Laboratory Health & Safety

Laboratories can contain a range of hazards from glassware, scalpels and needles to chemicals, biological material and lasers.  If you are a lab user please make sure you are familiar with the local rules for the facility and carry out your experiments and activities in line with the risk assessments and standard operating procedures.

If you are unsure of how to work with a specific material or equipment please ask a colleague, supervisor, member of technical staff or your H&S coordinator.

The following is some general guidance to keep you and the people around you safe and healthy when working in the laboratory: 

Laboratory Rules

Observe safety signs outside laboratory before you enter and adhere to any instruction provided.

  • Do not wear open toe footwear e.g. sandals or flip-flops.In most labs, laboratory coats must be worn at all times. Suitable safety glasses or gloves may also be required, consult the risk assessment for your activity to identify the appropriate personal protective equipment required.
  • No food or drink should be taken into or consumed within a laboratory.
  • Use of personal music systems in labs in discouraged – it is important to be able to hear what is happening about you and be alerted if any alarms go off.  They may also become contaminated if you handle-them whilst wearing gloves or if they are put down on the bench. As a maximum only 1 earpiece should be used.
  • Keep the laboratory tidy by:
    • no trailing cables or other trip hazards.
    • store items carefully so they do not protrude into walkways.
    • unwanted apparatus, chemicals and gas cylinders should be returned to stores.
    • store your materials appropriately
  • A notice should be attached to all potentially hazardous equipment or experiments to be left on overnight, indicating how it may safely be switched off in an emergency and who to contact.
  • Dispose of your laboratory waste in the appropriate containers, be particularly careful how you dispose of broken glass, needles and sharps.  More information on hazardous waste can be found here.
  • Know what to do in an emergency:
    • emergency contact details for staff with designated health and safety responsibilities should be displayed outside the laboratory.
    • identify your nearest emergency exit, firefighting equipment, first aid kit, eye wash station and (in some labs) safety shower
    • know what to do if you spill any hazardous materials, the location of your nearest spill kit, how to use it and, for more hazardous spillages where to get help
  • Remove contaminated coats and gloves before leaving the laboratory and wash your hands thoroughly.

 For more information please see your lab local rules.

Guidance on specific topics can be found on the following websites:

Chemical Safety

  • Chemicals should not be touched by hand, use a spatula or other suitable instrument.
  • Store only the minimum amount of flammable substances required for daily use.
  • Do not store flammables with other hazardous chemicals.
  • Label each chemical bottle with the unique reference label. Please acquire the labels from your College’s chemical store.
  • Transport chemicals within the laboratory or building in double containers. Never carry a Winchester bottle by the neck, lift bottles with two hands, one under the base and use Winchester carriers to transport large distances.
  • Do not store corrosive chemicals above eye height e.g. acids and alkalis.
  • Contact the Spill Response Team for your College in the event of a spill.

Find out more about chemical safety here

Hazardous Waste Disposal

  • Ensure you know the rules for hazardous substance disposal and dealing with spills before you start.
  • Do not overfill waste containers. Contact to discuss your waste disposal queries and requirements.

Find out more about dealing with hazardous waste here.

Glassware Safety

  • Never use damaged glassware; check for damage first.
  • Do not store glassware above shoulder height.
  • Store tall vessels at the back of shelves with the smaller ones in front.
  • Store heavy glassware at bench height.
  • Sweep up broken glass or pick up with forceps, dispose of it in a broken glass container.
  • Dispose of hypodermic needles responsibly using a dedicated ‘sharps’ disposal container. Treat any ‘sharps’ injury as serious.

Gas Safety

  • The use of compressed gas cylinders requires special instruction and training.
  • Do not operate this equipment until you have received the training.

Find out more about compressed gas safety here.

Fume Cupboard Safety

  • Before starting any work using a fume hood ensure that it is on and functioning as required for your safety.
  • If there is a red light flashing on the fume hood DO NOT USE. Report to your H&S Coordinator immediately.
  • When using a fume cupboard check the airflow indicator, keep the sash as low as possible or at any marked safety line.
  • Close the sash when not in use.
  • Do not use the fume cupboard as a storage area.
  • Use secondary containment in the fume cupboard to guard against spills e.g. a plastic tray.

Arrangements, guidance, forms & templates

Policy Arrangements

Policy Arrangements will be added here.


Any relevant guidance will be added here.

Forms & Templates

All relevant forms & templates will be added here.

Further Information

Any further information will be posted here.