Principal Investigators are considered "stewards" of their labs. Please do not re-wire or drill holes into any UVM facility without first notifying Physical Plant personnel.

Basic housekeeping can help to prevent accidents or injury. Encourage lab workers to follow basic lab safety practices in your lab. They include:


Best safety practices include daily housekeeping to reduce the risk of an exposure or injury in the laboratory.  Some basic safety practices are outlined below.

Reduce and Dispose of Clutter

  • Clutter can exponentially increase the hazard during a fire. Combustible materials such as cardboard and paper should be kept to a minimum; flatten boxes and take to recycling pickup areas frequently.
  • Clutter can impede safe evacuation of lab personnel during a lab emergency.
  • Clutter can increase the amount of contaminated material during a spill. 

Please ensure your lab and work areas are kept free of clutter at all times. 

NO Food and Drink in the Lab

  • NO food or drink should be stored or consumed in the laboratory if hazardous chemicals or infectious agents are present.
  • Food should be consumed in a clean area separated from the laboratory space by walls and doors. Risk Management & Safety strongly discourage marking off a portion of the laboratory as a “clean area”. Use lounges and caferias for eating and drinking only.
  • Wash your hands frequently, before leaving the lab and before consuming food or drink.

Prevent Trip & Slip Hazards

Nearly half of UVM’s reported injuries involve a slip, trip or fall.  Please follow these guidelines to help prevent injuries:

  • Wear full-coverage shoes that are appropriate to the work to be performed at all times.
  • Get rid of wet or oily floor surfaces.
  • Keep clutter off the floor.
  • If you must use an extension cord for any length of time, consider having a permanent outlet installed instead by submitting a work order to the Physical Plant Department.

Cellphones and Earbuds

All lab workers should be as alert as possible to a potential unusual situation or emergency.  Therefore the following guidelines apply:

  • Personal listening devices that require the use of earbuds are NOT recommended in the laboratory for safety reasons. If a lab instrument is making a strange noise or if there is an emergency, lab workers need to be able to respond quickly.
  • Cell phones and ipods should NOT be used while handling hazardous materials.
  • Radios and CD players are appropriate if they are played through speakers into the general laboratory room.

Shared Labs and Cold Rooms

Shared laboratory spaces should have multiple emergency contacts listed on the outside of the door.  Cold rooms must be inspected monthly so they are kept clean, organized and labeled by users. Please observe the following guidelines when sharing any laboratory space with others.

  • Clean up contamination and clutter as it occurs.
  • NO flammable liquids or samples in a flammable preservative should be kept in cold rooms; cold rooms are not designed to be safe flammable storage areas.
  • Return all chemicals to their proper storage places.
  • Label all samples and secondary bins with PI Name or intials, the date created, chemical names and the hazards
  • Label all equipment with the Lab Supervisor’s name.
  • DO NOT use cold rooms to store food or party supplies such as cakes, vegetable platters, alcohol, flowers or any other food or non-laboratory items.  (Yes, these items have been found in UVM cold rooms.)

Be sure to assign oversight of shared labs and cold rooms if the primary contact is going on sabbatical or vacation. The responsible party should have completed lab safety training and know something about the space and the activities taking place in case they are needed during an emergency.

Plumbing Drains and Traps

When standing water evaporates from a sink drain trap (the U-shaped pipe under a sink), sewer gases may flow up the pipe and into a room.

If the sink is used regularly, this will not be a concern.

If a sink is used infrequently, remember to pour a gallon of water down the drain monthly or if you smell any gases coming up from the drain.

General Laboratory Ventilation

Laboratory ventilation involves the use of supply and exhaust ventilation to control lab emissions, potential exposures, and chemical and biological hazards.

A general lab ventilation system is designed to to the following:

  • dilute and remove contaminants through general exhaust;
  • provide make-up or replacement air, provide heating, cooling, and humidification; and
  • provide local exhaust for specific lab activities.

General ventilation does not eliminate a potential exposure; local exhaust is the preferred method.

Negative Pressure

Lab air is designed to be slightly under negative pressure to the hallway so that odors do not escape from the lab into the hallways. To maintain the negative pressure, lab doors should remain closed. This is especially true for BSL2 labs and labs that use radioactive materials.

Chemical fume hood sashes should be lowered when not in use and at the end of every day. This can also be a huge energy savings.

Lab doors are often fire doors. Fire doors have a fire-resistance rating (sometimes referred to as a fire protection rating for closures). They are used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire and smoke and can enable safe egress from a lab or building. 

Climate Controlled Spaces

Climate controlled spaces such as warm rooms and cold rooms usually do not have fresh air provided to them. Do not work or store hazardous materials in these spaces that could cause harmful vapors to build up. Liquid nitrogen tanks CANNOT be stored in these spaces due to the displacement of oxygen. When working in a climate controlled space, be aware of reactions or processes that may cause off-gassing of harmful vapors. These processes should be completed in a fume hood.


Clear Clutter on Window Vents

Vents located by windows are designed to provide heating and cooling to laboratories. Often these run year round. These vents must be kept clear at all times.  Covering the vents with materials and supplies can upset the way the ventilation is designed to work. Dusts, crumbs and soil can get inside of these  vents, requiring maintenance that is unnecessary.

Service Animals in Labs

If a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Lab Supervisor receives a request from a student to bring a service animal into a laboratory, the student must first contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and meet with a Program Manager.  The SAS Program Manager will consult with EHS to  create a safe and written plan for the animal to enter and reside in the lab.

EHS will conduct an assessment of the specific lab, including gathering a list of which chemicals or materials are being used, and what activities are being conducted. EHS will assess if there is a safe location in the lab where a service animal can reside away from harm. The student may be asked to provide the service animal with appropriate personal protective equipment.