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Safety Manual

Table of Contents

Academic chemistry laboratories are potentially very dangerous places. Considering the turnover of hundreds of students who must be taught to handle toxic, flammable and explosive compounds often under abnormal conditions of temperature and pressure, it is obvious that there is little margin for error or carelessness even in the undergraduate teaching laboratories. In the research laboratories many operations require pushing the handling of unknown materials or high powered equipment to extreme limits. However, long experience within the discipline of chemistry has proved that, with appropriate foresight and care, almost any kind of a chemical experiment can be carried out without an accident. The keys to safe operations in the chemistry laboratory are:

  1. a strong, persistent will to prevent accidents which puts safety first,
  2. adequate information and training to foresee and prevent accidents,
  3. a regular program for identifying and dealing with hazards of all kinds within the total environment of the laboratories and carefully developed plans for dealing with emergency situations when, and if, they arise.

Regarding the above:

  1. A strong will to work safely is such an important aspect of scientific training that it should be taken for granted of anyone with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry.
  2. Detailed information needed for handling hazardous operations is available in a variety of excellent books. Many of these books are listed in the bibliography at the end of this manual.
  3. The Duke Chemistry Department's Safety Program operates under the University and the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office (OESO). See http://www.safety.duke.edu for more information.

An additional detailed source, "Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals" prepared by the National Research Council can be downloaded as a free PDF from the National Academies Press. This should be made available by the group Safety Officer for ready reference. Also each research group is responsible for developing a Chemical Hygiene Plan. This plan includes but is not limited to an Introduction to the Hazard Communication Standard, the Laboratory Standard, the University Hazardous Waste Policy, A Guide to the Safe Use of Peroxide-Forming Compounds, and laboratory inventory lists of toxic substances and carcinogens. More information about Chemical Hygiene can be found at Duke's OESO website: http://www.safety.duke.edu/ohs/ChemHygiene.htm.  The present safety manual is a short, ready reference to some of the most common and immediate dangers and also the rules and procedures for reacting to emergencies in this Department. It is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of laboratory safety. [This page was last revised for French Family Science Center on 08/07//09.]