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.

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.

Dispose of Clutter

Clutter can be a serious fire hazard. Clutter can impede safe egress out of the lab during an emergency. Clutter also can increase the amount of contaminated material in a spill or exacerbate a fire when it begins.

Please ensure your labs and work areas are kept free of clutter at all times. Combustible materials such as cardboard and paper should be kept to a minimum.

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

Shared laboratory spaces are to be kept clean, organized and labeled by users.  Please observe the following guidelines when sharing laboratory space, particularly cold rooms, with others.

  • Clean up contamination and clutter as it occurs.
  • Return all chemicals to their proper storage places.
  • Label all equipment with the Lab Supervisor’s name.
  • Make sure there is a completed Emergency Contact sticker posted outside the door.
  • 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.)

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.