General Lab Safety

Students reviewing chemicals

The responsibility for lab safety rests with each and every student in the laboratory. Common sense, careful work and awareness of the people around you are essential in preventing chemical spills, broken glassware, and fires. These precautions ensure not only your own safety, but that of everyone else in the lab.

Know the hazards of each chemical you use so that you will know what precautions to use when handling it. If you do this, you will minimize your exposure to harmful amounts of chemicals during your semester(s) in chem lab.

If an accident does happen, you must take steps to prevent further injury. Most accidents are minor, and methods of dealing with them are detailed in the sections below. In the event of a serious accident, remember that injured people are often in shock and are unable to help themselves. You should be prepared to help your neighbor in case of an accident; a matter of seconds can be critical!

First aid kits are also available in every academic and research chemistry lab. For academic labs, first aid kits are clearly labeled with signs in one of the top cubbies near the entrance to the lab. For research labs, talk to the lead professor(s) for the lab, and they will indicate where they store their first aid kits.


Following common sense and extending courtesy are the key factors in acting safely in the lab! Conduct yourself with awareness of everyone around you, and familiarize yourself fully (in advance!) with the experiment being performed. Put things back where you find them (reagents, supplies), and be sure to keep your work area clean and uncluttered. Clean up spills or broken glassware immediately and quickly. Be sure to dispose of broken glass properly. (See the section on Handling Broken Glass for more details.)

Food and drink are not permitted in the lab. Smoking is not allowed in the lab, or in any building on campus. Never taste anything in the lab. Never directly smell anything; if you need to detect an odor, use your cupped hand to waft a small sample to your nose. Do not inhale vapors, sniff just enough to detect the odor (if there is one).

Performing experiments unsupervised is not allowed! Also, do not perform any unauthorized experiments in the lab; if you are curious about a procedure not covered in the day's experiment, consult your instructor or TA. If you need to make up a previous lab, consult your instructor. The stockroom will not give out chemicals other than those used in that day's experiment(s).

Exercise good hygiene! Always wash your hands before you leave the lab room, especially before you eat or use the restroom.

Please see the following section on Chemical Safety and Safe Handling of Chemicals.

Attire - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Dress sensibly and safely for the lab! The proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) adds layers of defense between you and a potentially hazardous situation. PPE includes googles, lab coats, gloves and other materials used to protect your person from the environment. It is required that you wear a laboratory coat during your lab. Due to their lack of protection, shorts and skirts are not recommended in the laboratory. Open sandals or bare feet are forbidden in the laboratory; you must wear closed-toe shoes. If you have long hair, tie it back to keep it away from fire and chemicals. Bracelets, necklaces, neckties, and similar loose items are discouraged, as they may create a hazardous situation.

1. Eye Safety: Goggles required at all times in active labs

Picture of Acceptable Safety Goggles

The most important personal protective equipment is EYE PROTECTION!! ALL PERSONS IN THE LABORATORY MUST WEAR GOGGLES WITH IMPACT AND SPLASH PROTECTION, whenever any chemicals or experimental equipment are in use or on the benches anywhere in the laboratory. This includes the full laboratory period except during introductory discussions by the instructor, or after all experiments are done and all equipment and chemicals are stored.

Full-coverage splash and impact goggles (compliant with ANSI Z87.1-1989) must be worn. These are available from the Geneseo bookstore in the union. Ordinary plastic safety glasses or impact-only goggles are not acceptable. See here to find out more about Eye Protection. If you forget your goggles, you may rent a pair from the stockroom, for $1.00, for the duration of your lab period.


2. Body Safety: Lab Coats are required for labs

Phot of a Lab Coat

Wearing a lab coat is necessary for lab. ALL PERSONS IN THE LABORATORY MUST WEAR A LAB COAT whenever any chemicals or experimental equipment are in use. As with goggles, this includes the full laboratory period except during introductory discussions by the instructor, or after all the experiments are done and all equipment and chemicals are stored. The lab coat is only a layer of defense and does not provide complete protection from all chemicals in the lab. Lab coats provide protection against incidental contact with chemicals, but they do NOT protect you from prolonged or repeated exposure. Should you forget to bring your own lab coat to lab, the stockroom does offer a disposable lab coat for $1.00.


3. Glove Safety: Gloves are required for organic and advanced labs, and highly recommended for intro chem labs

Nitrile Glove Example

Disposable nitrile gloves are highly recommended in some labs and necessary for others. Refer to your instructor if you have any questions. The gloves are intended only as a safety measure and will not guarantee your safety simply by wearing them! This cannot be overstated! Many students believe that wearing a pair of thin gloves somehow confers complete protection from all chemicals in the lab--this is not the case! Gloves provide protection against incidental contact with chemicals, but they do NOT protect you from prolonged or repeated exposure with solvents or corrosives; such chemicals actually degrade the glove on contact. Gloves should be changed every 20 minutes, in order to insure that they are not compromised. Should you forget to bring your own gloves to lab, the stockroom does supply gloves at a charge: 3 pairs for $5. We only sell gloves in sets of 3 pairs.


4. Shoe Safety: Close-toed shoes are required in all chem labs

Shoe with covered toes

Closed-toed shoes must be worn for all labs; bare feet, sandals, open-toed and/or open-top (i.e. ballerina shoes) are strictly prohibited.  ALL PERSONS IN THE LABORATORY MUST WEAR CLOSE-TOED SHOES for the entirety of the scheduled lab period. The stockroom doesn't keep extra pairs of shoes laying around for you to borrow; if you come to class wearing the wrong shoes, you will be sent home.

Special Health Concerns

If you are aware that you have any medical conditions which might be affected by chem lab work (allergies to specific chemicals, drugs or UV light, asthma or other health problems), or which might affect safe performance of lab work (seizure disorders, for example), please consult your doctor and the course instructor before taking any chemistry lab.

If you are pregnant, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your status with your instructor and your doctor. You and your instructor may then request a list of chemicals used in the laboratory from Dan in the Chemistry stockroom, and we will give you access to a list of chemicals used for the course, along with the associated SDS/MSDSs so as to offer you the opportunity to have a fully informed discussion with your doctor. You may be asked to complete a Pregnancy Advisement Form. Please discuss any questions you may have with the Lab Instructor, your doctor and/or the SUNY Geneseo Office of Accessibility Services.

Reporting a Problem

All accidents involving students (in class, while working, or just hanging out in the hallway) shall be promptly reported to SUNY Geneseo's campus police at x5651 if dialing from a campus phone. If dialing from a mobile phone, call 585.245.5651. The professor and/or stockroom personnel calling campus police may ask your name, the nature of the injury (if not obvious), and if you think you need further medical assistance (if you can't report any of these things, we will assume you DO need further medical assistance). This information will then be relayed to campus police so an officer may follow up in person with a student accident report form. SDS/MSDS for any knowns used in the class will be available to the student upon request. Unknown(s) SDS/MSDS must be requested from the instructor.

For accidents and injuries that do not involve students, and instead involve faculty or staff, there is an Accident Report Form (For faculty/staff use only!), which can be obtained from either the Stockroom or the Chemistry office. If the accident involves exposure to a hazardous chemical or chemicals, the specific chemical(s) must be identified on the form, and the SDS/MSDS(s) made available to the Faculty/Staff to carry on to the medical care giver if the individual chooses to seek further medical attention.  A responsible contact person who is knowledgeable about the incident must be identified on the form. The injured personnel must sign the form as indicated.

All accidents involving students must be reported immediately to Campus Police by dialing x5651 (585.245.5651) from a campus phone. For faculty/Staff, any major or serious accidents should be reported immediately University Police (dial 911). Additional reporting shall be to the Chemistry Stockroom (ISC 329, ext. 5318) or the Chemistry Department office (CB 213, ext. 5314), and if necessary to Environmental Health and Safety (ext. 5040).

A copy of the faculty/staff Accident Report Form shall be retained in the department and can also be found online.

Emergency Evacuation

In the event of an emergency evacuation from the ISC due to a fire alarm or another form of emergency, we ask you to do the following:

Campus Map of the Chemistry Evacuation Route

  • If you can easily turn off or stop an experiment (unplug, take off the heat, open a flask to prevent pressure buildup, etc.), please do so. Otherwise, alert your instructor, or your LI, if applicable.
  • Exit the lab calmly, take note to ensure your lab partner is accompanying you.
  • Go down the nearest UNOBSTRUCTED stairwell (do NOT use an elevator). If you need assistance, alert your instructor or Stockroom personnel and ask for help. You will be assisted.
  • Exit the building.  
  • Proceed to the Chemistry evacuation point, which for the ISC is the grass BEHIND the Greenhouses, next to the intersection of University Dr. and Wadsworth St.  
    • DO NOT loiter at the door of the ISC or in the parking lot. Doing so obstructs the way of emergency personnel and others who are evacuating.
  • Stay together with your class section so that your instructor can take roll call. If you cannot find your lab partner and expect them to be there, alert your instructor.
  • Disperse or re-enter the building only when your instructor gives the all clear.

Image courtesy of Google Maps

Report a Safety Risk

The Environmental Health and Safety office at SUNY Geneseo offers an online tool to report perceived safety risks in any campus space.  You may access the Safety and Risk Reporting Form on the EHS hosted Report a Safety Risk page.

SUNY Geneseo Chemistry Safety Documents and Forms

All required Stockroom and Lab forms can be found in the Check-In Paperwork & Safety Documents section of the website.