Discovery of an Old Container of Potentially Explosive Chemical

June 30, 2008

What Happened?

While working in a UC Berkeley laboratory, a graduate student discovered the presence of an old experimental set-up, which was labeled as containing a small amount of hydrazoic acid, in a shared cold room with no responsible contact person. This material is a potentially explosive chemical under certain circumstances, so the student referred the set-up to the Department Safety Coordinator (DSC). The DSC requested the assistance of EH&S who recommended that the set-up be disposed of by an explosives material contractor because very little was known about the source and nature of the material. The disposal was performed after hours at a significant cost to the department.

Lessons Learned

  • Rooms, where chemicals and laboratory set-ups are present, should be assigned to a responsible person to periodically inspect for safety issues as well as to perform and submit an annual chemical inventory to EH&S.
  • All students who use shared rooms should practice good housekeeping and avoid clutter. Chemicals no longer in use should be disposed of in a timely manner through EH&S.
  • All materials stored in shared rooms should be properly labeled, including information on the user.


Safe Storage of Hazardous Chemicals Booklet
Fact Sheet: Clutter as a Laboratory Safety Concern
Chemical Inventory