Lab Safety

Providing support, in the form of risk assessment, review, consultation(link sends e-mail), training, and the necessary resources and guidance for research at UC Berkeley.

Explosion of Concentrated Hydrofluoric Acid Waste Solution

June 30, 2008
What Happened?

A graduate student in a UC Berkeley laboratory discovered the aftermath of a chemical explosion upon arrival at the laboratory he shares with other graduate students. The extensive contamination was caused by the explosive rupture of a plastic bottle of liquid waste kept inside the hood. According to the container label, one of the components inside the ruptured bottle was hydrofluoric acid. The investigation revealed that an incompatible material may have been poured into the same container causing the reaction and resulting explosion. The hood, floor and walls near...

Exposure to Bromine During a Laboratory Refrigerator Clean-up

June 30, 2008
What Happened?

While performing a chemical inventory inside a laboratory refrigerator, a UC Berkeley graduate student observed the presence of condensate on the inside walls of the refrigerator. This student and two other graduate students proceeded to clean the refrigerator walls, assuming that the condensate was water. When one of the students noticed a bottle of 99% bromine had a small leak, clean-up was immediately stopped, a sign was posted on the door to keep away, and the Department Safety Coordinator (DSC) was notified of the accident. The DSC summoned EH&S clean-up...

Exposure to Poisonous Chemicals Due to Improper Storage and Unsafe Work Practices

June 30, 2008
What happened?

A graduate student working in a UC Berkeley laboratory needed a chemical from an overhead shelf. To reach the chemical, the student stood on tiptoe and leaned on the edge of a shelf. This pressure caused the shelf to shift and chemicals to fall. Among the bottles that fell were two that were covered with aluminum foil instead of the original screw-on caps. Those containers held strychnine powder and azure blue dye. The contents fell on the researcher, bench, and floor. The exposed researcher spent 15 minutes under a safety shower and then went to the Tang Center for...

Superconducting Magnet Explosion

July 31, 2008
What Happened?

A 9.4 Tesla superconducting magnet, used for mass spectroscopy in a campus laboratory recently suffered a catastrophic failure. The incident was apparently caused by over-pressurization and failure of the liquid helium (LHe) chamber. Although there were no injuries because the incident occurred during off-hours, the potential for significant injury due to the venting of LHe into the facility was present. There was also significant damage to equipment associated with the magnet.

A magnet achieves superconductivity (zero resistance to electrical current) when it is...

Needles and Sharps: Safe Handling, Injury Response and Disposal

Office of Environment, Health & Safety

A sharp is any device with corners, edges, or projections capable of cutting or piercing. Sharps include,
but are not limited to, the following:

Needles Needles with syringes and attached tubing Blades (razors, scalpels and X-acto®) Glass pasteur pipettes Broken glass, glass slides, and coverslips