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Chemicals In Your Lab

College of Engineering Chemical Ordering Policy

The College of Engineering has a policy that all chemicals and compressed gas orders are approved by the safety liaison prior to be being placed.  There are several benefits to this centralized approach to ordering chemicals versus individual labs ordering directly from chemical suppliers. These include:

  • the ability to provide greater scrutiny of requested chemicals before they are brought into the college.
  • the ability to review the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the chemical to help assess hazards and ensure proper protocols for handling, storage and disposal are in place before the chemical arrives.

Chemicals orders are made by completing a chemical ordering form; send that form to both the person who orders chemicals for your group and the COEN Safety Liaison

Chemical Ordering Forms

COEN uses the following forms for chemical and compressed gas orders:

Chemical Order Form

Compressed Gas Form

Contact the chemical order coordinator or compressed gas order coordinator if you have any questions regarding the purchase of these items.

What Chemical Orders Can Be Placed Directly By The User?

A general rule would be that if the item is one that needs to be included in your chemical inventory, it must be reviewed by chemical order coordinator.

Exceptions to this process would be limited to the following:

  • items from suppliers that do not offer deliveries to Boise State.
  • items that would be found in grocery stores or home improvement stores

Please Note:
It is critical that when items purchased outside the chemical order coordinator, the user completes the steps of securing the MSDS for the item, sending that to the COEN Safety Liasson, and adding it to the chemical inventory form.

Performing a Chemical Inventory

Why Perform an Inventory?

Chemical inventories are performed in order to maintain a safe environment in our laboratories and other facilities in the College of Engineering. The information from the inventory can be helpful in many ways.  For example, the information can provide real-time benefit to a first responder fighting a fire in a lab.  Alternately, it allows EHSS to look at our chemicals individually or as an aggregate to determine if dangers exist from the chemical(s).

When Should An Inventory Be Performed?

The university requires a recent chemical inventory be completed in January of each year.  So December is an excellent time for all labs to take stock of their inventories. However, many labs perform an inventory more frequently, particularly if the inventory has changed significantly with the purchase of new chemicals and/or removal of old stock.

What Needs to Be Included in the Inventory?

All chemicals in your lab need to be included in the inventory.  Chematix is the online system used for inventorying your chemicals.  When chemicals are delivered to your lab, they should have a bar code attached (please contact the COEN Safety Liaison if they do not have a bar code).  This bar code allows for a distinct reconciliation for each and every chemical in your lab.  You can download a copy of the chemicals in your lab from Chematix and then reconcile against what’s actually in your lab.  It’s important to note that when chemicals are consumed, the bar codes must be deleted from Chematix.

What Do I Do With The Chemical Inventory Information?

The information must be retained in two places-

  • Place a hardcopy of your inventory in your Lab Safety Notebook
  • Keep an electronic copy in Chematix.

Please contact the COEN Safety Liaison if you have any questions about content on this website.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

What Is an SDS?

A Safety Data Sheet is a document that contains important data for a chemical compound.  This data includes the chemical constituents information as well as the physical properties of the compound.  The SDS also typically includes handling and disposal recommendations for the compound. In addition the SDS will provide toxicity, exposure information and other hazards associated with  the compound. Thus, SDSs are  an important tool in promoting and maintaining laboratory safety and should be referred to whenever there is a question about how to use, store or dispose of a compound.

What Chemicals Need an SDS?

The short answer is “almost all”.  SDSs are needed for all compounds that are used in the research or educational process.  The only items that do not need an SDS are those household type products that are used in the same quantity and application one would use in a home.  All other items, ranging from analytes from chemical suppliers, to specialty industrial products, to spray paint, to adhesives, require an SDS.

Where Do I Find an SDS?

For many compounds, SDSs are often included in the product shipment. However, the most useful form of an SDS is in electronic format.  SDSs can be found in Chematix, associated with the chemical name or bar code of each chemical, or you can simply look up an SDS in an internet search.  SDSs can also be downloaded from the manufacturer.  If necessary, contact the manufacturer directly for the SDS and have a .pdf emailed to you. Whatever the method, be sure to get the right SDS, as analyte names and product lines can sometimes be confusing. This includes containers of reaction products or byproducts as well as separation processes such as distillations and extractions.

Ensuring You Have the Correct SDS

At first glance, you may think an SDS for a common compound is the same. But they can vary according to manufacturer and revision. Check the following to make sure the SDS you have is appropriate for the compound you are using.

  • Manufacturer:  You must be sure to get an SDS for the manufacturer of the compound you have. For example, if you have Sigma-Aldrich ethyl alcohol, you must have the SDS from Sigma-Aldrich. An SDS from another supplier (say Fisher Scientific) cannot be used.
  • SDS Revisions:  SDSs are often updated to reflect the product changes or current understanding about toxicity, etc. You must have the SDS that is associated with the date of manufacture for the chemical you have in your inventory.  For example, if you purchased a compound in 2007, you need the SDS that was written for that compound, even if there may be a newer version available. Similarly, if you have an SDS from 2006 for a compound you have been purchasing for some time, you can only use it for current purchases if the SDS has not been revised over that time. Otherwise, you need to get the current version.  This need of ensuring you have the correct SDS for the particular product you have in inventory underscores the importance of SDS record acquisition at the time the chemicals are brought in, as that is the only time the SDS are likely to be readily available.
  • Format:  While hard-copies are required for the Laboratory Notebooks, SDS information is also stored in .pdf form for each lab.  For this reason, a copy of the SDS in .pdf is needed. Having the .pdf version will also allow quick replacement of an SDS that is lost or damaged in the laboratory.  If you only have a hard-copy, please have it scanned and converted to .pdf so that it can be included in your lab’s SDS folder online. Your department admin can assist with this process.

How To Maintain SDS Records For Your Lab or Facility

Maintaining proper SDS records for your lab is a critical responsibility for the Principal Investigator or Instructor. As mentioned earlier, you must have an SDS that is associated with every compound you have in your chemical inventory. In addition, you must retain an SDS after the compound is discarded.

For example, if you replenished methylene chloride with new stock, and there was a revision change in the SDS between the old stock and the new stock, you need to retain the SDS for the old stock as well as have the SDS for the new stock. A good plan for keeping SDSs records orderly is the following:

When A New Analyte is Acquired

  • Download the .pdf of the current SDS from the manufacturer for each compound requested, even for compounds that have already been used in the lab. (This is per COEN chemical order policy).
  • Print out a hardcopy of the SDS for your lab safety notebook.
  • Mark it at the top with the the purchase date, ex. “Purchased 23-Feb-08”.
  • Insert the hardcopy in the SDS section of the Laboratory Safety Notebook

When An Analyte is Transferred From Another Lab

  • Email the COEN Safety Liaison notifying them of the transfer. Include in the email a .pdf copy of the SDS to the COEN Safety Liaison and include the date of purchase (if available) and the date of transfer.
  • Print out a hardcopy of the SDS and mark it at the top with the the transfer date and lab it was transferred from, ex. “Transferred from MEC 213 on 20-Mar-09”.
  • Insert the hardcopy in the SDS section of the Laboratory Safety Notebook

When An Analyte is Used Up or Disposed Of

  • Email a .pdf copy of the SDS to the COEN Safety Liaison. Include both the date(s) of acquisition/transfer and the date of disposition in the email.
  • Mark the hard-copy of the SDS at the top with the the disposition date, ex. “Disposed of 11-Apr-09”.
  • Remove the hard-copy SDS from the Laboratory Safety Notebook and place it in a separate folder labeled “Retired Chemicals- 20YY” so that it includes the year retired. Keep this folder in a safe place.

Shipment of Chemicals

General Information

Typically, most chemicals can be shipped to Boise State without incurring special shipping requirements. Please inform the COEN safety liaison at the bottom of this page if you are ordering items that require special shipping methods or handling upon arrival. If unsure, ask the manufacturer if any of these cases apply to your order.

Shipment of Chemicals from Boise State to Outside Entity

Shipment of certain chemicals from Boise State to an outside entity can create special requirements for the shipment. If you are not sure what is required to ship your chemicals, contact your EHSS representative or the COEN Safety Liaison to learn more about what may be required. Also, be sure to communicate with the receiving entity about any possible special requirements on their side when the package is received.

Materials that may require special handling include those that are toxic, flammable or explosive, radioactive, biological or have other attributes that make then unsuitable for general shipping.

Special processes could include one or more of the following:

  • the restriction of the type of carrier used
  • special packaging of the chemical
  • tracking requirements of the chemical en route to its destination
  • Ensuing the recipient has certain measures in place before the chemical has shipped

Chemical Spill

Major Chemical SpillCP

A major chemical spill is one that staff cannot clean up without putting themselves or others in danger.

  • Avoid breathing vapors. Quickly identify the spilled material, if it can be done safely.
  • If the spill involves a flammable liquid, turn off all ignition sources, if it can be done safely.
  • Evacuate the area immediately, closing all doors.
  • Call 911 when safe to do so.
  • If someone is splashed with chemical, use an eye wash or emergency shower to immediately flush the affected area with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes when safe to do so.
  • Keep all personnel away from the spill area until EHSS arrives to evaluate and control the situation. Post “Do Not Enter” signs on doors to the spill location.
  • Provide incident-specific information and SDSs to arriving emergency responders.

Incidental Chemical SpillCP

An incidental chemical spill is one that staff can clean up without putting themselves or others in danger.

  • Alert people in the area. Avoid breathing vapors and try to determine what has spilled.
  • If someone is splashed with chemical, use an eye wash or emergency shower to immediately flush the affected area with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes.
  • In case of an incidental chemical spill, contact someone in each group of the Emergency  Contact sheet.
  • Do not begin cleanup until a trained faculty or staff member is present.

Chemical Labeling

Importance of Chemical Labels

A chemical container label is the primary means for communicating the contents of a container and its hazard(s).  Every container, even those just containing water, must be labeled to ensure employees and students are aware of its contents.  Therefore, intact, readable labels for chemicals are essential in their safe use and disposition.

Original (Primary) Container Labels

Chemicals in original vendor containers must have labels indicating the chemical or product name and the vendor’s name. Hazard warning signs or symbols should be prominently visible on the labels.

Laboratory (Secondary) Container Labels

A laboratory container is one where the chemicals has been decanted from an original container or prepared in the laboratory.  It includes “working” chemicals that are in temporary containers for immediate use in the lab.

Laboratory containers must be labeled with:

  • the chemical or product name(s)
  • concentration(s),
  • primary hazard(s).
  • date
  • responsible worker’s or PI’s name

This includes containers of reaction products or byproducts as well as separation processes such as distillations and extractions.

Additional Labeling Requirement for Time Sensitive Chemical

Containers for time-sensitive chemicals (e.g. peroxide formers) must be labeled with an appropriate expiration date.

Containers with missing labels or illegible labels pose a significant problem to laboratory safety.

If you have an container that has no label or with an illegible label, immediately contact the laboratory supervisor and/or Principal Investigator for assistance in determining the contents of the container.

If the contents of the container can be assured with complete confidence, the container can be re-labeled. Relabeling should be done only by a lab supervisor or Principal Investigator and include at a minimum, the following items found on the material’s SDS; name of the chemical, the pertinent physical and health hazards, including the organs that would be affected and the manufacturer’s name and address.

If the contents of the container cannot be assured with complete confidence, contact the COEN safety liaison