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Overview of the Laboratory Standard


Hazardous chemicals present physical or health threats to workers in university laboratories. They include carcinogens, toxins, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers, hepatotoxins, nephrotoxins, neurotoxins as well as agents that act on the hematopoietic systems or damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently has rules that limit exposures to approximately 400 substances.

Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.1450, Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, covers all workers using hazardous chemicals in laboratories, including laboratory employees at University of Wisconsin System campuses. This is commonly known as the Laboratory Standard.

OSHA Laboratory Safety Guidance, Annotated for UW-System
OSHA Laboratory Safety Guidance, Annotated for UW-System

This document is intended for supervisors, principal investigators and managers who have the primary responsibility for maintaining laboratories under their supervision as safe, healthy places to work and for ensuring that applicable health, safety and environmental regulations are followed.


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Areas and personnel affected

The Laboratory Standard applies to most UW System laboratories using hazardous chemicals. Two definitions are helpful in understanding where this regulation will apply.

“Laboratory use” means performing chemical procedures using small quantities of hazardous chemicals on a laboratory scale and not as part of a production process in an environment where protective laboratory practices and equipment are in common use.

“Laboratory scale” means work with substances in which the containers used for reactions, transfers, and other handling of substances are designed to be easily and safety manipulated by one person. “Laboratory scale” excludes those workplaces whose function is to produce commercial quantities of materials.

Specifically, the laboratory standard applies to employees in laboratories meeting the following criteria:

  • A facility where the “laboratory use” of hazardous chemicals occurs.
  • A workplace where relatively small amounts of hazardous chemicals are used on a non-production basis.
  • Chemical manipulations are carried out on a “laboratory scale;”
  • Multiple chemical procedures or chemicals are used
  • Procedures are not part of a production process , nor in any way simulate a production process
  • Protective practices and equipment are available and minimize the potential for employee exposure to hazardous chemicals.

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Written program — Chemical Hygiene Plan

A campus must develop and implement a written Chemical Hygiene Plan to protect laboratory employees covered by the Laboratory Standard. In addition to appropriate safety and health procedures and hygiene practices for hazardous chemicals in laboratories, the plan must include the following:

  • Criteria for reducing employee exposure to hazardous chemicals;
  • Use of personal protective equipment;
  • Requirements that ensure fume hoods and other protective equipment are functioning properly;
  • Provisions for employee training;
  • Circumstances requiring employer approval of certain laboratory operations, procedures, or activities before implementation;
  • Provisions for medical consultation;
  • Measures to protect employees from particularly hazardous substances (see separate webpage); and
  • Assignment of a Chemical Hygiene Officer.

Chemical Hygiene Plan examples

UW-Madison — Provides a basic template.

UW River Falls — Chemical Hygiene Plan

UW-Eau Claire — Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Guidelines; Chemistry Department

UW-Green Bay — Chemical Hygiene Plan


Training and employee information

UW System campuses must provide employees with information and training that ensures their awareness of the chemical hazards used in their work area. The campus also must provide this information when an employee is initially assigned to a work area where hazardous chemicals are present and before assignments involving new exposure situations.

Information — campuses must inform employees of the following:

  • Contents of the occupational exposure standard and its appendices;
  • Location and availability of the employer’s chemical hygiene plan;
  • PELs for the hazardous substances to which employees are exposed;
  • Signs and symptoms associated with exposures to hazardous chemicals used in the laboratory; and
  • Location and availability of known reference material on the chemical hazards, and their safe handling, storage, and disposal including, but not limited to, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) received from chemical suppliers.

Training — campuses must train employees on the following:

  • Methods of detecting the presence or release of a hazardous chemical;
  • Hazards (both physical and health) of chemicals in the work area;
  • Measures that workers and their employers can take to protect employees from hazards, including specific procedures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as appropriate work practices, emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment; and
  • Details of the employer’s written chemical hygiene plan.

Examples of training and program information

University of Wisconsin System campus employees can contact the Office of Risk Management at UW System Administration for assistance with training program material.

Examples of training packages that cover laboratory safety and include aspects of chemical hygiene plans:

UW-Eau Claire — Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Guidelines; Chemistry Department

UW-Green Bay — Chemical Hygiene Plan

Vanderbilt University

Tufts University — Chemical Safety page, includes CHP.

American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) — Laboratory Safety Training Program Content Examples

University of Houston — General Laboratory Safety Manual

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Regulations, interpretations and standards

Chapter Chapter SPS 332, Public Employee Safety and Health of the Wisconsin Administrative Code adopts the OSHA General Industry Standard (29 CFR 1910) and the OSHA Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926). The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) has enforcement authority over these regulations.


29 CFR 1910.1450, Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories

  • Appendix A, National research council recommendations concerning chemical hygiene in laboratories (Non-mandatory)
  • Appendix B, References (Non-mandatory)

OSHA Letters of Interpretation.

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) has additional requirements for use of chemical ventilation hoods at SPS 332.24 (6). See the “Other provisions of the regulation: Ventilation” section below for more information.

Consensus Standards

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

  • Z358.1-2004, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment. Contains provisions regarding the design, performance, installation, use and maintenance of various types of emergency equipment (showers, eye washes, drench hoses, etc.). In addition to these provisions, there are some general considerations that apply to all emergency equipment.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)

  • Z9.5-2003, Laboratory Ventilation. Intended for use by employers, architects, occupational and environmental health and safety professionals, and others concerned with the control of exposure to airborne contaminants. It includes new chapters on performance tests, air cleaning, preventative maintenance, and work practices. It also highlights the standard’s requirements and offers good practices for laboratories to follow.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

  • 110-1995, Method of Testing the Performance of Laboratory Hoods. Specifies a quantitative test procedure for evaluation of a laboratory fume hood. A tracer gas is released at prescribed rates and positions in the hood and monitored in the breathing zone of a mannequin at the face of the hood. Based on the release rate of the tracer gas and average exposure to the mannequin, a performance rating is achieved.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

  • NFPA 45, Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals, 2004 Edition. Applies to laboratories in which hazardous chemicals are handled or stored.

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Other provisions of the regulation


The Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) enforces additional requirements for laboratory fume hoods. It requires that operable fume hoods must be tested annually for minimum average face velocity, and it offers two options for appropriate face velocities and alarms:

  1. General requirements
  • During use, laboratory fume hoods must be operated with a minimum average 100 feet per minute face velocity at full open sash or sash stop position (as determined with the sash stop position may not be lower than 18 inches above the work surface).
  • Alarms: Vertical sash fume hoods operated at sash stop positions shall have an alarm that gives a warning when the sash is raised above the sash stop position. Combination vertical/horizontal sash fume hoods shall have an alarm that gives a warning when the sash is vertically raised from the fully lowered position.
  1. Alternative requirements (in lieu of general requirements above)
  • Face velocity: Fume hoods operating at minimum average face velocities less than 100 feet per minute shall achieve a spillage rate less than 0.1 ppm at 4.0 liters per minute gas release for an “as used” condition in accordance with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standard 110 − Method of Testing Laboratory Fume Hoods. The minimum allowable average face velocity for fume hoods achieving the ASHRAE 110 containment criteria shall be 40 feet per minute at full open sash.
  • Alarms: Fume hoods operating at minimum average face velocities less than 100 feet per minute shall have a continuous flow meter with an alarm.

10 Fume Hood Myths: a paper by Thomas E. Wilson, PE

Monitoring of employee exposures

The Laboratory Standard requires employers to keep employee exposures at or below the permissible exposure limits (PELS) specified in the standard on air contaminants and in other substance-specific health standards (see the Final Limits columns on the 1992 version of CFR 1910.1000, Table Z in effect for Wisconsin public sector employees).

Regular instrumental monitoring of airborne concentrations is not usually justified or practical in laboratories but may be appropriate when testing or redesigning hoods or other ventilation devices, or when a highly toxic substance is stored or used regularly.

If evidence suggests that employee exposures to harmful substances are routinely above the action level for the substance, then the campus must periodically measure these exposures.

If the exposures are routinely above the action level, you must conduct periodic monitoring of employees for that substance.

Particularly hazardous substances

One of the requirements of the standard is that a laboratory’s Chemical Hygiene Plan must include provisions for additional employee protection for work with particularly hazardous substances. The definition of particularly hazardous substances includes three categories:

  • select carcinogens,
  • reproductive toxins, and
  • substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity.

For more detailed information, please review our webpage on particularly hazardous substances.

Medical consultation and examinations

The campus must provide all employees who work with hazardous chemicals the opportunity to receive medical attention, including any follow-up examinations that the examining licensed physician decides are necessary. Employees must receive any medical examinations and consultations without cost or loss of pay and at a reasonable time and place.

The campus must provide certain information to the physician, including the identity of the hazardous chemicals, a description of the conditions under which the exposure occurred, and a description of the signs and symptoms of exposure that the employee is experiencing.

Hazard labels and information

The campus must ensure that labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals are not removed or defaced. You must also retain MSDSs on incoming hazardous chemicals and make them available to laboratory employees.

Respirator use

If engineering, administrative, and work practice controls fail to maintain exposures below PELs, employees must use respirators to achieve that end. The campus must provide appropriate respiratory protection at no cost to employees, provide appropriate training and education regarding its use, and ensure that employees use it properly.


The campus must establish and maintain for each employee an accurate record of any measurements taken to monitor employee exposure and any medical consultation and examination including tests or written opinions.

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Related safety program areas

  • Hazard communication
  • Toxic and hazardous substances, air contaminants
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)

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Reference material, files, and websites


Prudent Practices in the Laboratory; Committee on Prudent Practices for Handling, Storage and Disposal of Chemicals in Laboratories; National Academy Press.

Sax’s Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials; Lewis, Richard J.; John Wiley & Sons.

Handbook of Laboratory Health and Safety; John Wiley & Sons.


Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR): Toxic Substances Portal

American Chemical Society: Division of Chemical Health & Safety archives

National Library of Medicine: Enviro-Health Links – Laboratory Safety




“The challenges and opportunities of the Chemical Hygiene Officer”; Ralph Stuart; Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, Volume 16, Issue 1, January-February 2009, Pages 11-15

“The Chemical Hygiene Officer’s radiation protection primer”; Harry J. Elston; Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, Volume 15, Issue 1, January-February 2008, Pages 14-19

“CHO qualifications”; an editorial by H.J. Elston; Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, Volume 17, Issue 4, July-August 2010, Page 3


Laboratory Standard topics


Areas and personnel affected

Written program — Chemical hygiene plan

  • Chemical Hygiene Plan examples

Training and employee information

  • Training program material
  • Other material of interest

Regulations, interpretations and standards

  • OSHA
  • DSPS
  • Consensus Standards

Other provisions of the regulation

  • Ventilation
  • Monitoring of employee exposures
  • PHS
  • Medical consultation
  • Hazard labels and information
  • Respirator use
  • Recordkeeping

Related safety program areas

Reference material, files, and websites

Particularly hazardous substances