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Laboratories are unique in that they often have relatively small quantities, but many different hazardous chemicals.

This presents unique safety management challenges.

Consider the following when using hazardous chemicals in laboratories:

  • The manufacturer or supplier of the material to be stored should be able to provide information about any specific storage requirements at the time of purchase.
  • Each substance should be stored in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications as outlined in the safety data sheet (SDS).
  • SDS must be available for all hazardous chemicals used, stored and handled.
  • Hazardous chemicals used in laboratories should be appropriately labelled.
  • Fume cupboards should not be used for storing hazardous chemicals.
  • Most laboratories are now air-conditioned and have options for controlled temperature and humidity. In most situations, this should provide adequate ventilation to deal with the necessary storage of chemicals in a laboratory or in the event of leakage or minor spills of hazardous chemicals. In the event of major spills of volatile or highly toxic chemicals outside a fume cupboard, emergency procedures must be in place, including:
    • evacuation as necessary
    • isolation of the air conditioning in any shared system
    • clean up procedures.
  • Chemical storage facilities (usually not air conditioned) should be fitted with either some forced dilution ventilation or have adequate natural ventilation suitable to deal with any case of leakage and minor or major spills as determined by a risk assessment.
  • Spill control measures should be in place where any liquid is stored. A bund, designed as part of the building, is generally the most convenient form of spill control.
  • Where corrosive or reactive materials are stored, the store should be constructed of materials of an inert nature. Where this is not practicable, the building should be designed so component replacement is possible.
  • Where incompatible materials have to be stored in laboratories, the chemicals should be correctly segregated.
  • Buildings are required to be built of non-flammable material where flammable liquids are stored. All stores containing substances that will burn but are outside of class 3 (primary or subsidiary risk within the Australian Dangerous Goods Code) should also be constructed of non-flammable material.
  • Electrical work should be in accordance with AS/NZS 3000:2000 Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules). This may necessitate the installation of such devices as flameproof switches.
  • All materials in the store should be properly labelled.

More information

Guidance on the correct labelling of laboratory hazardous chemical containers is available in the Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.25 MB) .

Guidance is also available in the Australian standard series for laboratories:

  • AS/NZS 2243 series – Safety in laboratories which includes planning and operational aspects, storage of chemicals, chemical aspects, plant and equipment aspects, electrical aspects, microbiological safety and containment, ionising radiations and fume cupboards.