Approved by:



Issued              -- May 19, 2003

Revised            -- December 18, 2019

Last Reviewed -- December 18, 2019

Related Policies:

Employee Responsibility Policy; Environmental Health and Safety Manual; Information Security and Assurance Policy; Radiation Safety Manual; Safety and Protection of the Environment Policy

Additional References:

Environmental Health and Safety - Laboratory Safety; Environment Health and Safety website

Responsible Official:

Provost tel. (202) 319-5244

I.  Policy


Pursuant to the Safety and Protection of the Environment Policy, members of the University community are responsible for assisting the University in maintaining a safe and healthful place to learn and work, compliance with federal and local laws, campus environmental health and safety standards, and policies in the activities and areas under their control.

The Principal Investigator of a laboratory has primary responsibility for promoting health and safety therein. Nevertheless, all Laboratory Personnel (defined below) are responsible for knowing and following the requirements set forth in this policy, and in the Environmental Health and Safety Manual, regarding laboratory safety and security.  Violations of this policy can result in serious injury or loss of University assets, and may result in disciplinary action.

II. Definitions


A.  Laboratory, for the purposes of this policy means, University spaces where research or educational activities are undertaken that involve the use of:

  1. Radiation, lasers, power tools, sharps/needles, welding equipment, or other devices or machinery with the potential for physical injury;
  2. Toxins, pathogens, animals or other living organisms; or
  3. Chemicals, flammable substances or other hazardous materials.

The term laboratory does not include spaces referred to as laboratories or labs unless such spaces otherwise meet the criteria above.

B.  Laboratory Personnelmeans Principal Investigators, laboratory managers, research assistants, visiting scholars, or other University faculty, staff, students, or interns working in a laboratory.

C. Principal Investigator, for the purposes of this policy, means an individual, regardless of title, who is responsible for the design and conduct of research conducted in a laboratory.

C. Qualified University Employeemeans Laboratory Personnel and any University employee expressly authorized to enter or perform work in a laboratory (e.g. repair or maintenance personnel).  For the purposes of this policy, “University employee” includes long-term contractors hired to perform University functions related to laboratory safety and management (e.g. laboratory inspections, safety training, waste management, etc.) 

III. Laboratory Safety


The health and safety of individuals working in or near University laboratories is of paramount importance. The Principal Investigator of a laboratory serves as the Chemical Hygiene Officer for that laboratory, and as such has primary responsibility for promoting health and safety therein. However, all Laboratory Personnel must share that responsibility.  Accordingly, to promote health and safety, and to comply with applicable regulations governing activities that take place in laboratories, all Laboratory Personnel must be familiar with the following requirements.

A. Familiarity with University Procedures


All Laboratory Personnel must be familiar with the provisions applicable to laboratory activities as set forth in the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Manual.  The Manual provides guidance and requirements including, but not limited to the following important areas:

  • Handling, storage and disposal of hazardous materials
  • Radiation safety
  • Biosafety
  • Chemical safety and toxicology
  • Laser safety
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)

B.  Required Training


Prior to beginning work in a laboratory, and annually thereafter, all Laboratory Personnel are required to undergo laboratory safety training as provided by Environmental Health and Safety or other designated personnel.  Laboratory Personnel also must complete any required training pertaining to the specific activities undertaken in the laboratory prior to undertaking such activities.  The Principal Investigator for the specific laboratory must confirm that all Laboratory Personnel have completed required training. Classroom laboratory instructors must train students on applicable hazards and proper safety procedures.

C. Accidents, Injuries and Illnesses


In the event of an accident, injury or illness in the laboratory, contact the Department of Public Safety immediately at tel. (202) 319-5111.  Public Safety will notify the appropriate personnel per the University’s Campus Security Notification List. See Environmental Health and Safety Manual – Accidents, Injuries and Illnesses for further information.

D. Laboratory Security


Laboratories contain valuable research equipment, samples, work in progress, notes and data. They also contain potentially hazardous materials, such as chemicals, biological agents, and radioactive substances. All of these University assets must be protected from unauthorized access or removal, theft, or mishandling.

The Principal Investigator of a laboratory has primary responsibility for protecting these University assets. However, all Laboratory Personnel, as well as Qualified University Employees who access the laboratories, must take precautions to protect against unauthorized access or removal, theft, or mishandling of items found in the laboratories as set forth below. Security measures should correspond to the potential risks in the specific laboratory.

Research and/or other activities involving the use of laboratory space, materials, or equipment may only be undertaken with the knowledge and approval of the responsible Principal Investigator.

In order to safeguard laboratories and the data/materials contained therein, all Laboratory Personnel are, at a minimum, to comply with the security requirements set forth below.

E. Security Requirements

  • Limit access to laboratories.  Keep laboratory doors closed and locked unless a Qualified University Employee (defined above) is actually present.
  • Question the presence of unfamiliar/suspicious individuals in laboratories and/or building common areas. Report all such persons and/or suspicious activity immediately to Public Safety at tel. (202) 319-5111.
  • Report any disruptive individual immediately to the Department of Public Safety at tel. (202) 319-5111.  Disruptive individuals may be removed from laboratories per the University’s Employee Responsibility PolicyCode of Student Conduct, and Removal of Student from a Course for Disruptive Behavior Policy.
  • Normally, laboratory building exterior doors are secured after designated business hours. To minimize the likelihood of unauthorized access, all after-hours building users must:
  • Avoid providing building access to unfamiliar individuals
  • Secure doors behind themselves
  • Report any building security issues to the Department of Public Safety immediately after securing their own safety
  • Do not give laboratory keys to contractors who are not Qualified University Employees; such contractors doing work in a laboratory must be let in and periodically monitored by a Qualified University Employee

F. Requirements for Security Documents, Data, Equipment and Materials

  • Secure important research documents, equipment and experimental materials (e.g., lab notebooks, samples, hazardous substances) in locked areas.
  • Secure devices capable of storing sensitive information or data (such as computer disks, magnetic tape, flash drives, smartphones, or tablets) in locked areas.
  • The Principal Investigator or his or her designee must maintain a detailed, inventory of all chemical, biological, radioactive or other regulated substances kept in the laboratory and have it readily available for review.
  • Secure access to your computer, and report suspected unauthorized access in accordance with the University’s Information Security and Assurance Policy.
  • Report potentially missing materials, documents, samples, etc., immediately to the Principal Investigator upon discovery.  Once the Principal Investigator has confirmed the loss, the Principal Investigator should report it to the Department of Public Safety at tel. 202-319-5111.  Report missing data immediately to Technology Services or the Department of Public Safety.