. Protocols used on campus will not replace or supersede any requirements mandated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Pesticide Services (VDACS, OPS).

Pesticide use on university property and/or by Virginia Tech personnel is designated as commercial use by definition and scope of work. State law requires that individuals be trained and certified within 90 days of employment.

Departments with individuals (faculty, staff, and students) using pesticides, either in research or as part of their position responsibilities must follow requirements defined by the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs (VTPP) for training, certification, supervision, etc. 

Supervisors of pesticide operations must be appropriately trained and certified according to VDACS OPS guidelines and must provide for the safe and appropriate use of all pesticides used in work applications. Please refer to the Pesticide Applicator Overview developed by VTPP. This includes:

  • Training (within 90 days of employment) and certification of all individuals using pesticides;
  • Availability and use of appropriate personal protective equipment (as documented on the Hazard Assessment Form);
  • Proper storage, handling, and disposal of pesticides; and 
  • Recordkeeping and postings. 

If a research project is involved, a responsible person must be designated before pesticides are used. Experimental products must be handled in such a manner as to minimize potential risks to university personnel and property. All experimental products must be obtained through appropriate procurement procedures, which include registering the products, reporting quantities, and coordinating the return of any materials not used during the trial period.

Employees working with pesticides are responsible for: 

  • Attending and obtaining necessary training and certification; 
  • Wearing assigned personal protective equipment; and 
  • Handling the products in a safe manner and according to label requirements. 

Contractors using pesticides as part of a project with the university must follow requirements mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Please refer to the VTPP site for Commercial Applicator Overview compliance details. 

Environmental Health & Safety works to ensure safe work practices, compliance, and serves as a liaison between regulatory officials and university administration. Personnel will use guidelines given through VTPP, and in other applicable parts of the Hazardous Chemical Management Program when conducting audits, evaluations, consultations, and when reviewing site assessments for proposed pesticide storage/mixing facilities. 

The University Chemical Hygiene Officer may assist employees in coordinating the requirements of this program, which include:

  • Evaluation of pesticide storage and security practices;
  • Ensuring proper site development and postings; 
  • Reviewing training documentation and product application records; and 
  • Consulting, as needed.

Proper storage of pesticides is just as critical and specific as with any other chemical product. Recommendations for storage and handling contained elsewhere within this document are also applicable to pesticides, including maintaining a Chemical Inventory; however, this inventory should be kept at a separate location in the event of an emergency at the storage facility that impacts access or presents loss risk.

Each pesticide container should be marked with the date of purchase before it is placed in storage. Since many pesticides have a "shelf-life", older products should be used first. Additionally, only purchase quantities that will be used up within one year or the duration of the project.

Empty waste containers and pesticide products for disposal should be kept in a separate part of the facility. Ensure that waste materials are easily identifiable as waste in order to minimize confusion.

Remember to always follow the product label for storage requirements.

An appropriate storage facility must be provided that is environmentally acceptable and secure. The area must be kept clean, dry, and at the appropriate temperature in order to maintain the integrity of the product. Product labels will help identify specific segregation criteria. Site postings must be included to protect users, the public, and emergency response personnel. Refer to VCE or VTPP for further details. 

Site assessments are recommended for all pesticide storage areas. Human and environmental safety issues must be considered before constructing new facilities and when evaluating current operations. First, determine the proximity of the proposed site to sensitive places, such as residential lots, ground and surface water sources, livestock areas, fertilizer storage facilities, etc. In addition, the location with regard to prevailing winds, traffic patterns, and security in the event of an emergency, must be evaluated. Before new site construction begins, baseline environmental information must be obtained for review as part of the assessment. This data is obtained from soil, surface, and groundwater sample analyses, available historical information, and visual observations. Copies of all assessment data collected must be forwarded to Environmental Health & Safety for environmental review. For assistance, contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-2510. 

  • Facility site plans are an essential part of the site assessment. This plan is critical for compliance with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), and other associated regulations. In addition to the previously mentioned observations, the site plan should include:
    • Soil type and topography; 
    • Water table, depth to groundwater, and flood plain delineations; 
    • Watershed and associated drainage information; and 
    • Location in relation to other material storage areas (e.g. fertilizer, fuels, feed, equipment).
  • Design issues for setting up the storage facility should also be considered. Construction materials, security features, segregation requirements, size, and environmental controls must also be taken into account.
    • Interior floor and wall surfaces must be chemically impervious and easily cleaned. Examples include plastic, vinyl, and some coated/painted metals. Concrete is porous and must be treated with appropriate protective coatings in order to prevent absorption. Wood is permeable and difficult to seal, and should not be used for permanent flooring. Individual wood units (e.g. pallets) can be used in certain circumstances since they can be easily disposed of in the event of a spill.
    • Appropriate secondary containment systems must be used inside the facility. Such systems include raised floor sills and ramps, open grate trenches with sumps, and tubs for smaller containers. Outside, the use of constructed curbs, pads, and grate drains can help contain accidental spills and water run-off in the event of a fire.
    • Do not connect drains or sumps to a sewer or septic system or other open discharge.
    • Shelving, like floors, must also be chemically impervious. Shelves must be constructed with lips, sills, or secondary containers used in order to prevent spills and contamination from shelf to shelf. Do not exceed the load limits of the cabinets or shelves.
    • Pesticide storage buildings must meet all applicable fire and electrical code requirements. Related issues include storage criteria for flammable and combustible materials and explosive venting. Suppressant fire systems utilizing dry chemicals are the preferred fire control method due to water run-off and contamination issues.
    • Storage areas must be placarded or labeled to show pesticide storage and "No Smoking."
    • Ventilation is critical to minimizing the fire, explosion, and health risks. Warm weather ventilation reduces temperature extremes and vapor accumulation. In unheated storage spaces, natural ventilation may be the best alternative. Wall vents are most effective at floor level (within 12 inches) since most flammable vapors are heavier than air. In large storage facilities, mechanical ventilation is much more effective. Generally, systems should provide approximately six air changes per hour. Fans and ducts should be designed to move the entire air volume from the room involved to ensure heavier air vapors are removed. Systems must also be explosion-proof when Class I liquids are involved.
    • Do not store pesticides in basements or below grade level where vapors may accumulate. 

In summary, all pesticide storage areas must be designed to provide a secure, stable environment with adequate ventilation, and must meet all applicable fire and electrical code requirements. Storage guidelines put forth by VTPP are used by Environmental Health & Safety personnel for evaluation criteria.

Pesticide storage areas must be constructed to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access. If pesticides are kept in a general use area or laboratory, then precautions must be implemented to restrict access. Perimeter fencing, buildings, and/or cabinets with locks are all examples of secure storage areas.

Spill response supplies must be maintained at the storage facility. Extra sets of personal protective equipment (i.e. gloves, boots, Tyvek® suits, etc.) should be available, as well as a non-sparking shovel and some type of absorbent material (i.e. kitty litter). Other items that may be needed depending on the materials involved are respirators, coveralls, and chemical absorbent pads ("pigs"). A careful review of all pesticides in storage must be performed to identify risks involved and to determine the items required to contain and control small spills.

Pesticide containers should be routinely inspected to verify the integrity of containers and labels. Look for leaks, damaged bottles, faulty aerosols, tears/splits in bags, etc. If a material is found leaking or the container is damaged, there are several options:

  • Try to use the pesticide immediately at a site and rate allowed by the label.
  • Transfer the material into another container that originally held the same product.
  • Transfer the contents to an appropriate container that can be closed. If possible, remove the label from the damaged container and place it on the new one. Otherwise, label the secondary container with the product name and registration number and request another copy of the label from the dealer or manufacturer.
  • Place the entire damaged original container into a suitable larger secondary container. If the label is no longer legible, use the name and registration number to request another copy as noted above.
  • Never put pesticides in unlabeled or unsuitable containers.

Pesticide use for the university primarily revolves around three types of applications:

  • Research and development, specifically experimental products: Some may be registered and some may be going through further studies under the direction of university personnel. In these cases, application rates and the size of test areas may vary significantly. Production methods may be appropriate while at other times a smaller-scale approach may be required. 
  • Grounds maintenance, including the use of herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides: These cases are almost entirely small scale and involve travel distance and time between applications.
  • Production, including field crops, forest, pasture, and orchard management, marine anti-foulant painting, and livestock health: This application typically involves larger target areas and increased volume of product. In addition, the location of target areas may involve some travel distance between storage areas and sites of application. This can include moving pesticides on public highways, in proximity to private property, and/or near environmentally sensitive areas, such as private water sources, creeks, and ponds.

The scale of the operation and the expected or desired outcome are also factors to consider when planning an application. In general, the outcome or objective must be clearly defined and the least toxic product possible must be selected. Those applying pesticides on university property outside of research within laboratory spaces, must have training and be authorized through the Virginia Pesticide program as administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  In addition to following label directions and precautions, pay special attention to weather conditions, the proximity of non-target flora and fauna, and human activities within or near the area. The differences in the groups mentioned above further dictate options available to the applicator.

Pesticide use for the university primarily revolves around three types of applications:

  • Research and development, specifically experimental products: Some may be registered and some may be going through further studies under the direction of university personnel. In these cases, application rates and the size of test areas may vary significantly. Production methods may be appropriate while at other times a smaller-scale approach may be required. 
  • Grounds maintenance, including the use of herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides: These cases are almost entirely small-scale and involve travel distance and time between applications.
  • Production, including field crops, forest, pasture, and orchard management, marine anti-foulant painting, and livestock health: This application typically involves larger target areas and increased volume of product. In addition, the location of target areas may involve some travel distance between storage areas and sites of application. This can include moving pesticides on public highways, in proximity to private property, and/or near environmentally sensitive areas, such as private water sources, creeks, and ponds.

The scale of the operation and the expected or desired outcome are also factors to consider when planning an application. In general, the outcome or objective must be clearly defined and the least toxic product possible must be selected. In addition to following label directions and precautions, pay special attention to weather conditions, the proximity of non-target flora and fauna, and human activities within or near the area. The differences in the groups mentioned above further dictate options available to the applicator.


There are two primary methods of mixing pesticides for applications considered within the scope of this program. They are "in-house" (or other designated area) and "in-field." The operation or application process will dictate which process is most applicable.

In-house preparation

For smaller-scale operations involving experimental products, grounds, or veterinary applications, the ability to prepare materials inside a shop or lab is advantageous due to the availability of clean water, spill containment, and personal protective equipment. The water source must be protected from product contamination by work practices, such as keeping water hoses above levels of pesticides when mixing, and through the use of devices designed to prevent back siphoning. Special precautions must be taken to prevent spills or waste products from entering the wastewater system. Avoid using sinks directly connected to wastewater lines. 

  • If floor drains are present, verify that they are not connected to a septic tank or wastewater discharge line before allowing any spill or clean-up water to enter. All affected drains and lines should be connected to a separate holding tank with a sump. After each mixing, any liquid collected into the reservoir can be removed and applied to the target area as rinsate.
  • In the absence of a holding tank, secondary containment should be used to control spills. Use large tubs to hold small portable sprayers while mixing product and rinsing containers. Any material collected in the secondary container can then be placed into the sprayer for application as with rinsates.
  • In rare cases, rinsates are not suitable for adding to tanks and applying on target areas. Special care must be taken to collect rinsates and dispose of them as waste pesticide products. Specific examples include:
    • The product labeling restricts rinsate use as a dilute, as in the case of strongly acidic or alkaline agents.
    • The rinsate contains strong cleaning agents that may harm the target organism.
    • The rinsate solution may not be compatible with or may make a mixture unstable.
    • The original product was used in an animal dose case (e.g. pour-ons for livestock).

In-field preparation

Large-scale applications usually involve production operations. The repeated draining of pesticide residuals (product and rinsates) onto a small area increases the risk of groundwater contamination. Providing a system to mix chemicals and rinse equipment in the field helps to reduce some of the risks associated with handling and wash-down facilities. Some advantages to on-site or in-field mixing include:

  • Minimization of bio-accumulation from repeated spills or leaks in the same small mixing area.
  • Prevention of buildup of waste mixtures of different pesticides by eliminating the use of a holding tank for spill cleanup.
  • Reduced costs by eliminating the need for the above-mentioned holding tanks, sumps, and increased waste disposal costs.
  • Reduced risk of spills while in transit; less impact on non-target plants, animals, and surrounding environment.
  • Simplification of the preferred practice of applying tank tailings and rinsates on labeled crops.

There are equipment requirements for successful in-field preparation:

  • A nurse tank with hoses and a pump to provide a clean, adequate water supply is imperative. It can also be used for emergency showering, if properly plumbed and potable.
    • Permanently mark the nurse tank (i.e. clean water tank) so that it is used only for clean, potable water.
  • An anti-siphoning device or hose supports to prevent contamination of the water supply.
  • Secondary containment is useful for the transportation of concentrated products from storage to the field site for mixing. (This containment should be adequate to contain a leaking or damaged container and all contents.)
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Emergency eyewash treatments, such as closed containers of clean water. 
    • Containers must be kept clean.
    • The water must be changed routinely to prevent the growth of bacteria.
    • Treatments must be stored separately from chemical products.
    • Containers must be clearly labeled.
    • Must be able to provide 15 minutes flushing capacity. 

Any system for field mixing and rinsing should be developed with ease and effectiveness in mind. The key to any design is an adequately sized portable source for clean water. 

Closed mixing systems

The use of closed systems requires that mixing operations be conducted in the area of the equipment. These systems are used to minimize the risk of exposure to product materials during mixing operations and are designed to prevent contact with the pesticide product. There are two major types of closed systems - mechanical and soluble packaging. While some pesticides require closed systems for handling, and some states may require their use through legislation, they are generally only used when working with products of high acute toxicity.

If a closed system is implemented, special care must be taken to ensure that spills and leaks are contained in an appropriate manner and held for disposal. Mixing of pesticide products in containment vessels can complicate disposal procedures and change the classifications of materials involved.

Sprayers and associated equipment are the key to the effective and safe application of pesticides. It is imperative that the equipment be cleaned and maintained in such a manner as to prevent damage to lines, nozzles, tanks, and pumps. Careful rinsing after each application (by job or field) will prevent buildup in lines and nozzles and make end-of-season cleaning much easier. Thorough cleaning, inspection, and maintenance prior to putting items in storage at the end of the season will increase the productive life of the equipment and help minimize the risk of future pesticide contamination problems.

Follow product labels and equipment operation manuals for specific guidelines on cleaning, equipment maintenance, and end-of-season storage.

Best practices are management strategies selected to address production problems in a manner that best utilizes available resources. These practices have been developed over time and are used extensively throughout the industry. The university encourages and expects applicators to use such practices whenever applicable.

  • Integrated pest management: A system that combines several management policies to address pest problems. No single form of control provides optimal results. Basic principles include careful identification of all pest problems involved, using pest-resistant cultivars (if available), implementing good agronomic practices (quality seed, soil testing, etc.), use of biological controls (when available), and rotation of pesticides used.
  • Soil and water conservation best practices focus on optimizing soil fertility, controlling water runoff, preventing the indiscriminate spread of chemicals, and preserving soil integrity. These include:
    • Nutrient management planning to utilize animal wastes as a source of organic material and nutrients;
    • Crop rotation;
    • Use of reduced tillage methods where macropores are not an issue;
    • Contour stripping; and
    • Use of vegetative filter strips.

Transportation of pesticides is a concern for application operations that involve highway use and/or movement across private properties. General precautions are to be implemented in order to protect the applicators, the public, and the environment.

Equipment used to move products from purchase to storage, and to the site of use, should be carefully maintained to ensure proper operation. In addition to vehicle operation, there must be adequate security for containers. This would include proper ventilation, secure holding areas, and spill prevention and control. Hazardous material placarding of vehicles operating on state highways is required. The EPA Worker Protection Standard requires that drivers of vehicles transporting containers that are not factory sealed be trained as Worker Protection Standard pesticide handlers, or be certified applicators.

All containers included for transfer by vehicle must be labeled. This includes the manufacturer's label for primary containers and appropriate information for secondary or transfer containers.

In the event of any spill or unexpected release, while transporting pesticides, specific strategies must be implemented.

  • The spill must be contained.
  • The area must be secured.
  • Notify Environmental Health & Safety directly at 540-231-3600 for assistance and guidance with small spills/releases. After hours, call the Virginia Tech Police Department at 540-231-6411 and request Environmental Health & Safety assistance. If the incident poses a threat to any person, public health or safety, or to the environment, call 911 immediately. 
  • Minor spills must be cleaned up as soon as possible.
  • Spills involving ground contamination require absorbents, shovels, empty containers for contaminated soil and product.

Notification to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Office of Pesticide Programs is required if any of the following products and quantities are stored:

  • One or more pounds of:
    • Aldicarb (Temik)
    • Chlordane
    • Coumafuryl (Fumarin)
    • Methamidophos (Monitor)
    • Paraquat (Gromoxone Super)
    • Sulfur dioxide
  • 10 or more pounds of:
    • Carbofuran (Furadan)
    • Carbon disulfide
    • Dichlorvos (DDVP, Vapona)
    • Dimethoate (Cygon, De-fend)
    • Strychnine
  • 100 or more pounds of:
    • Methyl parathion (Penncap-M)
    • Nicotine
    • Trichlorfon (Dylox, Proxol)
    • Warfarin (Co-Rax, Rodex)
  • 1000 or more pounds of:
    • Dinoseb (Premerge, Dinitro)
    • Methyl bromide
    • Sodium arsenate (Atlas "A", Penite)

When pesticide products have expired or are no longer needed, they must be disposed of as hazardous waste, if they cannot be disposed of safely as rinsate. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for hazardous waste removal at 540-231-2509.

Empty product containers require special processing and handling as well. Once empty, triple rinse and recycle or recondition metal and plastic containers. For larger volume containers, such as 30 and 55-gallon drums, check with the pesticide dealer or manufacturer for reconditioning options. Some products have special conditions regarding the disposal of containers.

ACGIH: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists

Acrid: Irritating and bitter

Action level: The exposure level (the material's concentration in air) at which OSHA regulations to protect employees take effect.

Active ingredient: The ingredient of a product that actually does what the product is designed to do. The remaining ingredients may be "inert."

Acute health effect: An adverse effect on a human or animal body, with symptoms developing rapidly.

Anhydrous: Without water. A substance in which no water molecules are present in the form of a hydrate or as water of crystallization.

Anoxia: Lack of oxygen from inspired air.

Article: A manufactured item, other than a fluid or particle, which (1) is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture, (2) has end use function(s) dependent in whole or in part upon its shape or design during end-use, and (3) under normal conditions of use does not release more than very small quantities (e.g. minute or trace amounts of a hazardous chemical) and does not pose a physical hazard or health risk to personnel.

Asphyxiant: A vapor or gas that can cause unconsciousness or death by suffocation. 

Boiling point, BP: The temperature at which the vapor pressure of a liquid equals the surrounding atmospheric pressure so that the liquid rapidly becomes a vapor.

Carcinogen: Cancer-causing. A chemical is legally considered to be a carcinogen if it has been evaluated and determined to cause cancer by IARC or NFP, or is regulated by OSHA as such.

Chemical: Any element, chemical compound, or a mixture of elements and/or compounds.

Chemical formula: Gives the number and kind of atoms that comprise a molecule of a material. The chemical formula for water is H2O. Each molecule of water is made up of 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen.

Chemical name: The scientific designation of a chemical in accordance with the nomenclature system developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), or the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) rules of nomenclature, or a name which will clearly identify the chemical for the purpose of conducting a hazard evaluation.

CHO: Chemical hygiene officer.

CHP: Chemical hygiene plan.

Chronic health effect: An adverse effect on a human or animal body with symptoms that develop slowly over a long period of time or that recur frequently.

CNS, central nervous system: Indicates effects on the CNS by the material, including headache, tremors, drowsiness, convulsions, hypnosis, anesthesia, nervousness, irritability, narcosis, dizziness, fatigue, lethargy, peripheral myopathy, memory loss, impaired concentration, sleep disturbance, etc.

Combustible liquid: Any liquid having a flashpoint at or above 100° F (37.8° C) but below 200° F (93.3° C), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 200° F (93.3° C), or higher, the total volume of which makes up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.

Class Description
Class II Liquids having flashpoints at or above 100° F (37.8° C) and below 140° F (60° C).
Class III Liquids having flashpoints at or above 140° F (60° C) are subdivided into two subclasses.
Class III A Liquids having flashpoints at or above 140° F (60° C) and below 200° F (93.3° C).
Class III B Liquids with flashpoints at or above 200° F (93.3° C).


Common name: Any designation or identification, such as code name, code number, trade name, brand name, or generic name used to identify a chemical other than by its chemical name.

Compressed gas: A gas, or a mixture of gases, having (in a container) an absolute pressure exceeding 40 psig at 70° F (21.1° C); or exceeding 104 psig at 130° F (54.4° C) regardless of the pressure at 70° F (21.1° C); or a liquid having a vapor pressure exceeding 40 psig at 100° F (37.8° C) as determined by ASTM D-323-72.

Consumer products: (as defined by the Consumer Product Safety Act) Any article, or component part thereof, produced or distributed (i) for sale to a consumer for use in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise, or (ii) for the personal use, consumptions or enjoyment of a consumer in or around a permanent or temporary household or residence, a school, in recreation, or otherwise. This definition does not include certain products such as tobacco products, motor vehicles, pesticides, aircraft, boats, etc. 

Control area: As defined by the 2003 International Fire Code, spaces within a building which are enclosed and bounded by exterior walls, firewalls, fire barriers, and roofs, or a combination thereof, where quantities of hazardous materials not exceeding the maximum allowable quantities per control area are stored, dispensed, used, or handled.

Controlled substances: Those substances are listed on Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules I - V and Virginia Board of Pharmacy (VBP) schedule VI.

Corrosive: A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in, living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact.

Engineering controls: Systems that reduce potential hazards by isolating the worker from the hazard, or by removing the hazard from the work environment. Methods include ventilation, isolation, and enclosure.

Essential chemical: A chemical that, in addition to legitimate uses, may be used as a solvent, reagent, or catalyst in the manufacturing of controlled substances.

Evaporation rate: The rate at which a material vaporizes (volatilizes, evaporates) from the liquid or solid state when compared to a known material's vaporization rate.

Explosive: A chemical that causes a sudden, almost instantaneous release of pressure, gas, and heat when subjected to sudden shock, pressure, or high temperature.

Flammable liquid: Any liquid with a flashpoint below 100° F (37.8° C), except any mixture having components with flashpoints of 100° F (37.8° C), or higher, the total of which make up 99% or more of the total volume of the mixture. Check the Material Safety Data Sheet for characteristics or classification of a particular liquid.

Class Description
Class I A Liquids having flashpoints below 73° F (22.8° C) and having a boiling point below 100° F (37.8° C).
Class I B Liquids having flashpoints below 73° F (22.8° C) and having a boiling point at or above 100° F (37.8° C).
Class I C Liquids having flashpoints at or above 73° F (22.8° C) and below 100° F (37.8° C).

Flashpoint, FP: The lowest temperature at which a flammable liquid gives off sufficient vapor to form an ignitable mixture with air near its surface or within a vessel. Combustion does not continue.

Foreseeable emergency: Examples include equipment failure, container rupture, uncontrolled releases, etc.

Hazardous chemical: Any chemical or product which poses a physical or health hazard. It can include liquids in containers, substances in pipes, chemicals generated in work operations (ex. welding fumes or exhaust fumes), solids, gases, or vapors.

Hazard warning: Any words, pictures, symbols, or a combination thereof appearing on a label or other appropriate form of warning which conveys the specific physical and health hazard(s), including target organ effects, of the chemical(s) in the container(s).

Health hazard: A chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees, including chemicals which are carcinogens, toxic or highly toxic agents, reproductive toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins, agents which act on the hematopoietic system and agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Appendix A and B of 29 CFR 1910.1200 provides further definitions, explanations, and criteria if needed.

Highly toxic: A chemical that falls into any of these categories: 1) has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 50 mg or less per kg of body weight when administered to albino rats orally, 2) has an LD50 of 200 mg or less per kg of body weight when in continuous skin contact, or 3) has a lethal concentration (LC50) of 200 ppm or less of volume air on continuous inhalation.

Hypergolic: Self-igniting upon contact of its components without a spark or external aid; especially rocket fuel or a propellant that consists of combinations of fuels and oxidizers.

IARC: International Agency for Research on Cancer.

IDLH: Immediately dangerous to life and health.

Immediate use: The hazardous chemical will be under the control of, and used only by, the person who transfers it from a labeled container into an unlabeled container, and only within the work shift in which it is transferred.

Incompatible: Materials that could cause dangerous reactions and the release of energy from direct contact with one another.

Inflammable: Capable of being easily set on fire and continuing to burn, especially violently

Inhibitor: A material added to another to prevent an unwanted reaction, e.g. polymerization.

Irritant: A chemical that is not corrosive, but which causes a reversible inflammatory effect on living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact.

Laboratory: A facility where:

  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a "laboratory scale;"
  • Multiple chemical procedures are used;
  • Procedures are not part of a production process; and 
  • Practices and equipment exist to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Laboratory scale: Work with substances in which the containers used for reactions, transfers, and handling of substances are designed to be easily and safely manipulated by one person. "Laboratory scale" excludes those workplaces whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.

Laboratory unit: A single lab, a group of research labs under the direction of the same Principle Investigator, or a group of instructional laboratories within a single department.

Latency period: The time that elapses between exposure and the first manifestations of disease or illness. Periods can range from minutes to decades, depending on the material.

LCHO: Laboratory chemical hygiene officer.

LC50: The concentration of a material in air that will kill 50% of a group of test animals with a single exposure (usually 1-4 hours). The LC50 is expressed as parts per million (ppm) of air, by volume, for gases and vapors. It is expressed as micrograms of material per cubic meter of air (mg/m3) for dust and mists.

LD50: A single dose of a material expected to kill 50% of a group of test animals. The LD50 dose is usually expressed as milligrams or grams of material per kilogram of animal body weight (mg/kg or g/kg). The materials may be administered by mouth or applied to the skin.

LEL, LFL: Lower explosive or flammable limit. Refers to the lowest concentration of gas or vapor (% by volume in air) that burns or explodes if an ignition source is present at ambient temperatures.

Listed chemical: Any Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) listed drug precursor or listed essential chemical. 

Listed precursor: A chemical that, in addition to legitimate uses, can be used in the illegal manufacture of a controlled substance. 

Material safety data sheet (MSDS): Written or printed material concerning a hazardous chemical that communicates hazard information to employers, employees, physicians, other health professionals, and emergency personnel.

Non-laboratory personnel: A facility where chemical manipulations are not carried out on a "laboratory scale".

NTP: National Toxicology Program.

Physical hazard: A chemical for which there is scientifically valid evidence that it is a combustible liquid, a compressed gas, explosive, flammable, an organic peroxide, an oxidizer, pyrophoric, unstable (reactive), or water-reactive.

P-listed waste: Waste that is considered "acutely hazardous" when discarded and is subject to more stringent regulation.

Pyrophoric: A chemical that will ignite spontaneously in air at a temperature of 130° F (54.4° C) or below.

Reactive material: A chemical substance or mixture that vigorously polymerizes, decomposes, condenses, or becomes self-reactive due to shock, pressure, or temperature.

Respirator: A device that protects the user from inhaling contaminated air and air with low oxygen content. Contact 540-231-2509 for guidance on respirator selection and associated mandatory services. Dust masks are a class of respirators.

Sensitizer: A chemical that causes a substantial proportion of exposed people or animals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure.

Special waste: Includes radioactive waste, asbestos waste, and infectious waste.

STEL: Short-term exposure limit. The maximum concentration for a continuous exposure period of 15 minutes.

Unstable (reactive): A chemical which in the pure state, or as produced or transported, will vigorously polymerize, decompose, condense, or will become self-reactive under conditions of shocks, pressure, or temperature.

TLV: Threshold limit value (term used by ACGIH).

Toxic: A chemical that falls into one of the following categories: 1) has an LD50 of 50 - 500 mg per kg body weight (oral exposure), 2) has an LD50 of 200-1000 mg/kg (skin exposure, or 3) has a LC50 or 200-2000 ppm (inhalation exposure).

TWA: Time-weighted average. The allowable time-weighted average concentration for a normal 8-hour workday or 40-hour week.

UEL, UFL: Upper explosion/flammable limit. The highest concentration of a material in air produces an explosion in fire or ignites when it contacts an ignition source.

Water-reactive: A chemical that reacts with water to release a gas that is either flammable or presents a health hazard.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. Flammable-storage-rated refrigerators/freezers must be used for storing flammable materials. This rating will be shown plainly on the front of the refrigerator. Refrigerator temperatures are typically higher than the flash points of most flammable liquids. Powerful explosions can occur when an inappropriately-rated refrigerator's open circuitry, typically located at the bottom of the unit, comes into contact with heavier-than-air fumes of flammable liquids. Likewise, similar issues are present with generic freezers. If there are non-flammable-rated refrigerators/freezers located in the laboratory, a highly visible, permanent label must be affixed that states: "Caution: Do Not Store Flammable Materials in this Refrigerator."

Occasionally users have problems accessing the online system for responding to Environmental Health & Safety Safety Evaluations. Some previously noted issues are summarized below.

  • The system does not support wireless unless you have a VPN address through the university.
  • Sometimes browser security certificates are not current which leads to connection failures through CAS. If you get such an error message, please try a different browser.
  • Alias names associated with PIDs have caused registration problems. Please check with Environmental Health & Safety to ensure your correct PID information is being used.
  • If you are responding for someone else, e.g. a faculty member, principal researcher, manager, etc., you should see their name in your list after logging in.  You must click on the name the safety evaluation was addressed to in order to access the items for response.

If you are still having problems, please contact Environmental Health & Safety at 540-231-3600.

Equipment that may be contaminated with hazardous materials must be cleaned by the user/owner before asking anyone outside the group to service, move, or pick-up for surplus sale. The Lab Equipment Decontamination Form is used to prepare items for handling by workers, including service personnel, movers, and Surplus Property staff.

All shipments of hazardous materials are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Virginia Tech personnel who package, label, ship, prepare shipping documents, or offer packages of hazardous materials to carriers for shipment, are required to receive and complete appropriate training and comply with all federal, international and local regulations.

Contact Chris Wakley (biologicals) at 540-231-3361 or Kenny Osborne (chemical/radiological) at 540-231-2509 for assistance with shipping hazardous materials.

Environmental Health & Safety reviews refrigerator and freezer purchases to ensure the appropriate types of refrigeration units are being acquired for use in laboratories. Volatile solvents and flammables must not be stored in the unit on sale at Home Depot or Lowes. Purchases must be approved by Environmental Health & Safety. 

Environmental Health & Safety reviews requests based on the following criteria:

1. Is this purchase for a non-laboratory/chemical use group? For example, student housing, Environmental Health & Safety approves the request immediately and the order proceeds through HokieMart.

2. If this purchase is for a laboratory/chemical use group, then Environmental Health & Safety will ask:

  • Is the refrigerator flammable storage rated?
  • Is the freezer-unit a manual defrost?
  • Is this a laboratory-rated refrigerator or household unit?

The questions must be answered before approval can be given. Environmental Health & Safety makes every effort to facilitate research efforts in ensuring the safety of the campus community.

Contact Autumn Timpano at 540-231-3247 for further information. 

Chemicals may be moved within a building by personnel involved in the group.  Moving chemicals from building to building must be done by using carts - NOT by vehicle unless approved by Environmental Health & Safety. If Environmental Health & Safety personnel are involved in the move, allow at least 3 weeks for planning.  The Environmental Health & Safety Laboratory Relocation Guide has been developed to provide more details.  For further information and guidance, please contact 540-231-3600.

Storage of equipment or materials in hallways, even on a temporary basis, can seriously impact the safety of building occupants and first responders. Consider, for example, that if a fire occurs, visibility will be greatly reduced. If you are trying to exit the building--perhaps by crawling on the floor to minimize your exposure to smoke--those items in the hallway could impede your ability to get out quickly. Or, if they're easily movable (rolling carts, for example) and you bump into them, they could actually obstruct your exit access.

Also, during a fire the first responders may be dragging fire hose down the corridor. If there is storage or easily moved equipment located in the hallway, the hose could catch on these stored items and either obstruct the hallway or impede response efforts.

In general, any furniture located in the means of egress must be approved for that location. When doing our evaluation, Environmental Health & Safety will look at the configuration of the hallway, the construction and materials used in the furniture, if applicable, and other factors. If you are planning to place equipment or furniture in hallways or lobbies, please contact Environmental Health & Safety first to make sure your plan is appropriate and safe. And, never store anything in stairwells.

Waste hazards must be identified on all waste labels during accumulation of wastes in the laboratory or workspace. For information, refer to New Requirement to Include Hazards on Waste Labels.

Hazard labels are available for download:

When researchers order a chemical from a supplier outside of the United States, the courier may request certification that the chemical is in compliance with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The certification statements are typically facilitated by a form provided by the courier. The forms are provided by the courier (Federal Express or other courier).

Researchers as importers

When Virginia Tech researchers import chemical substances, mixtures or articles, they also become subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and must meet the same requirements under TSCA as the chemical manufacturer. Researchers are considered importers when they order and receive chemical substances from entities outside of the United States. When Virginia Tech researchers/employees are the importers on record of chemical substances or mixtures, they (as the importer) must also demonstrate compliance with TSCA.

What chemicals does this apply to?

Any imported chemical substance, mixture, or article containing a chemical substance or mixture may be refused entry into the customs territory of the United States if it fails to comply with any rule in effect under TSCA or is offered for entry in violation of TSCA. This may apply to new chemical substances or existing chemical substances for which new uses are being pursued.

How do I complete the form?

To demonstrate compliance, Virginia Tech researchers (importers) must certify on the provided forms that the chemical substance(s) or mixture(s) either complies with TSCA or is not subject to TSCA. Click here to see how to complete your form or how to request assistance.

Each laboratory or shop area using chemicals must have ready access to the appropriate supplies needed to handle a spill. Safety data sheets (formerly material safety data sheets) can provide details to determine which items may be necessary for the particular chemicals in your area. Refer to your chemical list (shop areas) or review the chemicals actually in use (standard operating procedures) for laboratories to determine what items are needed. 

A typical lab kit might include:

  • Mercury absorb sponges;
  • Sorbents appropriate for chemicals present (e.g., kitty litter, spill pads, vermiculite);
  • Neutralizers; and/or
  • Dust pan/broom (non-metal).

Generally spill cleanup materials can be purchased from most scientific and safety supply vendors. Please contact 540-231-3427 for additional information as needed.

Labs working with infectious biological material must have access to a spill kit which should contain the following:

  • PPE  appropriate for the material (e.g., gloves, tyvek coveralls, booties, N-95 respirator, eye protection);
  • Autoclavable biohazard bags;
  • Disinfectant (e.g., chlorine bleach -10,000ppm);
  • Absorbent material  such as paper towels or pads;
  • Forceps or brush and dust pan to pick up sharps; and
  • Sharps container.

These items can be purchased (like for chemical supplies) from most scientific and safety supply vendors. For questions, please contact 540-231-3361.

For information regarding radiological spill supplies, please contact Donald Conner at 540-231-5364.

Hydrogen peroxide, strong oxidizing acids such as nitric, perchloric and sulfuric acids and mixtures such as Piranha or Aqua regia are used as etches to remove organic residues from silicon wafers and other research materials. These chemicals are dangerous because of their strong corrosivity and the tendency of such waste solutions to evolve gas due to oxidation of organics or decomposition. When such wastes are collected, pressurization from gas generation in the container becomes a safety risk.

A vented cap should be used in labs on campus who generate wastes from use of the above chemicals/solutions.  We know from inspections and experience this occurs in Material Science and Engineering, Geology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, and may, of course, be elsewhere.

Special care must be taken if you generate waste containing these chemicals.

Follow these safety precautions:

  • Collect waste containing oxidizing acids or peroxides in plastic containers sealed with special gas venting caps. Environmental Health & Safety can provide vented caps for use. Do not use glass containers. Plastic waste containers with gas venting caps are available from Environmental Health & Safety. Do not overfill the container - several inches of headspace from the top is necessary.
  • The waste bottle must be stored in a hood with the sash lowered or in a deep secondary containment bucket that will shield lab occupants from corrosive spray if the container ruptures.
  • Attach the waste label to the container, NOT the secondary containment. 
  • Ensure the waste is placed in a secondary containment (if in a chemical fume hood).   
  • Keep the sash closed when not working in the fume hood.Inform Environmental Health & Safety that your waste may off-gas when you request a waste pickup. Use the comments section on the ticket.
  • Note: Additional precautions may be required based on your processes and materials in use.  


Animal - Chemical SOP

Animal and Animal-Related Waste Procedures

Biological Waste Management Chart

Broken Glass Disposal Poster

Chemical Fume Hood General Information

Chemical Hazard Door Posting- Animal Facilities

Chemical Hygiene Plan 

Chemical Registration Information and Q&A

Chemical Storage and Incompatibility Chart 2016

Chemical Waste Management Chart

Chemicals in Animals Chart

Closeout Procedures for Laboratories/Work Areas

Control Banding for Chemical Exposures

Controlled Substances in Research - Use and Disposal

Course Safety Evaluation Form

Environmental Health & Safety Appendix G Educational Information

Emergency Contacts (doc)

Emergency Contacts (pdf)

Emergency Procedures for General Laboratory Use

Emergency Shower Testing - SOP

Empty Container Disposal Options

Equipment Decontamination Form

Eyewash Out-of-Service Tag

Fertilizer, Pesticide, and Herbicide Application

Flow Chart for Environmetnal Health & Safety Review of Appendix G

Glass Box Disposal Requirements

Guidelines Educational and Research Activities

Guidelines on Minors in the Workplace

Hazard Assessment Form (pdf)

Hazard Assessment Form (doc)

Hazardous Waste Logs with Hazard Labels

Hazardous Waste Logs with Hazard Labels (B&W)

Incident Report

Incompatible Chemical Matrix

Instructions for Chemical Registration System

Lab Access Form 

Lab Coat Guidelines

Lab Waste Reminders

Laboratory Engineering Controls Vendors

Laboratory Relocation Guidelines

Laboratory-Specific Documentation (doc)

New Large Hazard Label Black and White

New Large Hazard Label for Waste

New Requirement to include Hazards on Waste Labels

New Small Hazard Label Black and White

New Small Hazard Label for Waste

No Flammable Storage Posting

Obtaining a MSDS or SDS

OSHA Information on Contaminated Water in Eyewashes

OSHA Labeling and Safety Data Sheet Requirements

Parr Safety in the Operation of Pressure Vessels

Posting for Fume Hoods - For Building Work

Press Safety

Requesting Laboratory Waste Supplies

Solid Chemical Lab Debris Waste Label with Hazards

Standard Operating Procedure Template for Labs

TSCA Import Certifications

Using the Safety Management System

Vented Waste Caps FAQ

Verifying Format of MSDS/SDS

Virginia Tech DEA Registrant's Drug Certification

Weekly Eyewash Inspection Log

Contact Information

Bernadette Mondy, Assistant Director

Call 540-231-8758