Chemical Safety

Ensuring the safe and compliant use of chemicals on campus.

Acetone Fire

July 31, 2008
What happened?

A student worker in a Berkeley campus laboratory was refilling squirt bottles with acetone from a larger dispensing container when he spilled approximately one cup of acetone liquid onto the floor. Due to lack of training, and/or an error in judgment, the student lit the acetone with a match to burn it off instead of following proper spill clean-up procedures. While doing so, the student accidentally knocked over another uncapped squirt bottle on the benchtop that was filled with acetone. This additional acetone ignited and set-off the fire sprinklers in the room,...

Oleylamine Chemical Burn

December 31, 2008
What happened? A laboratory researcher suffered a delayed chemical burn after only a few drops of a highly corrosive organic chemical splattered on his unprotected left forearm. The burns first appeared hours after exposure, got worse overnight, and eventually required treatment at a hospital.

forearm with spotted chemical burns

The researcher's forearm


Accidental Mixing of Bleach and Acid

October 31, 2009
What Happened?

A researcher working in a laboratory glassware washing area thought she should refresh the bleach solution for soaking lab glassware. In an "inattentive moment" she added fresh bleach to what she thought was the bleach soaking tub; unfortunately the tub did not contain bleach but contained 5% hydrochloric acid. The acid solution (with bleach) immediately turned from clear to yellow. She quickly realized that bleach and acid should never be mixed because toxic chlorine gas can be created. She immediately had everyone leave the room; she considered calling 911, but since...

Chemical Inventory 2020 Expectations

August 13, 2020

As a reminder, chemical inventory and door hazard signs should continue to be updated for both emergency response and regulatory purposes. However, we understand that it may be difficult to perform a full survey of your group's inventory due to the constraints and limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, we ask that you update only significant changes in your inventory. EH&S will continue to check the dates on door hazard signs during lab inspections, and...

Glove Selection Guide

Follow these steps to choose the appropriate type of protective glove for your job. The Glove Selection Chart also provides advantages and disadvantages for specific glove types. This guidance was prepared for laboratory researchers but may also be helpful for other people working with hazardous materials.

Once selected, glove use requirements for your lab should be posted in your Chemical Hygiene Plan flipchart under the Standard Operating Procedures section.See below for the...

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.

My lab has a permit to work with “select agents.” What Federal Agency regulations must I meet to determine whether a permit to transfer is required?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the USDA are Federal Agencies that authorize the use and transfer of Select Agents and Toxins. Please note that even when not required to request a permit to transfer, you may still be required to meet other notification filings. After determining permit requirements, the transport of select agents and toxins are subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)...

Flammable Liquid Transfer Guidelines

Step 1 - What is the liquid you plan to transfer?

Determine the flashpoint of the liquid:

Flashpoint/Boiling point CFC classification GHS classification Examples <73°F(23°C)/<100°F(38°C) Flammable liquid, Class IA Flammable liquid, Category 1 Ether, pentane <73°F(23°C)/>100°F(38°C) Flammable liquid, Class IB Flammable liquid, Category 2 Acetone, ethanol, isopropanol, gasoline, methanol, toluene 73°F(23°C) - 100°F(38°C) Flammable liquid, Class IC Flammable...

How are chemicals relocated or disposed during decommissioning?

Chemicals will have to be moved or removed by a qualified contractor managed by EH&S. It’s possible that EH&S can help move small amounts of chemicals, but will have to be determined.

Chemical transportation is regulated by US Department of Transportation standards and must never be conducted with personal vehicles or department/campus vehicles.

Chemical disposal requires EH&S signatures. Signing disposal manifests by unapproved personnel is a legal violation resulting in citations from the California Environmental Protection Agency.

How do I properly clean a lab or shop for deactivation?

Lab and shop deactivation is dependent on the history of work or research conducted in the space.

Chemical decontamination of spaces and equipment may be done by the following personnel:

Laboratory supervisors, researchers, or investigators who can effectively disinfect the equipment themselves and provide certification by signing EH&S’ Facilities/Equipment Decontamination Clearance Certification. Hazardous Materials contractors approved to provide such services to the campus, managed by EH...