Safe Practices and Waste Management in Chemistry Laboratories

The chemistry laboratory has hazards that are less common in everyday life. It is essential that all students, instructors, laboratory assistants, teaching assistants and researchers are aware of the hazards, knowledgeable of the location and operation of the emergency facilities available in the lab and familiar with procedures in the event of an emergency. The following links provide detailed instructions.

Department of Chemistry Safety Instructions

Department of Chemistry Waste Handling Guidelines

Worksafe BC

WorkSafe BC Laboratory Health and Safety Handbook

UVic Emergency Planning

UVic Occupational Heath, Safety and Environment 

Overnight Reaction Sheet - printable form. Notice required to be posted near each reaction left unattended overnight.

The safe practices for the Department of Chemistry presented below represent a synopsis of the information available in the links above.

Incident reporting

Report all emergencies, injuries, accidents, near-misses, etc., to a supervisor using a UVic incident report form (

Personal safety and the safety of others

  • Do not eat or drink in a laboratory.
  • Do not enter a laboratory if your judgement is impaired due to consuming alcohol, cannabis products or other drugs.
  • Do not work alone in a chemistry laboratory without permission and written instructions from your supervisor, including a procedure for regular checking on the coworker.
  • Do not enter a laboratory without wearing appropriate eye protection. Contact lenses are not recommended in the chemistry laboratory.
  • Do not work in a laboratory without wearing a lab coat, clothing that covers the entire leg, shoes that completely cover the feet and long hair tied.
  • When performing experiments that require gloves, remove the gloves and leave them in the laboratory and do not wear them outside of the laboratory.
  • Use an appropriate transport container when a sample(s) is (are) transported from one laboratory to another via a corridor.   

First Aid Kit

Each chemistry laboratory has a First Aid Kit. Identify the location and contents of the kit before starting work in a laboratory. In the event of an injury, no matter how minor, call Campus Security (7599) or 911 for assistance. In the event of an injury, a coworker, instructor or teaching assistant who has First Aid training should provide basic First Aid while waiting for assistance.

Emergency Shower

There are emergency showers in all chemistry laboratories. Identify the location of the shower before starting work in a laboratory and become familiar with its operation. A person who has been splashed with corrosive liquid or solvent should be quickly doused under the shower. Call for assistance immediately.

Eyewash Fountain

There are eyewash fountains in all chemistry laboratories. Identify the location of the eyewash before starting work in a laboratory and become familiar with its operation. When material has been splashed into the face, call for assistance immediately and flush the eyes for a minimum of twenty minutes.

Fire Extinguishers

Each chemistry laboratory contains a number of fire extinguishers. Identify the location of before starting work in a laboratory. The CO2 extinguishers can be quickly identified by the large black nozzle. This type of extinguisher is used for organic liquid fires and minor electrical fires. Do not use a CO2 extinguisher on sodium, potassium, or metal hydride fires, which should be covered in sand, available in red buckets sand in each laboratory.

All Purpose (ABC) Dry Chemical Extinguishers can be quickly identified by the small nozzle and pressure gauge. To operate this type of extinguisher, pull the pin on the side of the handgrip, direct the nozzle at the base of the flames and squeeze the handgrip. This type is useful for all fires. The exceptions are sodium, potassium, or metal hydride fires, for which sand should be used.

Please report use of a fire extinguisher, however minor, to the Chemistry Main Office.

Spill Kit

Spill kits are used to soak up a small liquid spill, the location and contents of which must be identified by every worker or student when first starting work in a laboratory. In the event of a chemical spill, call for assistance and notify the supervisor of the lab. Follow the instructions on the spill kit. Store the absorbent containing the liquid in a container in the fume hood.


Identify the location of the safe/emergency exits (posted in the lobby areas and near exits in all buildings) before starting work in a laboratory. If the fire alarm sounds, make your experiment safe and pull out all plugs from the electrical sockets. Leave the building by the nearest exit and go directly to one of the assembly points at the fountain or on the grass between the Petch Building and the Elliott Lecture Building. Never use the elevator when the fire alarm sounds.

If a fire starts in the laboratory, sound the fire alarm, call 911, clear the immediate area of people, if you are in doubt that you can extinguish the fire, evacuate. Personal safety must be the priority in an emergency. Do not re-enter the building until an emergency coordinator has indicated that it is safe to do so.


In the event of an earthquake duck, cover and hold-on. When the shaking has stopped, evacuate the building as in the case of the fire alarm sounding. Watch for falling debris, both inside and outside of the building. Keep well away from any structures, trees and fallen power lines. Be prepared for aftershocks. Assemble with others in one group and be prepared to identify yourself to the emergency coordinator. Know the evacuation routes, and where the emergency assembly points are located, for the building. These are posted in the lobby areas and near exits in all buildings.

Cell Phones and Ear Phones

Cell phones may be used on occasion to access the internet during undergraduate laboratory classes, but should otherwise be turned off. Ear phones should not be worn in chemistry laboratories.

Hazardous Chemicals and Waste Management

Some compounds are toxic, flammable or reactive. Before using a compound, acquire the necessary information so that you are knowledgeable of the potential hazards, how to minimize risk, and appropriate waste disposal procedures. Do not dispose of chemicals down the sink.

Consider the six categories of chemistry laboratory waste for which the laboratory has a separate waste container:

Landfill. Paper towels, non-recyclable paper.

Glass. Cleaned broken glass and non-recyclable glass.

Halogenated Organic Liquids.

Non-halogenated Organic Liquids.

Solid Chemicals. Mostly ionic salts.

Aqueous Solutions. Acidic or basic solutions are neutralized and if they contain toxic cations, they are collected for disposal as hazardous waste.

The UVic Department of Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHSE) is responsible for the appropriate disposal of hazardous waste throughout the campus, and provide necessary guidelines and training.


Last updated: December 8, 2021