Biological Sciences

General Safety

The University Safety Manual gives an overview of Personal Protective Equipment, Working Alone, Hot Work, Exposure to Blood-borne Infectious Diseases, Asbestos in Buildings, Safety and Health Training, and Incident and Injury Investigations and Reporting.

The Department of Biological Sciences requires special paper work, orientations, and general safety policy items outlined below.

5.1 Department Rules for General Safety

New lab workers are required to complete a General Safety Training Form with their supervisor. The form should be submitted into the Departmental Lab Supervisor, so additional training can be assigned as required.

All lab workers must complete a safety orientation with their supervisor before beginning work. Annual general safety and hazard communication training will be assigned through Michigan Tech's Online Training Center. Additional training modules are also available through the center and will be assigned as required. Some departmental equipment requires, in-person training (see section 5.3).

5.2 Applications and Paperwork Required for Special Laboratory Activities

Research that involves living vertebrate animals, human subjects, recombinant DNA, biohazards or radioactive isotopes requires approval from the appropriate committee or individual prior to beginning work in the lab. The approval process may be lengthy, so researchers are advised to inquire early in the planning or proposal writing stages.

See the University Review Boards on the right.

5.3 Departmental Equipment Requiring Training

Personnel must receive a documented orientation session prior to operating the following departmental equipment:

  • Autoclaves/Steam sterilizers (Dow, GLRC, MEEM)
  • Selected centrifuges (those currently found in Dow 515)
  • Boats

Contact a Departmental Laboratory Supervisor to arrange for training related to any the above.

5.4 General Laboratory Safety Guidelines

5.4.1 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Prior to performing any work on any project a hazard analysis should be performed to determine the specific appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be worn during the activity. Note that for most activities PPE is considered the last line of defense, after engineering and administrative controls, and is generally not used as the primary protection from a specific hazard during routine tasks.

When selecting PPE some general guidelines include:

It is recommended that appropriate eye protection be worn at all times in all laboratories or field activities where chemicals or biohazards are present or when working with hand or power tools.

Eye and face protection must be worn as specified in section 5.1.2 Eye and Face Protection of the University Safety Manual or as specified in the appropriate standard operating procedure (SOP).

Hand protection must be worn as specified in 5.1.3 Hand Protection or as specified in appropriate SOP’s. As a general reminder, there is no one universal glove to use for chemical protection. A separate hazard analysis to determine glove selection should be done for each new chemical being used.

The department requires workers to wear closed-toed shoes, long pants (or other leg coverings) and covered midriffs in all laboratories. Long hair, scarves, jewelry, ties and other dangling items that might get caught in moving machinery, catch on fire or get contaminated by your work must be tied back, secured or removed.

Aprons or lab coats may be specified in standard operating procedures. Pay extra attention to the need for flame resistant clothing if using pyrophoric chemicals or large amounts of flammable chemicals.

Note that lab gloves, lab coats or other potentially contaminated personal protective equipment should be removed before leaving the laboratory and not be worn in the hallway, bathrooms or other public spaces.

The University has a very detailed respirator program. Employees must complete this program prior to using any type of respirator. For additional information on using respirators, see the EHS Respiratory Protection Plan.

5.4.2 Personal items in laboratories and appropriate use of office spaces

Food and drink are not allowed in any research or instructional space, lab support space or any space posted with signs prohibiting food and drink. Do not use lab refrigerators, freezers, or microwaves for storing or preparing food intended for human consumption. Food items that might be tested or used in experiments must clearly be labeled “not for human consumption.” Do not use containers with food labels (for example soda or energy drink bottles) for storing or mixing chemicals. Avoid using personal items such as cell phones, pens, or notebooks in the lab if they are normally used outside the lab space. In order to reinforce the separation of lab and office spaces, office areas (desks, bookshelves, and so on) are not to be used as an extension of laboratory space.

5.4.3 Tobacco products

Michigan Tech is a Tobacco Free, Smoke Free and Vapor Free Campus. Tobacco products are not to be brought into laboratories.

5.4.4 Glassware

Use extreme care when inserting glass tubing or thermometers into rubber stoppers and when inserting stoppers into glass. Lubricate when possible and always use hand protection.

Only use appropriate rated glassware under positive or negative pressure extremes. Regularly inspect and discard any glassware that is cracked, chipped or otherwise has its integrity compromised. All glassware under pressure requires secondary shielding or special plastic coated glassware to prevent damage from flying glassware. Note that such shielding does not negate the requirement for eye protection.


The department discourages the use of mercury thermometers unless there is some extenuating circumstance, such as it being a one-of-the-kind specialty thermometer. Consider replacing any mercury thermometer with either a spirit, dial or electronic equivalent.

If you are using a mercury thermometer, be extra vigilant to avoid breakage. Beware of overheating the thermometer, impacting exposed portions protruding from an instrument, or shutting it in a door or hinge. If you break a thermometer see 2.3 Departmental Information on Spill Management for the location of mercury spill kits. Any piece of equipment (water baths, ovens, and so on) contaminated with mercury must be taken out of service until it has been fully cleaned up and decontaminated.

5.4.5 Housekeeping, Maintenance, and Inspections

Keep work areas clean and free from obstructions.


Clean up at the end of an operation or at the end of each day. Spills should be cleaned up immediately and disposed of properly. See 2.3 Departmental Information on Spill Management. Clean floors regularly.


Do not use stairways and hallways as storage areas for any time period. Access to exits, emergency equipment, and utility controls must always be kept clear.


Safety equipment should have regularly scheduled inspections based on state or federal laws, or more frequently if suggested as “best practice.” Formal housekeeping and chemical hygiene inspections should be held annually (at a minimum) with informal inspections more frequently. Regardless of the inspection schedule, any safety hazards found in the course of day to day operations should be resolved immediately.

See the department's Chemical Hygiene Plan.

5.4.6 Distribution of chemicals to or from the laboratory

When hazardous chemicals are hand carried, the container should be placed in a secondary container or an acid-carrying bucket to protect against breakage and spillage. If a wheeled cart is used, it should be stable under the load and have wheels that are large enough to handle uneven surfaces without tipping over or stopping suddenly. If small quantities of flammable liquids must be moved, use rugged pressure-resistant, non-venting containers, and eliminate potential ignition sources.

Note that all flammable liquids must be stored in appropriate sealed bottles or safety cans. This includes gasoline and kerosene; neither gasoline nor kerosene may be stored or transported inside Michigan Tech buildings in consumer grade plastic storage containers.

Chapter 6