Lab Inspections

 Lab Safety General Lab Safety Inspection Program

EH&S lab safety specialists inspect labs with hazardous materials or operations. Labs within the College of Chemistry are inspected twice per year and all other labs annually. During inspections, lab safety specialists help researchers stay abreast of current safety requirements by providing consultation, support, and resources. Inspection topics for 2020 cover training, chemical safety, equipment safety, fire safety, and housekeeping.

What to Expect

For a closer look at what EH&S will be checking for in labs this year, see the inspection questions. Reviewing the EH&S lab self-inspection checklist is another good way to prepare for inspections. The department safety coordinator for each department or an EH&S lab safety specialist will reach out to each lab to schedule an inspection time. Contact the campus chemical hygiene officer at (510) 643-6381 or with any questions or concerns about the EH&S General Lab Safety Inspection Program.

After the Inspection

EH&S lab safety specialists will follow up with each lab regarding any issues that were noted during the inspection. It is the lab’s responsibility to correct issues, mark them as resolved, and provide proof of corrective action in the inspection report online. Labs have 30 days to resolve any issues, after which outstanding findings will be compiled quarterly and sent to the chair and dean of the appropriate academic unit for their review. The results of the inspections are subject to the UC Policy, Enforcement of Safety Standards in Academic Environments, which provides a procedure to address persistent non-compliance in labs.

2020 General Lab Safety Inspection Questions

Download a PDF version

Administrative and Training

  1. Is the roster in Labs @ Berkeley (L@B) current?
  2. Have the PI and all lab members taken EHS 101: Lab Safety Fundamentals, or a refresher course, in the past three years?
  3. Have the PI and all lab members completed EHS 502: Workplace Safety Program?
  4. Has the PI certified the Lab Hazard Assessment Tool (LHAT) within the last year?
  5. Has the Laboratory Self-inspection been completed within the last year?
  6. Where appropriate, are process SOPs in use?

Chemical and Equipment Safety

  1. Are all hazardous waste containers labeled with current Hazardous Waste Program (HWP) labels?
  2. Are all hazardous waste containers kept closed except when adding waste?
  3. Are chemicals stored properly (incompatibles separated, inside flammable or corrosive cabinets as much as possible, no broken caps, clearly legible labels, etc.)?
  4. Are emergency eyewashes being flush tested monthly? (The campus is responsible for testing emergency showers annually.)
  5. Is access to emergency eyewashes and showers unobstructed?
  6. Is a current chemical inventory door sign posted outside the room?
  7. Are all compressed gas cylinders capped when not in use?
  8. Are cylinders over 26 inches tall secured to a rigid structure at 1/3 and 2/3 the height of the cylinder with non-combustible restraints? (One restraint for cylinders less than 26 inches)

Electrical and Engineering Safety

  1. Are outer sheaths of flexible cords undamaged?
  2. Are all experimental and/or machine guards/shields in place and secure?
  3. Are electrical lines and cords properly managed and not in walkways or places where they can be a tripping hazard? 
  4. Are built-in-lab motors, motor-control apparatus, and/or motor branch-circuit conductors protected against overheating due to motor overloads?

Fire Safety

(Issues reported in this section will be followed up by Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall.)

  1. Is 18 inches of clearance provided from the top of stored materials to the ceiling in laboratories with fire sprinklers (24 inches if no sprinklers are present)? (For all questions and follow-up issues regarding this item, please contact Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall,
  2. Are aisles and exits clear of obstructions and slip or trip hazards? (For all questions and follow-up issues regarding this item, please contact Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall,
  3. Does the group conduct and document monthly visual inspections for all fire extinguishers located in their lab spaces? (For all questions and follow-up issues regarding this item, please contact Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall,
  4. Is access to portable fire extinguishers free of obstructions? (For all questions and follow-up issues regarding this item, please contact Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall,
  5. Are incompatible gases adequately separated (e.g., oxygen and flammables)? (For all questions and follow-up issues regarding this item, please contact Fire Prevention Division member Megan Hall,

General Housekeeping

  1. Is there no evidence of food and/or drink in the laboratory, or areas where they are not permitted?
  2. Is the lab free of unavoidable clutter?
  3. Are items in the fume hood arranged to ensure adequate air flow?

Lab Safety Inspection FAQ

Why do I need to keep so much space between our stored materials and the ceiling?

For fire sprinklers to work properly, they must not be blocked in any way such that their spray pattern is impeded. There needs to be enough room for the spray from fire hoses to reach throughout the room. Any storage within 18” of sprinklered areas or 24” of non-sprinklered areas of the ceiling must remain clear, except when the storage is along a wall.

How far apart do incompatible gases need to be?

Flammable gases (e.g., hydrogen, methane, propane, acetylene) and oxygen (or other oxidizing gases) must be separated by 20 feet or by a non-combustible partition extending 18 inches above and to the sides of stored gas cylinders. Cylinders should be positioned so that the label with the name of the gas and its hazard is clearly visible. Gas cylinders are often difficult to reach; in an emergency, first responders need to see what they’re dealing with as quickly as possible.

It takes a lot of effort to keep aisles and exits clear in our busy, crowded lab. Why is it so important?

EH&S wants you to get out of your lab safely in an emergency. A good question to ask yourself is: “Could I quickly and safely get out of my lab in the dark?” Maintain a minimum of 36 inches clearance in aisles at all times and never block required exits with equipment, boxes, or other items (required exits have a lighted “exit” sign above the door).

What are some examples of protection against overheating triggered by motor overloads?

Some examples of protection against overheating include the implementation of Thermal Overload Relays (temperature sensors connected to a kill switch) which trigger automatically. Other examples include having emergency stops (E-stops); though this option would require the user to actively monitor conditions and engage the switch when boundaries are exceeded. Emergency Stop Button

What do I do when I encounter cords with damaged outer sheaths?

Flexible cords should be repaired or replaced if the outer sheath is damaged such that any conductor insulation or conductor is exposed. The use of electrical tape to repair cords with exposed wiring is not a substitute for insulation provided by an intact sheath. exposed wire

Why do I have to cap my gas cylinder?

The regulator and valve are vulnerable if the cylinder were to fall. Remove the regulator if the cylinder is not in use. Protect the valve with the cylinder cap to prevent the sudden release of gas under high pressure. The release of pressurized gas can cause the cylinder to become a projectile.

What type of restraints are used to adequately secure gas cylinders?

Go with metal chains/bands and racks made of Unistrut or other non-combustible material. Restraints should be positioned at approximately 1/3 and 2/3 the height of the cylinder. Chains should be tight enough so as to hold the cylinders in place and prevent it from falling over. Your inspector can help you determine if the cylinders are secure. gas cylinders chained to a wall

Why do I have to test my emergency eyewash?

Rust can accumulate in water pipes. Testing eyewashes ensure clean water is available in an emergency. Flush test your eyewashes on a monthly basis by slowly pushing the handle away from you until water is flowing freely and you see that the stream(s) will be able to effectively rinse your eyes. Let it run for 15 seconds. Mark the eyewash tag with your initials and the date; including the year. For eyewashes that do not have plumbed drains, use a small basin capable of holding the drained water while flush testing the eyewash for 15 seconds. All eyewashes, whether they have a drain...

When should I label my waste container?

Label your chemical waste container as soon as you start collecting waste. Every container must be labeled with a Hazardous Waste Program (HWP) label. Starting from the first day waste begins accumulating, you have six months before EH&S needs to come to pick it up.

Where can I find guidance on how to properly store chemicals?

Chemicals should always be segregated and stored based on their chemical class and compatibility. Storage requirements such as allocated area, shelving, cabinets and secondary storage should be taken into consideration. See the document Safe Storage of Hazardous Chemicals found on the Resources and Guides page for more information on this topic.

What is EHS 502: Workplace Safety Program and why do I have to take it?

California state regulations require every employer to have an effective injury prevention program. To satisfy this requirement, all lab personnel are required to complete EHS 502 - a one-time mandatory training that includes information on responsibilities, analyzing hazards and applying controls, what to do in a campus emergency, and resources available to promote a safer workplace.

What training can I access from the Labs At Berkeley (L@B)?

The following training can be accessed through the Labs At Berkeley (L@B): Lab Safety Fundamentals (EHS 101), Spill Response (EHS 206), Workplace Safety Program (EHS 502) and COVID-19 (EHS 207). Additional training may also be listed such as the Hazardous Waste Program and biological hazard training.