Health & Safety Department

General laboratory management

Guidance and advice on management of general or chemical laboratories including emergency procedures, end of working day or overnight experiments and decommissioning.

University policy

The University Health and Safety Policy - Framework: Arrangements Section 26 -  Chemical safety must also be consulted.

Emergency Procedures

Health and safety law and the University Code of practice CS CoP002 Good laboratory practice requires that suitable procedures are in place to deal with emergencies should they arise. This applies not only to the more readily accepted forms of emergency such as fire and physical accident, but also to chemical spillage, overexposure to gases, vapours, thermal runaways, etc. This requirement is detailed in Framework: Arrangments Section 26.5 Instruction, information and training.

All staff must be made aware of how to call the external emergency services, via Security Services, using only the University’s 2222 system. This is extremely important, especially in cases of out of hours working, as dialling the usual 999 from a University telephone will NOT connect you to the emergency services. Also, there have been cases of severe delay where the 2222 system is not used as the attending emergency service attempt to find a particular building within a complicated campus, whereas Security will stay in touch with the particular service and guide them to the location.

Procedures for dealing with chemical spillages, unintentional release of vapours or gases and other accidents associated with experimental procedures should be addressed at the time of risk assessment of the procedure, plans put in place and noted on the Safe System of Work or Safe Operating Procedure. Operatives should know the health effects of the chemicals being used in order that basic first aid can be administered and the SDS should be readily available, so that a copy can be sent to hospital with the casualty.

All staff should be made aware of how to call a trained First Aider and where the nearest first aid box is located. They should also be made aware of the location of the nearest fire fighting appliances and most importantly of the nearest fire exits.

Problems that may arise, in an emergency situation, because a staff member does not have English as their first language must be addressed; again this is particularly important if lone or out of hours working is contemplated.

End of working day and overnight experiments

The last person to leave a laboratory at the end of the day should check that the gas, water and electricity supplies not in use have been turned off, and that all stocks of flammable reagents and solvents have been returned to their fire-resistant cupboards, cabinets or bins.

Apparatus left running overnight must be clearly marked with a notice giving the name and telephone number of the person(s) to contact in any emergency. The notice should also be duplicated on the external of the laboratory door. All experiments involving toxic and/or flammable substances must be checked and authorised by an experienced person prior to being left running overnight.

Water connections to experiments left running overnight must be made securely by a screw clip, or similar device and a water failure cut-out switch should be fitted, where appropriate. It is recommended that the apparatus and/or experiment should be operated attended for at least one hour under the conditions it will run unattended overnight.

Any hot work that has been taking place during normal hours should be completed at least 30mins before close of the laboratory for the night and all apparatus and materials checked to ensure that they are cool before being left unattended.

Maintenance and cleaning of a laboratory

Guidance on access for cleaning and maintanence of a general or chemical laboratory is available at

Decommissioning of a laboratory

As per Framework: Arrangments Section 26.12 Decommissioning of laboratories, decommissioning of a laboratory, prior to handing over to the Estates Department for refurbishment or for change of use, must be undertaken methodically and carefully to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, no residues of hazardous materials remain that may compromise the health, or safety, of construction/maintenance workers or future occupiers. It is also important to ensure that no emotive signage remains that may cause undue fear or alarm once laboratory staff have left the area.

A checklist that can be used to record the laboratory has been suitably decommissioned, and act as an aide memoir during the cleaning process, is provided by following the link below.

On completion, the checklist should be left securely fixed at a prominent point at the laboratory and the originator should retain a copy for their records. A completed decommissioning checklist precludes the need for maintenance staff and contractors to be issued with a Laboratory Permit to Work.

If radioactive materials have been used in the laboratory, a Decommissioning of Radiation Laboratories Checklist must also be completed. Further details and a copy of this checklist are available at